Honors

Acclaim

“Obsessively researched, beautifully written, Chang’s book is the funky, bootleg, B-side remix of late-20th century American history.”
Time Magazine

“When Hip-Hop 101 becomes a requirement, Jeff Chang’s history of the turmoil that begat this beloved culture will be the go-to textbook.” From the Vibe 12th Anniversary Juice 100 List!
Vibe Magazine

“Nothing less than the finest rap history extant…”
—Robert Christgau, Rolling Stone

“The birth of hip-hop out of the ruin of the South Bronx is a story that has been told many times, but never with the cinematic scope and the analytic force that Chang brings to it. Robert Moses unleashes the destructive juggernaut of the Cross-Bronx Expressway; landlords set fire to worthless tenements; police stand by and do nothing; and, against a backdrop of gang warfare, peacemaking d.j.s lay down the heavy beats and spidery loops around which a rapping, dancing, graffiti-painting culture grows. This is one of the most urgent and passionate histories of popular music ever written. Chang is blind to no one’s greed or viciousness, but he retains an idealistic view of a music that speaks the truth about the alternately stultifying and horrifying urban landscapes that the parents who hate hip-hop have made.”
The New Yorker

“His scope is operatic, sprawling, and concerns itself with the people, places and politics that drove hip-hop from its infancy…Can’t Stop Won’t Stop reads like a history textbook — albeit one of the cooler history textbooks you could find — and that’s a good thing. It is essentially a people’s history, a sociological text that delves deep into the racial and economic climates of the times that produced hip-hop culture. Of course, Chang gets to supplement his sociology with the occasional critical consideration of the lyrical stylings of a Rakim or an Ice Cube, but for the most part the focus is on cold, hard, often political fact, which is what makes it both fascinating and important. Chuck D, the famous Public Enemy frontman, was renowned for saying that hip-hop was black America’s CNN. Given that CNN is now devoted to hard-hitting, 24-hour coverage of the Michael Jackson trial, that seems a less flattering comparison. But using that same analogy, perhaps Jeff Chang is hip-hop America’s Howard Zinn.”
Salon

“How and why hip-hop predicted today’s cultural politics is the bailiwick of Jeff Chang’s tour de force chronicle Can’t Stop Won’t Stop…his writing cogently and elegantly combines street reportage, music criticism, mother wit, semiotics and political analysis.”
—Greg Tate in The Nation

“Even if ‘generations are fictions,’ as Jeff Chang writes in his new book, they are addictive, identity-giving fictions that reinvent pop culture. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop gives us the bustling, rumbling, all-or-nothing personality of the hip-hop generation while launching us into a desire for its ideals. ‘Concede them a demand and they would demand more,’ he writes. ‘Give them an apocalypse, and they would dance.’
Dancing in the streets is the eternal image in Chang’s powerful new history of America in the last three decades. Scattered legend is now transcribed: America built the ‘hood, which created a global culture of ghetto chic and hip-hop couture. As celebrity threatens hip-hop’s integrity, it propels the movement to look for its roots. Who does hip-hop belong to, if anyone? Where were you when it all began?
The culmination of 10 years of research by Chang (a Voice contributor and Colorlines founder), CSWS creates a geography for the nostalgia, a cure for the identity angst. Chang asserts that hip-hop’s raison d’tre will not disappear if we respect its history, and its core will not corrode if we honor its birthplaces.”
From the full review in The Village Voice

“Hip-hop was supposed to be a fad. When it emerged, initially in the form of rap music, it was widely assumed to be a novelty that, like surf or the twist, would burn out as quickly as it had appeared. A quarter of a century later, not only is it still here but it has become the dominant force in popular music, as well as spawning attendant activities (graffiti, breakdancing and mixing), and helping drive and generate a soundtrack for new forms of community activism.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that it’s an art form obsessed with words and their power, it has also inspired a raft of lucent, zealous, proselytising writers, some from traditional academia, others from specialist magazines such as The Source and Vibe. The journalist Jeff Chang is one of these and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, his first book, is an attempt to chronicle and explain the emergence and development of hip-hop music and the cultural and political waves it has sent crashing across America and beyond.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop…is an attempt to chronicle and explain the emergence and development of hip-hop music and the cultural and political waves it has sent crashing across America and beyond. (Chang) does it brilliantly. There is a fearless sweep to this book. As the narrative veers dizzyingly from content to context, from broad-brush assertion to the laser-focused insights of previously unheard voices, it’s clear that there’s no part of American life or recent history that Chang considers off-limits. For him, hip-hop goes everywhere and changes everything; he’s such a convincing, exhilarating writer that you are carried along, for the most part, on a fantastic voyage.”
—From the full review in the Daily Telegraph

“…an enormously inspiring, eye-opening story of the young people who, though living in the burnt-out backwaters of the city, took their impoverished lives and used them as the raw material for an artistic revolution.

Delving deep into the half-forgotten history of post-Great Society malaise and Bronx gang squabbles, Chang emerges with social history of the first order. His narrative takes early hip-hop innovators like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Fab 5 Freddy, and replants them in their native soil, shedding an entirely new light on the early years of the hip-hop juggernaut. Less interested in the music than its social consequences, Chang gives 1970s New York a weary dignity it often lacks in retellings of that dismal era. Everyone may know that hip-hop was born in the Bronx, but Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, part Greil Marcus, part Robert Caro, makes the effort to find out just what that means.”
New York Press

“Chang digs deeper than any previous hip-hop historian, and he also writes with more fluid eloquence and empathic warmth than any of his colleagues. Chang’s prose carries the mythic weight and importance of his subject. He moves on from one epic, powerful image to the next…Chang’s voice and ambition are truly epic and stunning, and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is the best book ever written about hip-hop.”
Pitchfork

“Exhaustively researched and consistently insightful, this is the definitive social history of hip-hop.”
Blender

Can’t Stop would be a masterpiece of reporting even if it didn’t include the best prose of Chang’s I’ve encountered.”
From the full review in the Seattle Weekly

“Critic and activist Jeff Chang’s ambitious and thorough Can’t Stop Won’t Stop might be the best book ever written on hip-hop, precisely because he treats it and its attendant generation as the coda rather the song…It’s this mixture of gumshoe reporting and freewheeling imagination that gives Can’t Stop Won’t Stop its power.”
From the full review in the Boston Phoenix

“This is a book that should be on the shelves of every high school and college library, an engaging and entertaining full-blown excursion into American inner-city culture’s rapid proliferation into every nook and cranny of culture at large.”
Los Angeles Weekly

“Not just another publicist-approved hip-hop encyclopedia, music writer Chang’s sprawling collection of well-research chronological essays smartly preserves and politicizes three decades of cultural history…Can’t Stop Won’t Stop remains vibrant, relevant, and vital. Grade: A-!”
Entertainment Weekly

“…the best book ever about hip-hop!”
Cleveland Scene

“Jeff Chang’s new and necessary book…delivers a vivid account of the last third of the American 20th century, a time span that Chang-a fearsome music critic with academic training in ethnic studies-believes was defined and catalyzed by the improbable rise of urban youth culture. That is, hip-hop culture…The book is as much a cultural history as a music history.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A landmark in the canon of hip-hop literature, Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop looks beyond bling and other materialist trappings to present an illuminating study of how a culture has grown in influence to affect so many areas of modern American society.”
Undercover UK

” Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is a sprawling, time-lapse portrait of a generation’s torch-bearing musical movement…By reasserting the stakes of the music and parsing out the cacophony of voices in the chorus of an entire generation, Chang has written a work that is as passionate and engaging as it is monumental.”

Boldtype

“The most important new genre of the last quarter-century finally has a sweeping historical overview as powerful as the music with Can’t Stop Won’t Stop…the best-argued, most thoroughly researched case for hip-hop as a complete and truly American culture…”
Chicago Sun-Times

“The history of hip-hop is sometimes portrayed as a cartoon–all superhero pseudonyms, zipper pants and fades, bling and braggadocio. But Jeff Chang traces hip-hop’s evolution with great skill, painting a focused narrative about the music and its artists without ever forgetting the larger social picture that frames them…Chang’s narrative sweeps you along like a great novel’s…one that you will eagerly read from cover to cover.”
Washington City Paper

“Jeff Chang has spent the last decade researching a vivid and fascinating book which should remain the definitive history for at least as long….finally, rap gets the definitive history it deserves.”
Q Magazine

A “massive, multifaced cultural history of hip-hop” that “paints an indelible portrait of hip-hop’s formative years”.
Spin

“The most historically disciplined and chronological of hip-hop scholarship’s founding texts…Hip-hop’s poorly understood history, Chang brilliantly conveys, is of some of Americas cruelest fires, ashes, rebirths and telltale ironies…He is at his best breaking hip-hop down in a language infused with the cultures own rhythms and sounds.”
In These Times

Can’t Stop firmly reattaches hip-hop to its everyman roots in Jamaica and the social politics of the 60s, affirms the worldview of the generation that grew up with it and illustrates exactly why hip-hop likely won’t fall off the mainstream radar anytime soon.”
Honolulu Weekly

“Far from a list of famous names and hit records, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop delves into the culture that produced some of music’s most pressing, volatile and outrageous statements and personalities.”
From the full feature in San Jose Metro

“A broad, eye-opening, decades-spanning account of the evolution of hip-hop culture…It is a collage, a “dub history,” a craftily constructed mish-mash of soundbites, stories, facts and figures which, like random samples in the best rap tracks, come together to form a spectacular new narrative.”

The (Montreal) Gazette

“Although the general outlines of hip-hop history are as familiar to me as the plot of The Godfather, on nearly every one of 467 pages Chang had me saying to myself ‘I didn’t know that’ or ‘I never thought about it like that’. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop emphasizes why things happened, dissecting the contradictions of hip-hop and the larger world it emerged from.”
Rock and Rap Confidential

“Fierce but accessible, meticulously researched yet compassionate…Chang manages to locate the truth, pulse, and most important, the conscience of a genre…”

From the full feature in San Francisco Bay Guardian

“The dizzy dance between opposing forces-oppression and sovereignty, style and workmanship, mythological figures, and rank policymakers-informs the bulk of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, a rich sociological history of hip-hop as both a cloak and an umbrella…Can’t Stop’s real strength, however, derives from its big-picture vantage. Chang is a formidable reporter who follows individual actions to their collective vanishing point…”
The Onion

“Chang proceeds to remind us exactly what hip-hop’s context is, forecasting its future by focusing on where it’s been…Can’t Stop Won’t Stop reaffirms hip-hop as a culture moving in an apparently endless cyclical loop, sampling itself and the outside world with equal parts reverence and irreverence.”
From the full feature in East Bay Express

“Those reading Chang’s heavily researched, well-written love letter to the genre that hooked him hard as a kid growing up in Honolulu will no doubt learn something about hip hop that they didn’t know…he is less interested in the salient musical productions of hip hop and more interested in its cultural worth as a vibrant, local movement that still never fails to inspire and incite…”
Alternet

An “engaging and extensive debut”, a “balanced assessment of rap’s controversial trappings”, a “vivid narrative” that “most importantly…documents stories that have been left unrecorded until now, with the oral histories of the gangs and the artists.” Starred Review!
Publishers Weekly

“Hip-hop didn’t grow or operate in a vacuum…and Chang shows how political and social events affected and were affected by hip-hop’s progress…A fascinating, far-reaching must!”
Booklist

Upcoming Appearances

For a complete list of Jeff's appearances, check Dates.

Can't Stop Won't Stop Extras

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