They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us
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 Times, MTV, 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.
*2018 "12 best books to give this holiday season" —TODAY (Elizabeth Acevedo)
*Best Books of 2018 —Rolling Stone
*Best Books of 2017 —NPR, Buzzfeed, Paste Magazine, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, CBC, Stereogum, National Post, Entropy, Heavy, Book Riot, Chicago Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review, Michigan Daily
*American Booksellers Association (ABA) 'December 2017 Indie Next List Great Reads'
*Midwest Indie Bestseller
Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.
"I loved, like beyond all measure, Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. It’s a collection of essays about music and culture that are written with such insight and tenderness that I read it in a day and immediately read the whole thing again... It’s spectacular."
—Samantha Irby, in The New York Times (May 10, 2018)
"Abdurraqib is just phenomenal. I don’t know what else to tell you. These sentences make me feel how I feel watching Simone Biles on a vault, or Shoma Uno on the ice, or anyone who is just impossibly fucking stellar at whatever they’re doing."
—Bryan Washington on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in The A.V. Club
"Bryan Washington’s 10 favorite books of the decade"
"I am always so moved by Abdurraqib's lyrical writing, which to me seems to occupy a genre of celebratory elegy that only he is capable of inhabiting. He weaves cultural criticism and personal memoir in such a beautiful way, making the two modes feel inevitably and inextricably bound."
—Jonny Sun, on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in The Week
"Jonny Sun recommends 6 emotionally powerful books"
"[Abdurraqib's] ode to 'Trap Queen' as the new 'I Will Always Love You' first caught my attention. I was instantly hooked."
—Questlove on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in Vulture
"Questlove’s 10 Favorite Books"
"'Brief Notes on Staying,' an essay in Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2017 book, inspired 'PLEASE STAY' (Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker lend vocals on the track). It’s about losing people and being exhausted, but needing to find a way to get through life."
—Lucy Dacus on They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us in Vanity Fair
"With They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, I felt like [Hanif Abdurraqib] encouraged more compassion out of me with every essay."
—Lucy Dacus, The Creative Independent
"Songwriter Lucy Dacus on the continued evolution of her creative practice, understanding your parents, navigating online spaces, and what it means to write with intention."
"Rhythmic repetition makes for roaring passages that beg to be read aloud, but for all his poetic muscularity, Abdurraqib understands the value of linguistic economy."
—Pete Tosiello, The Washington Post
"The Ohio poet/critic digs deep into what it means to be American in our moment — and how much music has to do with it."
—Rolling Stone, The Best Music Books of 2018, (by Jon Dolan & Kory Grow & Rob Sheffield & Andy Greene & Will Hermes)
"Abdurraqib writes about the music he holds dear, and the experiences which have embedded this music in his life, with such lyricism that the writing nears music itself—and his love of the subject is palpable."
—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed, Best Nonfiction Books Of 2017
"Abdurraqib explores America through its popular culture."
—Jason Diamond, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 2017 Favorites
"Excellent collection of essays on music, mortality and being black in America... magnetic and poignant, and tinged with heartache."
—Nikesh Shukla, The Guardian
"[Abdurraqib] invites us to acknowledge the unbridgeable gaps formed by centuries of history, to observe with respect the moments that don’t include us all, and to cherish all the more the opportunities we have for empathy, which bring us as close as we can get to harmony."
—Aida Amoako, Prospect
"With a voice that rings clear off the page, Abdurraqib is an accomplished wordsmith, whose reflections on pop culture are intensely personal, political and utterly compelling."
"Abdurraqib will make you think critically about music and the culture it influences, and his thoughts will stay with you long after you’ve tunneled through... his wonderful book."
—Gabriela Tully Claymore, Stereogum, Recommended Reading 2017
"Poignant and important. Abdurraqib offers a perspective that connects music, art, and memory, with the political realities of our time."
—Angela Ledgerwood, Esquire, Best Books of 2017
“Establishes Abdurraqib as a major rock critic—polished and deft and original in a searchingly unpolished way."
—Robert Christgau, Barnes and Noble Review
"Funny, painful, precise, desperate, and loving throughout. Not a day has sounded the same since I read him."
—Greil Marcus, Village Voice
"Essential, gripping reading."
—Tobias Carroll, Pitchfork
"A much-needed collection for our time. [Abdurraqib] has proven to be one of the most essential voices of his generation.”
—Juan Vidal, NPR
"A collection of death-defying protest songs for the Black Lives Matter era."
—Walton Muyumba, Chicago Tribune, Best books of 2017
"Challenging and lyrical, his writing delivers compelling observations in bite-sized pieces, allowing you to digest the deeper ramifications of his insights."
—Frannie Jackson, Paste, The 20 Best Nonfiction Books of 2017
"It’s a little bit of comfort when you think about it, that... Abdurraqib has provided us with an essay collection that might help make some small sense of what’s going on."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 'Hanif Abdurraqib’s Great American Essay Collection'
"Abdurraqib's poetic sentence makes me see fireworks in a new way. It ingeniously reverses their motion: Instead of tendrils of light exploding outward, overwriting the darkness, these fireworks gather the darkness into themselves. They are like teenagers stuffing their pockets with candy, ravenous for the night. Violent illuminations arriving, out of nowhere, to hoard the darkness. That would be something worth staring at."
—Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine
"Abdurraqib unites familiar sounds with fresh observations about music and the state of contemporary America... essential, gripping reading."
—Tobias Carroll, Pitchfork, 16 Favorite Music Books of 2017
"Abdurraqib places the reader in front of the performer and commands them to see beyond the music, to glimpse the societal impact of popular performers and indie heroes alike, and how they reflect the culture that bears them."
—Paul Haney, Pleiades Magazine
"Abdurraqib’s essay collection on the convergence of identity politics, music, sports and culture feels important."
—National Post, The Best Books of the Year (2017)
"This tome stands as a bold statement for a great writer and a complete breath of life from a rare thinker."
—Erick Mertz, New Noise Magazine
"One of the stand-out essay collections of 2017."
—Alyse Bensel, The Los Angeles Review
"Abdurraqib writes facing his people... and draws the rest of us to the circle’s edge with his discerning eye."
—Julia Oller, Columbus Dispatch
"As powerful and touching as anything I’ve read this year, and Abdurraqib has emerged as the Ta-Nehisi Coates of popular culture."
—James Mann, The Big Takeover
"In his first essay collection, Abdurraqib... writes about America through the prism of its music."
—Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News, "5 enticing fall books we're eager to read"
"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)
"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)
—Library Journal (starred)
"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."
"In a year that’s felt like a century, hope is hard to come by. Hanif Abdurraqib doesn’t promise us anything beyond brilliant flashes of light in a dark and complicated world, but he does it with such generosity, such grace that we might not deserve it."
—Jaime Fountaine, Fanzine, READ THE INTERVIEW HERE
"A towering work full of insightful observations about everything from the legacy of Nina Simone to the music of Bruce Springsteen... a powerful work about art, society, and the perspective through which its author regards both."
—Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature, READ THE INTERVIEW HERE
"A joyful requiem—emphasis on joyful. Abdurraqib has written a guide for the living as well as a memorial for those we have lost."
—David Breithaupt, Los Angeles Review of Books, "My Small America: An Interview with Hanif Abdurraqib"
"Moving seamlessly from Fall Out Boy to Nina Simone, from Bruce Springsteen to the death of Mike Brown, Abdurraqib centers this masterful collection of essays not only around music and the way it’s shaped and carried him through life, but the tiny sparks that help us survive."
—Jaime Fountaine, Fanzine, More Than Love & Joy: A Conversation with Hanif Abdurraqib
"Some of the most dynamic writing about music I’ve ever read. The way Abdurraqib ties the artists, concerts, and music culture he is covering into current events can make you care about music you have never even heard."
—Robert Sindelar, Board President, American Booksellers Association (ABA)
"These are essays about music, but also about culture, race, and life in America today."
—Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot, 20 Great Essay Collections from 2017
"Read this, then listen back—you’re sure to hear something new."
—Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch, W Magazine
"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
"Uses [seemingly random moments] to try and explore some of the most difficult questions about race, violence, and prejudice facing Americans, specifically Americans of color, today."
—Sadie Trombetta, Bustle
"Hanif Abdurraqib's music writing possesses a singular, impossible magic—he cracks open the very personal nature of fandom with empathy and skepticism in equal measure."
—Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic and Night Moves
"Abdurraqib bridges the bravado and bling of praise with the blood and tears of elegy."
—Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin and To Float In The Space Between
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His most recent book, a New York Times bestseller, is Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas Press). His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine. He is a member of the poetry collective Echo Hotel with poet/essayist Eve Ewing.
His next books are A Fortune for Your Disaster, a collection of poetry from Tin House in 2019, and They Don't Dance No' Mo', due out in 2020 by Random House.