And It Don't Stop!: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years by Raquel Cepeda

Rebecca Onion

A much more interesting anthology might have scrapped the omnibus approach in favor of a different overarching idea.

And It Don't Stop!

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Length: 361
Subtitle: The Best American Hip-hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years
Price: $16
Author: Raquel Cepeda
US publication date: 2004-09
I'm getting big props, with this thing called hip hop
Where you can either get paid or get shot...Don't gas yourself ock
The industry just a better built cellblock
A long way from the shell tops
And the bells that L rocked...
— Mos Def, "Hip Hop"

Too bad for this new anthology that I was fresh from reading Michael Azerrad's book, Our Band Can Be Your Life, when I picked it up. What I liked so much about Azerrad's book about American indie music in the 1980s -- the comprehensive, cohesive narrative of a musical era; the explanations of the sound of each of the bands profiled; the extensive interviews with and insight into main figures of the movement -- doesn't happen in And It Don't Stop.

Part of the problem lies in poor planning. The book is split into decade-long sections, of which, of course, there are only three (the 1980s, 1990s, and after 2000). This means that Cepeda, who surely hoped to provide connective tissue for the project in the intros to each section, only has three chances to try to create a trajectory. These intros are full of generalizations ("early in the 1990s, it became evident that hip-hop was not only going to stand around, it was going to go POP!"). The generalizations are trying to perform this narrative function, but only end up sounding repetitive and obvious.

There are pieces in here that I, as a relatively new hip-hop fan ("since 1995" counts for nothin'), had always heard about but never had a chance to read. Danyel Smith's interview with Foxy Brown for Vibe, the one that led to Foxy trying to physically assault Smith, is here. (By the way, what was the big deal?) Nelson George's early profile of Russell Simmons is a piece of history, now that Simmons has built up a multi-million dollar empire around himself. The description of a twenty-seven-year-old Simmons ("Russell is hyped for the meeting. He's puffing on a Kool, bouncing around in shiny black penny loafers, and rubbing his bald spot comically for me. Russell's about five feet ten and 165 pounds, with the complexion of a ripe squash") is priceless.

I also enjoyed the piece about C. Delores Tucker, the anti-gangster-rap crusader, by Kierna Mayo, if only for its funny evisceration of the weirdly fanatic Tucker. "Oil paintings of lilies (or was it cherry blossoms?) decorate the waiting-room walls, and a huge brass eagle is permanently perched on a stand," Mayo describes Tucker's office. "I really can't tell that this office has much to do with women or blacks. But it does. Ah yes, a better look around reveals ten Jet magazines spread out neatly on a coffee table."

Another of the funny and well-written pieces that make "And Ya Don't Stop" worth reading, the piece about Ice Cube that Joan Morgan wrote for the Village Voice, offers a way out of the smotheringly large project that this anthology has laid out for itself. "The Nigga You Hate To Love", which explores the apparent conflict between Morgan's feminist beliefs and her deep-rooted attraction to Mr. Cube's angry, misogynistic songs, is hilarious, mildly self-deprecating, and angry. Morgan's very personal take on the subject -- she talks about listening to Cube in the car while traveling to Martha's Vineyard -- makes it clear that she's not only stretching across gender lines to listen to Cube, but also socioeconomic and cultural ones. By bringing herself into the piece, she subtly brings up the fact that upper-class black people, not just women, have their own set of issues with hip-hop.

A much more interesting anthology might have scrapped the omnibus approach in favor of a different overarching idea taken from Morgan's piece: "Women Write About Hip-Hop" or "Black Writers Wrestle with Hip-Hop." Perhaps in a couple of years we'll see these next steps taken. In the meantime, Cepeda's anthology is a very basic start.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.