Jeff Chang: The Influence Street Gangs Had on the Evolution of Hip Hop

Author Jeff Chang

Straight from the Davey D Archives, we pull out an interview we did with author Jeff Chang back in August of 2008 at the National Political Hip Hop Convention about his book ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop‘. Here we sit down and talk about his perspective on street gangs and how they influenced Hip Hop culture.

Chang talks to us about the culture of abandonment in the late 60s and early 70s when many whites fled the Bronx in what we call ‘white flight’. This left many of the areas impoverished with its decreased tax base. This in turn led to what Chang described as chaos which led to the explosions of gangs who attempted to create and enforce some sort of order.

The gangs grew in size and began to war against one another until it reached a critical point where folks reached a fork in the road. Should they make peace and transform the neighborhoods or continue down a path of destruction. In 1971 the gangs of the Bronx got together and forged a Peace Treaty. The cult movie Warriors was inspired by this Peace Treaty.

Chang noted the 71 peace Treaty paved the way for Hip Hop as it allowed folks from all over to go in various neighborhoods and artistically express themselves via dance, emceeing and deejaying. The birth of Park Jam came about.  You can peep our interview below…Chang is currently working on a book about race and multi-culturlism as a follow-up to his excellent book.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU0lINPtCb0

In our interview I made reference to the 40th anniversary of the Notorious Black Spades who was the largest gang in new York during those early days. The Spades eventually morphed into the Organization and later the Mighty Zulu Nation under the leadership of Afrika Bambaataa who at the time was a key warlord.

Karate Charlie of the Ghetto Brothers and Bam Bam of the Black Spades

We decided to include the videos to that gathering so you can get a richer understanding about the influence.. Included in these clips are members of the Ghetto Brothers who Chang writes extensively about in his book. We also see Black Spade leader Bam Bam. He was the one who gave Afrika Bambaataa permission to use the name.. In these clips you see Bam address younger gangsters in the most intense ways..

We also hear from Hip Hop legend Popmaster Fabel of Rocksteady Crew and Zulu Nation who is working on a documentary about the early gangs called The Apache Line.  In fact he was filming that day.  We also hear from original B-Boy and Zulu nation member Charlie Rock who talks about the White Gangs called Greasers who roamed the Bronx and were  mortal enemies to the large Black and Puerto Rican gangs. he explains how Hip Hop emerged from the chaos underscoring Chang’s earlier points..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nwsdYU4yKM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGYTeRUWK5k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ufPt8g617I&feature=channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycREFrL6-RA&feature=channel

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Comments

  1. I’ve bookmarked this one so I can give this the attention it deserves. It looks like a lot of research, time and love went into this piece.

  2. flavorblade says:

    I think the independent conscious movement from philosophers like Elijah, The Black Panthers, and Afrocentric studies awareness in general has had the biggest influence on hip-hops level of creative intelligence. As far as gangs, history shows how the same demographic swings either way. Right now, the gang seat is down holding all the weight. However to get hip-hop started the lead demographic at the birthplace, had to first transform from a gang into a conscious movement. Dude tells the story pretty well in this piece.

    Later, hip-hop opened up enough space to cater to straight-up gang entry on wax with NWA. That way was also paved in part by hip-hop displaying graphic street life first person depiction with Schooly D.

  3. You probably already saw/know about this but your article got mentioned in Colorlines!

    http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/10/street_gangs_and_the_evolution_of_hip-hop.html

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