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They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

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UPC: 9781937512651
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Author: Hanif Abdurraqib
Foreword: Eve L. Ewing

Written by Hanif Abdurraqib 
Published: 2017 
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio 
Pages: 222 
Format: Paperback 
Print ISBN: 978-1-937512-65-1 

In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Abdurraqib's is a voice that matters. Whether he's attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown's grave, or discussing public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, he writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly.

In the wake of the nightclub attacks in Paris, he recalls how he sought refuge as a teenager in music, at shows, and wonders whether the next generation of young Muslims will not be afforded that opportunity now. While discussing the everyday threat to the lives of black Americans, Abdurraqib recounts the first time he was ordered to the ground by police officers: for attempting to enter his own car.

In essays that have been published by the New York TimesMTV, and Pitchfork, among others—along with original, previously unreleased essays—Abdurraqib uses music and culture as a lens through which to view our world, so that we might better understand ourselves, and in so doing proves himself a bellwether for our times.


"Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a penetrating and profoundly timely collection of essays. It is music writing at its sharpest, most perceptive, and most urgent... Most remarkable, perhaps, is Abdurraqib’s ability to perceive and define connections between his subjects, himself, and the fractured, complicated culture in which we live."
—Foreword Reviews (starred review)

"Abdurraqib’s essay collection is mesmerizing and deeply perceptive... filled with honesty, providing the reader with the sensation of seeing the world through fresh eyes." 
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Abdurraqib writes with uninhibited curiosity and insight about music and its ties to culture and memory, life and death, on levels personal, political, and universal... Abdurraqib’s poignant critiques, a catalog of the current moment and all that preceded it, inspire us to listen with our whole selves."
Booklist (starred review)

"The Best New Books of November 2017" 
—Chicago Review of Books

"These are essays about music, but also about culture, race, and life in America today. Willis-Abdurraqib writes about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave, what it was like growing up in America in the 1990s, the first time he was thrown on the ground by police officers, and much more." 
—Book Riot, 20 Great Essay Collections from 2017

"[Hanif Abdurraqib] writes about subjects like Chance the Rapper, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Bruce Springsteen, placing these stars and their songs squarely in the context of America's current narrative of unease. Read this, then listen back—you’re sure to hear something new." 
—W Magazine, Books to Read Right Now 

"Music nerds, rejoice! There are few critics alive today that can talk about music and culture with the same level of adoration and encyclopedic knowledge as Hanif Abdurraqib. It should come as no surprise, then, that They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, his collection of music and culture essays, is ridiculously good. True to form, Abdurraqib will likely give you a whole new level of appreciation for some of your favorite music — so strap in, because fandom has never sounded so good."

"In all of Abdurraqib’s poetic essays, there is the artist, the work, the nation, and himself. The author effortlessly navigates among these many points before ultimately arriving at conclusions that are sometimes hopeful, often sorrowful, and always visceral. Erudite writing from an author struggling to find meaning through music."

"Certain writers can take a pop song or musician as their subject and turn what they write into a stunning evocation of some aspect of society. That’s very much the case with Hanif Abdurraqib, and in this new collection he covers everything from the Columbus punk scene to Chance the Rapper, coming up with stunning observations along the way."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Abdurraqib examines American pop culture with insight and heart."
Dallas News, Enticing Fall Books

"In They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, the poet, writer, and cultural critic takes seemingly random moments — a Bruce Springsteen concert, PDA at a Carly Rae Jepsen show — and uses them to try and explore some of the most difficult questions about race, violence, and prejudice facing Americans, specifically Americans of color, today."

"Abdurraqib doesn't just understand the intent of songs on a deeper level than anyone else I've ever met or read, he understands them on levels that even the artists cannot. He understands the way art reverberates long after it's collected and compiled and released. Music belongs to those who create it right up until the moment it doesn't. When a song is released, it belongs to everyone at once and there are a lot of writers who get intent right. There are a lot of people who hear an artist screaming into the canyon and correctly diagnose what they were trying to get at, but it takes someone special to hear the echoes. It takes someone special to hear the life a song takes on beyond intent, the way that it reacts with people, not the thing it meant but the things it'll come to mean to different people from different walks of life, all who will glean something unique, something personal but always something equally valuable from it. Abdurraqib has that gift and in this collection, he shows it off in a way that shines a light on just how much music belongs to everyone."
—Dan Campbell, Lead Singer of The Wonder Years and Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties

"Abdurraqib bridges the bravado and bling of praise with the blood and tears of elegy."
—Terrance Hayes