clap clap blog: we have moved

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I bought Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop, started reading it, and got disgusted and put it away for a few weeks. I spent 9 hours in the car yesterday and ended up plowing through about half the book, and I'm glad I did, but it's still sort of poking me the wrong way, so to speak. So I figured I'd keep a running tally of things that annoy me.

- The implicit Marxism--"IT'S CAPITALISM'S FAULT!"--etc. etc., whereas capitalism seems to be one of the central players in hip-hop, from the very beginning.
- The whole section on Jamacia, which reads like a long-lost section of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "The magic incantations of Marley the Grey made the Orcs sit down with the Rastas, but then the evil warlord, in a moment of treachery..."
- The organization, which is haphazard; there are a few instances where information is conveyed in a way that would seem to assume that we don't already know it, even though he spent a few pages talking about in previous chapters. Plus I have no idea whatsoever what happened when due to his skipping around from the taggers to the DJs to the dancers pretty much at random.
- The fact that not only could he find a few people to claim, but then actually printed said claims, that hip-hop was dead upon the release of the first ever official hip-hop record. I mean, c'mon guys.
- The part where he mentions Run-DMC, then all of a sudden gives us 8 pages of history on crack, then goes back to talking about Run-DMC again, even though the crack stuff is actually applicable to the people he had been talking about right before he started talking about Run-DMC.

So yeah. Sorta like the Steven Johnson thing, I'm not gonna tell you don't read it, just that there are problems with it that people I'd normally agree with don't seem to be mentioning. I mean, I understand that he's doing the history of the hip-hop generation rather than hip-hop the music, and I appreciate the context with the Bronx and the gangs and the clarifications on how exactly the breaking crews functioned, but I guess I'm mainly disappointed that this is another book about music that doesn't seem to talk about the music very much. 200 pages in and the only tracks I can remember being discussed are "The Message," "Rapper's Delight," and that single Basquiat cut whose name escapes me; I think he's mentioned more movies about hip-hop than actual hip-hop at this point. (The Pitchfork review mentioned the thinness of his focus when it comes to post-80s hip-hop, and while I haven't read those sections yet, I looked at the "recommended listening" list in the Appendix, and just off the top of my head I noticed the omission of Jay-Z, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas(!).) Even when he does get into it, he'll let Cool Herc talk about his setup but not really get into exactly what it was or explain the context of any of the elements, say, or mention in passing some of the songs the DJs were spinning but not really give you any feel for what you'd typically hear played. It's obviously not as shallow as Please Kill Me or any of those who-was-fucking-who books, but it seems to be equally sceney, and that's very frustrating. Oh well.