And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Yearsby Raquel Cepeda, Nelson George
In September 1979, there was a cosmic shift that went unnoticed by the majority of mainstream America. This shift was triggered by the release of the Sugarhill Gang's single, Rapper's Delight. Not only did it usher rap music into the mainstream's consciousness, it brought us the word "hip-hop." And It Don't Stop, edited by the award winning journalist/i>/i>
In September 1979, there was a cosmic shift that went unnoticed by the majority of mainstream America. This shift was triggered by the release of the Sugarhill Gang's single, Rapper's Delight. Not only did it usher rap music into the mainstream's consciousness, it brought us the word "hip-hop." And It Don't Stop, edited by the award winning journalist Raquel Cepeda, with a foreword from Nelson George is a collection of the best articles the hip-hop generation has produced. It captures the indelible moments in hip-hop's history since 1979 and will be the centerpiece of the twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration.
This book epitomizes the media's response by taking the reader on an engaging and critical journey, including the very first pieces written about hip-hop for publications like The Village Voice--controversial articles that created rifts between church and state, the artist and journalist, and articles that recorded the rise and tragic fall of the art form's appointed heroes, such as Tupac Shakur, Eazy-E, and the Notorious B.I.G. The list of contributors includes Toure, Kevin Powell, dream hampton, Harry Allen, Cheo Hodari Coker, Greg Tate, Bill Adler, Hilton Als, Danyel Smith, and Joan Morgan.
“Hip Hop is the voice of the communtity and its child, Hip Hop journalism, adds a new element to the mix in another medium that goes way beyond the music industry to become a true organ of news. And It Don't Stop is essential reading. It captures the extraordinary eruptions of word, image and sound that Hip Hop inspired and, in itself, continues the process of self-definition and community empowerment that has characterized the movement from the earliest days to the present. Raquel Cepeda knew how to pick them. The articles she has chosen are a distillation of the significant events, personalities, conflicts and philosophies that together shape the revolutionary impact of Hip Hop on the world.” Henry Chalfant, co-author of Spray Can Art
“An irresistible compilation of the most stylish prose and revelatory interviews of the last twenty-five years on Hip Hop, And It Don't Stop is required reading for any serious devotee of contemporary urban culture. Raquel Cepeda places Hip Hop journalism in a historical framework: we not only discover how writing styles have changed over the years, but we also learn how the stakes in writing about Hip Hop have transformed alongside the music and culture. It's a glorious reminder of how influential journalists have been, and continue to be, in helping to shape and create this thing we call Hip Hop.” Jason King, Associate Chair, The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, New York University
“And It Don't Stop is long overdue. Boom! Like powerful shots from the cannon. Rock shocking, in the place to be! The writers in this collection, like Kierna Mayo, dream hampton, Raquel Cepeda, Bill Adler, and Sacha Jenkins are some of the most brilliant writers--hip hop or not--of the last twenty-five years. I welcome this book.” Bobbito Garcia, DJ, basketball performer, author of Where D'You Get Those? New York City's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987
“Raquel Cepeda has finally done justice to the mother-wit, social power, and visceral passion of hip-hop journalism. Here's an indispensable collection of pioneering, bold, visionary and cautionary writing, a must-have for anyone who loves this culture.” Jeff Chang, author Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
“At their best, popular culture journalists give us an insightful, ground-level, up-close view. That's what we've got here. This is some of the best journalism on hip hop over the past 25 years--a valuable collection for hip hop students, fans and nostalgic observers alike.” Tricia Rose, author of Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America
“Once in a while a book comes along that commands attention. And It Don't Stop is hip hop defined by its generations' best writers and observers, an absolute must have--definite satisfaction” Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, The Roots
“And It Don't Stop features snapshots of some of hip hop's finest moments by the generation's greatest thinkers. Raquel Cepeda did an excellent job at framing it like it was and is. This is a must-have for those who have defined as well as those who are curious about the culture.” Russell Simmons, producer, activist, founder of Def Jam Records
“Whatever one's feelings about 'hip hop nation,' it certainly has given rise to vibrant journalism. Thanks to Raquel Cepeda for collecting it in this important new book.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr
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Excerpt from And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years by Raquel Cepeda. Copyright © 2004 by Raquel Cepeda. Published in September, 2004 by Faber and Faber, Inc. An affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
My torrid love affair with hip-hop began when I was a young girl growing up in the Inwood section of Upper Manhattan. I was transfixed by the graffiti art of Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quinones MARE, and the Manhattan Subway Kings, who were native to my neighborhood. I was overwhelmed by Red Alert's raspy voice on 98.7 Kiss FM, spinning the freshest joints at the time, and by the dancing's acrobatics and fierceness. While my neighborhood was fairly popular, or rather infamous, due to the graffiti, gang violence, break dancing that was ever present in the park adjoining the Dyckman projects, and the occasional film crew, we were clueless that hip-hop would one day leave the ghetto to go live with the Jeffersons. Not even when the larger-than-life TV star Lorenzo Lamas bum-rushed my babysitter's block to shoot a scene using real gang members—the Ball Busters—as extras for the saccharine Body Rock flick did I think that hip-hop would survive this cheesy marauding by Hollywood. While I did notice the occasional tourist snapping photos of the graffiti art that enveloped Inwood Park's baseball fields in the early eighties, neither my peers nor I imagined that our love of the genre, this pedagogy of the oppressed, would morph into a billion-dollar industry. I was wrong.
My foray into writing came in front of the mic as a spoken-word artist--a hair over a decade ago--when New York City was burgeoning with a raw underground rendering of what would become a Def Poetry jam. Spoken-word artists were, like the journalists of the decade, using rap music and hip-hop culture as a societal reflector because the genre was, in turn, defining our generation. The contradictions that existed in rap music and its participants (including yours truly), the misogyny, sex, love, hate, the schisms, were among the topics we used to move the crowd. Poets often shared the stage with rappers like The Fugees, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Freestyle Fellowship, The Roots, and some of their forefathers like Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets. Some of us parlayed our thoughts into long-form, some of us became authors, and others, HBO fixtures.
This was the beginning of hip-hop journalism--a genre unto itself that would afford many of us poets-cum-journalists a way to marry our love of words and the music into potentially lucrative careers. Twenty-five years after the release of Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," the first Billboard-charted rap single-but certainly not the first rap record—there is even an argument to be made for hip-hop writing's adoption as a sixth element of the culture—behind deejaying, emceeing, dancing, graffiti, and fashion--due to its critical role in archiving and reporting the history, present, and undoubtedly the future of hip-hop. It would also be fair to say hip-hop journalism is, in fact, an extension of rap music. As a verbal art form, the writings are illustrations of vivid landscapes—some sensational, some introspective, some fantastical, some of which are slices of inner-city blues, and many of which are recanted with lyrical master—that are narratives all the same.
This medley of literary biscuits, collected in And It Don't Stop, is more than just a reader, or an accessory of must-have articles for your library. It's a critical journey, exploring an unprecedented relationship between artist and journalist—church and state—and includes some of the very first hip-hop features, along with controversial articles that created rifts between hip-hop artists and the journalists who covered them, as well as those indelible writings that recorded our modern tragedies—loss of icons and loss of focus as senseless violence and the horror of AIDS infiltrated the music and culture. This is the first book to chronicle hip-hop journalism, and it does so by showcasing and celebrating the writing from the various periods of what is now known as hip-hop, rather than simply reflecting back on the movement with the ease of twenty-twenty hindsight. These articles are not removed from the context of the times they report on; these articles are the context. But most importantly, for many hip-hop aficionados, including yours truly, who feel hip-hop's most popular element, rap music, has run away from its creative and critical beginnings, And It Don't Stopch is a reminder of hip-hop's remarkable staying power and still untapped potential
So, we begin with the all-but-forgotten humble beginning of hip-hop. The graffiti artist, the breaker, the deejay, and the emcee. Graffiti artists became the first djalis, or storytellers, of this New World of hip-hop by using New York subway cars as a means of sounding the alarm that heralded the arrival of an infectious new force. That force, later christened hip-hop, was spawned from New York City's concrete jungles in the 1970s to become the ultimate expression of black youth resistance to poverty and oppression. First in the South Bronx and then throughout each of New York's five boroughs and beyond, hip-hop was further embodied in the breaker's psychedelic dance movements, the deejay's rhythmic party beats, and the emcee's poignant and stirring lyrics.
From the outset it was clear that this hip-hop was no fad. It was instead the rumblings of a movement—strong enough and necessary enough to evade all efforts to quiet its call, including not only Mayor Edward I. Koch's declared war on our beloved djalis, but also President Reagan's failed Reagan Revolution, which, while intending to bring to the inner cities "the great confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism," in fact did little to give our crack-infested urban centers the necessary face-lift. Hip-hop would survive these early attacks and grow like an errant vine to overtake America's garden and at once become the needed didactic response, if you will, to the schisms plaguing the direct descendants of the Civil Rights generation.
Hip-hop, like rock music in the 1960s, morphed into the dominant rebel yell of youth culture in New York City. Chuck D, front man for Public Enemy, one of the most influential and dynamic groups of our history-in-the-making, said it best in a controversial statement after the release of their classic album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in which he dubbed hip-hop the "black CNN." He believed that rap music related what was happening in the inner city in a way that mainstream media could not project or even understand. Hip-hop journalists not only understood, but were themselves participants also aching to be understood. This collection is then a slice of the rousing perspective of journalists who sent dispatches from hip-hop's epicenter, who took their roles as historians, chronicling the culture, defining the tenets that made this genre become such a powerful voice, and pointing out its contradictions and its potency at once, quite seriously.
By the time "Rapper's Delight" was released, hip-hop, which was initially being covered as just listings and blurbs in the black press, had surprised us all and gone pop, sprouting up and out of every crevice of the planet where youth culture expresses itself through art, music, dance, and fashion. And as with most things that go "POP!" in American culture, what started out primarily as a black and Latino subculture has been uprooted and co-opted by mainstream marketers who neatly package everything from soft drinks to game shows and fast food. The mainstreaming of hip-hop has made it almost impossible to distinguish it from a commercial jingle. Still hip-hop has done more for our generation—whose core demographic is now in its thirties and forties—than what even basketball has done for kids in the inner city. For better or for worse, the wild success of rap music has created not only a handful of coveted positions for the lucky few who have managed to flex their lyrical mastery in front of the mic, it has also created positions in recording, publishing, fashion, film, and journalism.
Today, would-be hip-hop journalists are faced with a challenge to explore the substance beneath the surface. While the writings about hip-hop in the alternative press legitimized the music because it helped identify it to the masses in the eighties, and helped our generation define itself within its social and political paradigms in the nineties, we are now being faced with the task of covering more interesting aspects than what the mainstream predicates. And while we're ushering in the new millennium, writing about hip-hop still has the potential to be used as a conduit for change. Journalists should take a cue from what has been written in the previous decades and add to the discussions cemented by the writers featured in this collection, as well as that of their peers, to use hip-hop as a powerful tool for a new age of thinkers.
The articles featured here are also a matter of passion versus, if you will, access. Now that hip-hop has been repackaged to be made accessible to every young, white mall rat in Middle America who is buying into the negative, inflated stereotypes affirmed by the artists themselves, mainstream media have adopted widespread coverage of the feral child ignored at birth. The articles featured in the following pages are a humble attempt to capture moments that have contributed to shaping the culture and propelling the various subcultures it's influenced, like new jack swing, hip-house, and hip-hop soul, for instance, into the ochmainstream. It's important to capture these lyrical portraits, these moments that helped shape the new pop culture—hip-hop—because not doing so is to ignore a significant volume of American history.
This collection is also an ode to the writers who inspired me, and countless other would-be journalists, to fuse their love of words with a commitment to the art form unconditionally, regardless of how it oftentimes did not love us back. I honor every single contributor who participated in the creation of this joint for the vivid telling of how it really is and was.
It's been long overdue.
Meet the Author
Raquel Cepeda, former Editor-in-Chief of OneWorld Magazine, is an award-winning journalist. She has contributed to MTV News, The Village Voice, Source, Vibe, Essence, Jalouse, and many other publications. She lives in New York City.
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