Quoted: Jeff Chang on Hip-Hop

by Latoya Peterson

What you hold in your hands in not another book about rap music. This is about hip-hop.

To most people, hip-hop signifies rap. And perhaps well it should, for since the art of party-rocking was transferred in the form of 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” to a twelve-inch piece of black polyvinyl chloride, born literally of salt and oil, then distilled further from fifteen minutes of rhymes to a three-minute pop song – in other words, a portable commodity that could leverage hundreds more valuable commodities, the salt and oil of the new global entertainment – hip-hop has been an inescapable fact.

But rap’s pop dominance has eclipsed hip-hop’s true importance. In particular, it has hidden the way that hip-hop has become one of the most far reaching and transformative arts movements of the past two decades. From condemned farmland barns in South Carolina to flashy post-modern boutiques in Shibuya, from brick-and-stone alleyways to the bright lights of Broadway, in airy suburban bedrooms crowded with the stuff of urban detritus and overheated inner-city schoolrooms set abuzz with the noise of personal journals, in front of white laptops, in black-box theatres and red-light districts, hip-hop has set the imagination of a generation afire. I don’t say this to make a “look how we’ve grown up” bid for acceptance, an “it’s more respectable than you think” apology, or even a “you better recognize” boast puffed full of triumphalism.

Again, it’s just simple fact.

—Introduction, Hip-Hop Arts: Our Expanding Universe, from Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop