Jeff Chang’s Hip-Hop History

You may not be able to tell from mainstream media’s bling saturation, but hip-hop was not birthed in the back of a Hummer. It was borne out of urban collapse and draconian cutbacks that reduced much of the Bronx to rubble. In that atmosphere DJs, MCs, b-boys, taggers, and gangbangers raged against the callousness of Carter and Reagan and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon.

Most of this probably floats beneath the dysfunctional radar of today’s hip-hop community, but Solesides cofounder and hip-hop chronicler Jeff Chang is about to put an end to that with Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (hardcover; St. Martins, $27.95). “Like many of my generation,” Chang confides, “I’ve hungered for stories that ring true. Hip-hop is full of those stories, so the book was just a way to say something deeper about who we are, what we want, and where we might go.”

Chang’s book digs deep into hip-hop’s NYC roots and traces the genre’s progress from soundsystem parties through high-art appropriations, race riots, gang clashes, and cross-country beefs in the name of lending the hip-hop nation some much-needed perspective.

“There’s a desire in our generation to circulate these hidden histories to keep hip-hop moving forward,” says Chang. “Before hip-hop was globally consumed, it was a lived local culture. The hip-hop beamed today into houses and stores is just a sliver of the lived experience, although it sometimes seems that those passive acts–listening, watching, and purchasing–have come to stand in for the whole. I hope the grassroots is able to take back control of hip-hop, and in the process take control of its own destiny.”