Saturday, July 29

Robert Moses: The Original B-Boy

Well, not exactly. In fact not at all, though Mr. Moses does hold a rather ignominious position in the annals of hip-hop. In 1959 New York Parks Commissioner Moses (otherwise known as The Power Broker--one of Book-Loop pal Bryan's favorite books) commenced work on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, laying the foundation for hip-hop in the Bronx. You see, the expressway tore apart neighborhoods and led to the departure of numerous middle class families. As these middle class inhabitants left, many of the Bronx’s businesses followed. What remained was a community consisting largely of struggling black and Hispanic families. As the situation in the Bronx grew increasingly dire gang activity and drug use became increasingly widespread. As a response to the desperation facing young people living in the South Bronx during the 1970s, the hip-hop movement emerged.

As I read Can't Stop Won't Stop I have found myself struck by how a movement that was so vital, so potent in its nascent stages, has now devolved into the current celebration of all things extravagant and dispensable. Certainly there are those who still pay homage to the roots of hip-hop in their own way, but these are a small minority when one considers who's getting airplay and who’s garnering platinum plaques. The great thing about a lot of popular hip-hop in the early days is that it was party music with a social message appended--Afrika Bambaataa's motto of "Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun" really stood for something. Why is it that now it seems the songs must be one or the other, conscious or crunk? It’s really a shame, as it confines the power of the genre.

I’m making my way through Can't Stop Won't Stop incredibly slowly, which surprises me, I thought I would devour it. It’s a pretty dense book and I've been reading it in fits and starts, distracted by other books along the way. Although it is quite thorough and exceedingly well researched, Can't Stop Won't Stop somehow manages to be clear and concise, offering an insightfulness that--unfortunately--you wont find in some widely read hip-hop publications. If you’re curious about the history of hip-hop this is THE book. I'll likely comment on this book further as I make my way through it--especially when I get to the Native Tongues part.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Not "one of" my favorite books, my favorite book, period. The Cross-Bronx chapter in the book is heartbreaking.