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TUMF: Can't Stop the Hip-Hop


I admit that I haven't yet got a chance to check out Jeff Chang's critically acclaimed (and recent American Book Award winner) Hip-Hop 101 history book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. But after taking in his intensely interesting keynote address at the kickoff of the Toronto Urban Music Festival (TUMF), I plan to pick it up sooner rather than later.

Chang did his research (and it shows) in looking at the roots of the genre (from its Jamaican roots in the late 1960s to its birth in the Bronx) and eloquently explained how Hip-Hop got to be the global juggernaut it is today. He reminds us that even in its current "bling-bling" incarnation, Hip-Hop is not dead; rather it's been split in two.

Chang argues that you have the glossy, poppy, highly-materialistic and commoditized "50-Cent" version of Hip-Hop and then you have the "real" underground Hip-Hop which consists of positive, conscious, and also traditional Hip-Hop elements such as B-boys and B-girls.

The problem is, Chang says, is that mainstream Hip-Hop has been hijacked and is now controlled by corporate interests, which pump money into artists they feel will sell to the masses. All other subsets of Hip-Hop get pushed to the fringes, leaving a popular (but erroneous) perception that Hip-Hop is all about gangbanging and misogyny.

Hip-Hop is also cyclical, Chang says, and reinvents itself every 4-6 years. He concluded with the fact that the "trinity of hip-hop music" (Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and DJ Kool Herc) don't get the props they deserve for creating the music so many love today.

The TUMF festival continues to Sunday. This Saturday at the CNE features a concert with artists such as J-Live, Jaguar Wright and Toronto's own Divine Brown.


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