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In 2005, Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop did for hip-hop scholarship what Hercules did for the Aegean stables: flushed out all the bullshit by redirecting the flow. Throughout the previous decade, most hip-hop writers had not so much stood as crouched on the shoulders of their predecessors, revisiting the same points on a well-worn timeline and mouthing the same reductive formulations. Chang’s history was broader, more incisive; it replaced uninterrogated truisms with hardnosed research, big-picture analysis, poetic philosophizing. Just as importantly, it freed other writers to specialize. Summarizing the culture suddenly seemed ridiculous: you weren’t going to do a better job than Chang, and even his book, at five-hundred-plus pages, had to flit from one tipping point to the next. Instead, a spate of excellent, tightly focused books emerged, on topics like hip-hop dance (Joseph G. Schloss’s Foundation), hip-hop as a political football (Tricia Rose’s Hip Hop Wars), even individual albums (Born To Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, edited by Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Daulatzai) and the notion of a hip-hop aesthetic (Jelani Cobb’s To The Break of Dawn).