They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us
a collection of essays by
“A much-needed collection for our time. [Abdurraqib] has proven to be one of the most essential voices of his generation.”
—Juan Vidal, NPR
"From his analysis of racism in Ohio mosh pits to his account of attending a Springsteen concert after visiting Michael Brown's memorial in Ferguson, Abdurraqib represents a bold new voice in socio-music criticism."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
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.
“They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us 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
"It’s a little bit of comfort when you think about it, that with They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Abdurraqib has provided us with an essay collection that might help make some small sense of what’s going on. That maybe, hopefully, one day soon we can step back into the light with an understanding of how to be a little better. That the voices that emerged over the last decade helped forge a path towards something better, and that things can be good."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 'Hanif Abdurraqib’s Great American Essay Collection'
American Booksellers Association (ABA) 'December 2017 Indie Next List Great Reads'
"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."
—New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson, 'New Sentences' column
"Abdurraqib unites familiar sounds with fresh observations about music and the state of contemporary America. Abdurraqib has a poet’s eye for innovations in form... an attention to small societal details and a penchant for incisive critiques... essential, gripping reading."
—Pitchfork, 16 Favorite Music Books of 2017
"As much the chronicle of a black man living in contemporary culture, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a book about the heartfelt state of a poet, a man looking outward and inward simultaneously for his direction. Although we are seemingly past the era in publishing where an omnibus edition can truly claim to be complete, this tome stands as a bold statement for a great writer and a complete breath of life from a rare thinker."
—New Noise Magazine
"The spoken word poet’s pieces are deep, uncensored analyses of topics ranging from music to death, from culture to sports, saturated with the weight of his memories and experiences. Each essay is a masterful account of what it means to experience culture and current events in a black body, in a country that so often demands black silence."
—The Harvard Crimson
"Abdurraqib uses the common language of music and cultural touchstones to relate the fears facing the world today that we might gain insight, grow, and understand in an era that seems to want anything but."
—Heavy, Best New Books of 2017
"When we say this is the stunning turducken of literary nonfiction, we mean it. Love this book so much. Give it to all the people you know, especially the millennial ones."
—Elliott Bay Book Company:
"In They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Abdurraqib writes facing his people — punk-show scenesters, NBA aficionados, black kids growing up on the East Side of Columbus — and draws the rest of us to the circle’s edge with his discerning eye."
"As powerful and touching as anything I’ve read this year, and Hanif Abdurraqib has emerged as the Ta-Nehisi Coates of popular culture. Pick any piece from They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. I promise you – it will sting. Like all great art."
—James Mann, The Big Takeover
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is like a collection of death-defying protest songs for the Black Lives Matter era. Like Kanye’s ghostly, autotuned chants on the opening track of Chance’s “Coloring Book,” Abdurraqib’s essays say, just to live, 'music is all we got.'"
—Walton Muyumba, Chicago Tribune
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a study of the persona and the perceived. It is a call for empathy, showing us how possible that is in each essay included. Some provide a harder look at life, but Hanif Abdurraqib is aware of how bad the world is and how much life sucks and doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat any of it. Instead, he chooses to be an optimist, even against his own nature. He leads by example and beckons us to follow."
—The Big Smoke
"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)
“With the depth and versatility of an immensely talented poet and the strong, perceptive wit of a cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib shows us his tremendous ability to bend language to his will in this collection of essays. For him, like for many of us, music is an entrance into a larger discussion of our emotions and our collective cultural understanding. Deftly moving from ruminations on Chance the Rapper, Atmosphere, and Future, to Bruce Springsteen, Fall Out Boy, and Johnny Cash, Abdurraqib is able to traverse conversations on black excellence, grief, and hope. This book taught me something fresh about humanity with every turn of the page, and it will stay with me for a long time to come.”
—Matt Keliher, SubText Books, St. Paul, MN
"Abdurraqib’s essays are necessary reading now more than ever, and this collection is the perfect place to begin."
—Paste Magazine,The 10 Most Anticipated Books of November 2017
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a generous and beautifully written collection of music essays that is truly about so so much more than music. It is my favorite book and I'm very excited to get it into your hands."
—A Room of One's Own Bookstore, Madison, Wisconsin
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, the first essay collection from Hanif Abdurraqib, is a towering work full of insightful observations about everything from the legacy of Nina Simone to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Throughout the book, Abdurraqib juxtaposes the societal with the intimately personal, and the end result is a powerful work about art, society, and the perspective through which its author regards both."
"Hanif Abdurraqib's essays are the best kind of writing about music and pop culture: they're deeply personal and thoughtful, an out loud working through of what music and pop culture say about how we move through the world and where we're going."
—Barnes & Noble, Court Street, Brooklyn, NY
"Columbus native Hanif Abdurraqib is an insightful poet and cultural critic who uses music as the starting point for discussing youth, race, friendship, who we love... and Carly Rae Jepsen."
"How can one talk about music without addressing the culture behind it? In They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib digs deep into our culture and hits upon the heart of contemporary American life. This beautiful book is necessary now, more than ever!"
—Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago, IL
"The Best New Books of November 2017"
—Chicago Review of Books
"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."
"They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib is 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. 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
"Maybe the best non-fiction book of 2017. Hanif Abdurraqib’s essay collection is moving, startling, and introduces an important voice in the current cultural landscape. Touching on music, race, pop culture and sooo much more—this collection is a memorable feast. We HIGHLY recommend you take a look."
—Volumes Bookcafe, Chicago, IL
"[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."
"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. In his essays and criticism he lenses history through heartbreak and limns the vast connections between performer and audience. Through a Carly Rae Jepsen show he explores loneliness, Bruce Springsteen's The River takes us to Ferguson, Migos begets a meditation on the 'burbs. Like Greil Marcus before him, when Abdurraqib is writing about music, what he is really getting at is the true nature of life and death in America, in this moment. They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us is the book I have been waiting for; it is the book we need."
"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."
Hanif Abdurraqib (click for more) is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism has been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New York Times, and MTV News, where is a columnist. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was published in 2016 by Button Poetry.
Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us! (Use the "full screen" option at bottom right to enlarge the pages):
LIST PRICE: $15.99
PRINT ISBN: 978-1-937512-65-1
DIGITAL ISBN: 978-1-937512-66-8
RELEASE DATE: 11/2017
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Inside printed on Enviro 100% post-consumer EcoLogo certified paper, processed chlorine free and manufactured using biogas energy.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).