Hip-hop history interview and podcast

Hip-hop journalism comes of age
By CARLY CARIOLI  |  March 9, 2006

Jeff Chang's "Can't Stop, Won't Stop"The journalist, activist, and SoleSides label founder Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (recently released in paperback) has been described by more than a few people as the best book every written on the subject. His next book, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, is due later this year. Brian Coleman is a longtime hip-hop critic (for XXL, URB, and the Phoenix, among many others) and DJ (on WZBC). He’s the author of the acclaimed oral history Rakim Told Me: Wax Facts Straight from the Original Artists. In advance of a talk Chang gave at Tufts University on March 3, the Phoenix got the two authors on the phone to talk about the state of rap criticism. See the sidebar at right to download the conversation in mp3/podcast form.

PHOENIX:You’re each writing about hip-hop from different perspectives. Jeff, yours is this broad, epic social history, and Brian, your book focuses on the specifics of particular pieces of music. The question is for both of you: what led you to these different approaches and what were some of the benefits and drawbacks of those approaches?

JEFF CHANG: My writing, going all the way back to 1990-1991, has always been influenced by my activism, so for me hip-hop was inseparable from who I was and what I believed in. The book came out the way it did just as a natural outgrowth — that’s who I am, that’s my voice, and that’s what I figured I was adding to the world. And it’s not to say that my approach is any better or any worse than anybody else’s — it’s just the way that I went about doing things.

The thing I love about Brian’s [book], the reason I love Rakim Told Me so much, is because it captures just the utter joy of it — of listening to that music for the first time. And it shows that there’s a craft to hip hop. People just think that, “Oh, they just sample this music, and they write some words, and they make it rhyme in couplets,” yada-yada-yada. But there’s so much to the art of hip-hop, and there’s not a lot of writing — in fact there’s very little writing about that, especially in the artists’ own words. So when I got Brian’s book I got just as geeked out as I was, you know, back when I was listening to the records for the first time.

PHOENIX: Brian, you billed your book as the liner notes for [those] records that were never written. It does seem amazing that nobody has ever tried to do something like this.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |   next >
Related: Hip-hop history, Five jewels in the Rubin crown, All mixed up, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Fats Domino, Nelson Mandela, Run-DMC,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   COURTNEY LOVE SLEPT HERE  |  June 20, 2012
    Boston’s most famous rock and roll crash pad is up for sale
  •   THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH MUSIC  |  April 23, 2012
    If you want to buy a song, chances are you'll end up at a one-stop shop like iTunes or Amazon — storefronts with set prices, clear rules, and instantaneous delivery.
  •   YODA IS IN THE BUILDING  |  March 07, 2012
    First, the numbers: the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference grew 50 percent from 2011 to 2012, and has now grown 1300 percent from its inception, in 2007, as a roomful of MIT math nerds, to last weekend's 2200-strong blowout at the Hynes Convention Center.
    Named for a Candlemass song, staged in a former church, and curated by a pair of noise-loving MassArt grads, the upcoming group show "We Still See the Black" brings a thunderous charge of wrathful, subtle, beguiling, and teeming contemporary art to Newton's New Art Center beginning September 15.  

 See all articles by: CARLY CARIOLI