Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Misc. Reviews 

Jeff Chang's Total Chaos

Wednesday, Mar 21 2007
Berkeley author Jeff Chang follows his American Book Award-winning Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by editing and curating a new anthology exploring hip hop's artistic achievements beyond the beats and rhymes. Total Chaos traces the genre's impact on visual art, literature, film, theater, and dance. But, more compellingly, it looks at the music through underrepresented and sometimes oppressed groups within the culture, from women and indigenous people to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/ transgendered community. While Chang is a more-than-qualified cross-cultural theorist to discuss these topics, the book's authenticity is cemented by the participation of a few dozen writers, artists, and activists lending their voices as authors and panelists in written roundtables.

"All in all," writes Chang, "this collection [of essays] is loose, ungainly, contradictory, volatile, unstable." This honest self-critique is a valid charge to level at Total Chaos; these same qualities will challenge readers with short attention spans attempting to process the academic concepts at hand. It takes time and patience to penetrate this dense material — note-taking is recommended. But it's worth wading through Chaos to discover underlying concepts on how hip hop threads together so many different people and artistic disciplines.

Beyond the theorizing panelists, some of Chaos' most exciting moments are the pure expressions from the heart: A Palestinian-American poet's ode to her borough (Suheir Hammad's "brooklyn"), a Bay Area native's nostalgic yarn about our local mixmasters' soul foundation (Robert Karimi's "how i found my inner DJ"). Even these chapters, though, are best digested slowly. In reading a book called Total Chaos, though, paying close attention is to be expected. In that respect, Chang and company channel the diverse spirit of the culture they document.

About The Author

Tamara Palmer


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • Phish at the Bill Graham Auditorium
    Phish is in the midst of a block of sold out shows at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (October 27-29). The Monday night concert featured a rare first set opener of “Walfredo” with the band members switching instruments for the song. The evening’s highlights included John Fishman and his iconic vacuum cleaner solo and favorites such as Chalk Dust Torture, Slave to the Traffic Light, Axilla, Rift, 2001 Space Odyssey, and Maze. The show also featured Phish’s debut of a, seemingly impromptu, version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to with roaring approval of the, singing along, crowd. With Game 6 being tonight, partying Phish fans will join Giants fans in Civic Center Plaza where there will be a World Series viewing party on a large screen set up by the City. Photography by Jamie Soja.
  • The 4th Annual Masquerotica 2014 - NSFW
    The theme this year was Carnaval Mystique for the 4th Annual Masquerotica at The Factory. Attendees were entertained by strip dance, trapeze, and live music. Photographs by Calibree Photography.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed