Many months ago, I discovered that Jeff Chang had a blog– zentronix: dubwise & hiphopcentric. Jeff walks that odd writer/journalist/participant line, and his articles about music, art, race and politics were always very good.
He’s just released a book, “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation”. It looks to be a history of the individuals behind and influenced by, the rise of hip-hop culture (it’s not just rap music, people) from the 70s through today. Looks like good stuff.
But on top of that, he’s on a book promotion tour right now, and some of the stops seem like some pretty interesting events, with authors, intellectuals, DJs and MCs.
If anyone attends one of these events, I’d appreciate it if you could pick me up a Can’t Stop Won’t Stop mixtape. I’ll pay ya back, honest.
There is also a tiny snippet on Jeff’s site which really got me thinking. In the Q&A section, he mentions how hip-hop was founded in the South Bronx, an area that was “abandoned by government, business, and frankly, the white middle class”. This lead to increased poverty and gang violence. Then, abruptly, “against all odds, the gangs forge peace, and an unimaginable explosion of creativity happens.” Then, in 1990s, Los Angeles, there was a near identical pattern of abandonment, poverty-violence, gang truce, and explosion of hip hop. He then concludes:
What comes out of that is this intense mass longing to create history, to paraphrase Don Delillo, a deep desire to crush invisibility, to make culture that impacts the world and says “we’re here”.
I have seen that exact desire to “crush invisibility” in the writings of the zapatista rebels in Mexico. They are impoverish Mayans who have been likewise abandonded, who decided to wage war upon the Mexican government. They call it “the war against oblivion”, the fight to exist in a world that would like to forget them. The zapatistas donned balaclavas and bandana-masks as part of their uniforms, and then remarked with dark irony that they only became visible once they hid their faces.
Maybe that’s basic humanity. When you’re desparate, and have been abandonded by the rest of the world, you feel an overwhelming need to stand up and scream “I Exist!”, amplifying your voice with a microphone, a bullet, or a can of spray paint.
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