cover image Go Ahead in the Rain

Go Ahead in the Rain

Hanif Abdurraqib. Univ. of Texas, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-4773-1648-1

Poet Abdurraqib follows up his collection of music criticism They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us with an impassioned, incisive biography cum memoir arguing for hip-hop’s importance to the black youth of his generation. Abdurraqib focuses on A Tribe Called Quest, a group that broke out from Queens, N.Y., in 1990. Noting the band’s wide-ranging samples—Art Blakey, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone—he explains that “The Tribe was one of the first groups to repurpose a long line of sound that our parents, and perhaps their parents, were in love with.” He describes his experience trying to find himself as a seventh-grader in Ohio listening to hip-hop on a Walkman and appreciating the band’s willingness to tread “a thin line of weirdness.” In high school, he got by with a crew of friends whose quick wit and music knowledge gave them enough social cred to keep out of fights. Abdurraqib builds a nuanced portrait of the band and their scene in New York, culminating in a touching series of chapters framed as letters to Q-Tip, the group’s founding MC; Phife Dog, “the five-foot assassin with the roughneck business,” who died from diabetes in 2016; and Phife’s mother, the poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. This is a standout volume on hip-hop. (Feb.)