Raquel Cepeda

And It Don’t Stop

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And It Don’t Stop Summary

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And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (2004), a non-fiction anthology edited by American journalist Raquel Cepeda, catalogs thirty pieces of reportage and analysis devoted to the artists and culture of hip-hop. Cepeda received the PEN/Open Book Award intended to cultivate racial and ethnic diversity within literature for And It Don’t Stop.

In the introduction, Cepeda describes the importance of hip-hop journalism, elevating it to a level not far below hip-hop itself: “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.”

The first section, devoted to the 1980s, is titled “Looking for the Perfect Beat.” After a piece about break-dancing by Sally Banes, Cepeda includes Steven Hager’s Village Voice profile of Afrika Bambaataa, in which the term “hip-hop” first appeared in a major journalistic article. One of the three original hip-hop DJs, Bambaataa pioneered the breakbeat style of hip-hop that utilizes percussion breaks inspired by or sampled from jazz records. Next, in “London Burns, Paris Rocks, and the B-Boys Break a Leg,” David Herskovitz reports on Fab Five Freddy’s 1982 “New York City Rap” tour, the first-ever hip-hop tour in Europe.

Bill Adler reports in “The South Bronx was Getting a Bad Rap Until Disco Fever Came Along,” on the cultural influence of a South Bronx club called Disco Fever, which he describes as “the rap capital of the Solar System, not to mention South Bronx.” He argues that the club has almost single-handedly revived the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City, which thanks to Ronald Reagan had become a nationwide symbol of urban decay.

In “Rappin’ with Russell,” journalist Nelson George profiles Russell Simmons’s Rush Productions, the label which would later become Def Jam Records, one of the most important cultural institutions in all of hip-hop. Writer Barry Michael Cooper coins the phrase “New Jack Swing” to describe a new genre that fuses hip-hop and R&B in “Terry Riley’s New Jack Swing.” In the last article of the section, SPIN Magazine’s John Leland interviews Chuck D, the frontman for the politically-charged hip-hop group Public Enemy. Leland writes, “Public Enemy call themselves the prophets of rage, heirs to the mantle of Nat Turner and Malcolm X.”

The second section, “Pop Goes the Weasel,” is devoted to the 1990s. In “The House that Rap Built,” Carol Cooper describes an emergent sub-genre known as hip-house, which combines elements of electronic house music and hip-hop. In “The N**** Ya Hate to Love,” Joan Morgan reviews Ice Cube’s debut studio album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Morgan has a complicated relationship with rappers like Ice Cube, whose previous work with N.W.A. she characterizes as “nothing short of demonic.” Despite this, she calls Ice Cube “rap’s most proficient raconteur since KRS-One.” In “Hell-Raiser,” Dream Hampton interviews Tupac Shakur for The Source Magazine, following him around the country, including to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court where he faces assault charges stemming from an altercation with the Hughes Brothers, the directors behind the film Menace II Society. “Of all the things about Tupac, his music is the least noticed and most improved. [The song] ‘Hellraiser’ is compelling testimony to that. Like most hip-hop, it’s autobiographical, but it’s his passionate delivery that invokes midnight tent revivals where the testifier is possessed by the Holy Ghost.”

Writing for SPIN Magazine, Charles Aaron argues in his essay “What the White Boy Means When He Says Yo” that “sometime after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, the hip-hop kid—oversize clothes, syrupy slang, skateboard double-parked outside—emerged as the ’90s embodiment of youthful, white alienation.” Aaron debates whether this will have a positive or negative impact on hip-hop and black America at large, ultimately concluding that anything is possible.

“Get Rich or Die Tryin’” is the third and final section, devoted to the 2000s. Penned by Cepeda, “Fool’s Paradise” questions whether Lil’ Kim and other popular female rappers are strong feminist role models, concluding, “There isn’t anything womanist or even sisterly going on in [Lil’ Kim’s] Notorious.” Music critic Robert Christgau examines hip-hop’s emergence as an international cultural and consumer phenomenon in “Planet Rock.”

In “Rhythmic Heart of the Kings of Rock,” Harry Allen memorializes Jam Master Jay, the DJ for the group Run-DMC who on October 30, 2002, was shot and killed under mysterious circumstances. Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates examines the state of hip-hop and black culture in a post-gangsta, “post-crack” landscape in “Keepin’ It Unreal.” Finally, in “The Professional,” Emil Wilbekin writes about his advocacy work on behalf of black gay men.

And It Don’t Stop is a treasure trove of some of the best cultural criticism of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.