PRINT May 1985


The Rap Attack: African Jive to New York Hip-Hop

Of all the books generated by hip-hop this is the first to address rap music and music-as art. That says a good deal about the dynamics of fads, the power of internal colonialism, and the practice of rock criticism. Still, worthy as Britisher David Toop’s efforts are, his sensibility and his methods remain elementary. A clumsy writer, Toop spends a good bit of his text detailing rap antecedents: the praise songs of African griots, Afro-American “dozens,” Jamaican dub and DJing—even lily-white Cliff Richard’s bongo solo on the UK Shadows’ 1960 version of “Apache.” But because Toop can’t really write about music, he can’t give the reader any sense of what these antecedents felt or sounded like—of what, beyond cliché, they were about. Thus he can offer little sense of how, within the domain of black or simply popular music, rap is radically new: how it does not sound like anything that came

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