Podcast: Jeff Chang on the bad loop of history

The author and hip-hop historian speaks October 22 at the Wisconsin Book Festival and Passing The Mic conference.


Photo by Keith Villaluz.

Photo by Keith Villaluz.

On this week’s podcast, I’m talking with hip-hop journalist and author Jeff Chang. Chang’s seminal work on hip-hop history Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop is a must-read for fans of the genre. His work has appeared in publications including the Village Voice, Vibe, Rap Pages, Spin, The Progressive, and Mother Jones.

Chang is currently the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. His latest book is a mix of commentary and reportage: We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes On Race And Resegregation.

This weekend, he’s in Madison to make two appearances, both on Saturday, October 22, at the Wisconsin Book Festival and the Passing The Mic conference.

On a Skype call earlier this month, Chang and I talked about the paradoxes of American pop culture. Audiences are hungry to see representations of themselves. The reception of shows like Atlanta, Luke Cage, Modern Family, Fresh Off The Boat, Empire, Black-ish, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder prove this. Yet power players in Hollywood remain overwhelmingly white. In 2014, less than 6 percent of executive producers and 14 percent of writers were of color.

Chang says that cultural equity is not just about representation—it’s about access and power. Chang writes in his book: “In February 2016, when Channing Dungey, an African-American woman, was named president of ABC entertainment, she became the first person of color to head a major network.”

Also discussed: The Black Lives Matter movement, #OscarsSoWhite, Ferguson, unequal pay, O.J. Simpson, resegregation. and the role of rap before the age of Black Twitter. We also think Sofia Vergara is the breakout star of Modern Family and dare anyone to a debate on the topic.

Give the conversation a listen below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight local news show, which partners with us to produce these. Thanks to Dylan Brogan for producing this interview.

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