The book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation brings out the history of the United States from the eyes of a person who would have been considered a loser in the past. The book is about how the underdogs created the Hip hop culture and music and then struggled to make these well recognized arts in the America society.
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It is somewhat a story about how these underdogs came from rugs to riches through developing the Hip-hop culture. The author depicts how Hip-hop grew from something that was practiced in the ghettos to the headlines in mainstream America.
In this book, Chang highlights the plight of Hip-hop entertainers such as graffiti artists, deejays and emcees from the ghettos of LA, NY and Kingston and how life struggles motivated them to success.
Chang captures how the pioneers of the Hip-hop culture faced economic, social and political struggles in their quest to make it in life. Chang divided the book into parts known as Loops which are arranged chronologically to show the history of Hip-hop.
The Introduction was written by Kool Herc to depict the story about the Hip-hop culture. Herc brings out that Hip-hop is not only an art but also a means of expression for the current generation. Hip-hop has kept alive ideologies that were invented in the Bronx in the 1970s.
These ideologies and history have been preserved by the culture since even people who did not live during that time have a clear view of all that transpired then. Even though times have changed since the Bronx most struggles that the youth experience today are the same as those faced by minority groups during the 1970s.
Herc pointed out that Hip-hop gives the neglected youth a voice through which they can air their grievances to the society. In the Introduction Herc explains that Hip-hop today connects youths from all over the world given that it has become a powerful force.
From the Introduction, the modern generation can understand that Hip-hop is more than a form of music or lifestyle. Herc explained that Hip-hop provides a voice to the oppressed and it has been used successfully in the past. Hip-hop was used by youths in the ghettos to express their afflictions since society had neglected them and denied them of their rights as citizens.
They turned to Hip-hop as a source of expression where they turned their aggression into rap music and graffiti art. This later grew to become famous and a source of livelihood in addition to being a form of expression.
The Introduction points out the origin of Hip-hop and provides the current generation of youths with information about how the culture came into existence. This is important as it keeps the movement focused on relevant issues and not just the economic aspect of Hip-hop.
The First Loop. “Babylon is Falling: 1968-1977”
In the first Loop entitled “Babylon is Falling: 1968-1977”, Chang brings out how the Bronx was almost being turned into a neglected land that is forgotten. In the neglected ghettos, there were social issues as well as political tensions and these gave rise to the practices of Hip-hop artists. The problem of rebellion that was in these areas was because of oppression of the poor.
There was a deliberate attempt to turn the Bronx into an obsolete land with limited opportunities and this offended the residents. Other issues included poor education, criminal activity and abandoned project buildings. According to Chang and Herc (2008), the roots of the Hip-hop culture came from the gang culture that was prevalent in the Bronx during the late 1970s.
During this period, graffiti art and hip hop music were done in the streets by black and brown people. From the first Loop, Chang traces the roots of Hip-hop back to the rebellion that occurred in the Bronx and Jamaica and he establishes that oppression during this era gave birth to the culture today known as Hip-hop.
What emerges from Loop 1 is that the Hip-hop culture did not just emerge from the blues or from the creativity of an individual. Rather, the culture came into existence as a result of the many struggles that people living in marginalized ghettos were going through.
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That being stated, it is likely that were it not for the discrimination and neglect of the poor people in Jamaica and The Bronx, Hip-hop culture could not have come out in the form that it did.
Even though people in other ghettos were going through similar unpleasant situations, they may not have been as courageous and creative as the pioneers of Hip-hop. Chang does well to highlight the origin of Hip-hop lest it be assumed that the culture just came into existence naturally.
Something else which emerges from the segment of Babylon is Falling is that the traits of Hip-hop are associated with resistance to oppression. Hip-hop was used by the youth during the 1970s to express themselves since they were neglected and considered as outsiders in their own country.
This form of discrimination pushed youths in the ghettos into activities such as drug abuse, crime and gang mentality. The political and social situation during that time forced youths into these vices since they were neglected and unable to access decent means of living.
This however raises the question that, “are youths justified to adopt Hip-hop lifestyle in the current era when discrimination and poverty are addressed by the government?”
What is seen today in the name of Hip-hop is a fusion of different genres of music with the themes of partying, making money or sex. There have been attempts to revive the Hip-hop culture and return it to what it used to be in the past.
Hip-hop artists such as Common, Nas and KRS 1 have tried to release music that emphasize on the need for a united movement which focuses on important issues in society and not the popular topics which jam the airwaves nowadays. These attempts have had little impact since the music which sells is still based on leisure topics such as partying.
The efforts put in by the pioneers of Hip-hop appear to be dwindling away because of the current breed of artists who have no regard for the struggles of the minority groups.
These artists are also not concerned with political issues and their implication on the poor and marginalized groups. Herc and Chang did well to educate people about the history of Hip-hop since without this information the movement could have already lost direction and meaning.
Chang, J. & Herc K. (2008). Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. St. Martins Press, New York.