Random review: Can't Stop Won't Stop

I've got a lot to catch up on, so I'm doing this little "random review" feature to sound off on a few things I've been entertaining myself with lately.

First off, here's a quick review of Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.

It's not really fair. I'm a music junkie. Not so much a dance or grafitti or social climate junkie. When I hear the phrase "hip-hop" I generally think Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy and Notorious B.I.G. and not some of the other trends that have been tagged with the hip-hop name. This probably makes me lame or inauthentic and so I guess in my inauthenticity and lameness, I'm not really the target audience of this book.

So here it is: I found a lot of the book a little dry. The early history was a fascinating look at hip-hop parties of the 70s that really jump-started what became rap music. Some of the tension of the times – particularly during the Rodney King verdict and the ensuing L.A. riots – was an interesting read. I finished the part about Public Enemy in two days (compared to the months I spent slogging through some of the other parts of the book). I liked the N.W.A. part. But generally I found the book to be too ambitious, trying to attack too much information at once so that it's overall impact was weak. Since I read the paperback version, I can say that the graffiti interludes without being able to see any of the art were particularly painful. Honestly, Chang would have made his points more effectively by separating this book into three or four more specialized books.

What's worse for me, from a more selfish point-of-view, my search for the definitive hip-hop music book must continue. For now, the best overview of rap music for my dollar is actually a 3-minute song: "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme" by Edan off the album Beauty and the Beat. So if anyone can point me to something better, I'd be happy to look into it.

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