TONIGHT — Hanif Abdurraqib Reading: They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

[by: Morgan McComb]

Before you head to Hanif Abdurraqib’s reading tonight, check out this review of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us and get your tickets here.

Sometimes you read books that make you think, and then sometimes you read books that make you feel; this one does both. Abdurraqib’s essays give you just enough of the personal, but once he draws you in, he sends you back to yourself, forcing you to look inward through subjects we write off as surface-level or, at the very least, irrelevant to the “bigger” issues. Macklemore beating out Kendrick Lamar for the Best Rap Album Grammy, the rise and fall of Fall Out Boy, why we should stop giving Migos so much flack for being from the suburbs, and the cultural implications of Allen Iverson vs. Michael Jordan—and that’s just to start. What Abdurraqib perhaps does best, though, is demonstrate how to use popular culture as a starting point—for change, reflection, therapy, or whatever we need it to be—in order to dig deeper. Abdurraqib’s focus isn’t just on evaluating and demonstrating the value of popular figures like Chance the Rapper. Abdurraqib’s emphasis on music is a gateway to a discussion about our nation’s biggest political and socioeconomic issues, like police brutality and the murder of Black Americans, the rise of white supremacy, and gentrification. This book will be something different to everyone, and it has an entrance point for everyone, too; and I can’t help but feel that that’s what good writing does. In this case, Abdurraqib’s writing is awe-inspiring while being at the same time totally accessible. In a time of deep political tension and disunion, a book like this feels prescient, present, and desperately needed.