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Go Ahead in the Rain

Go Ahead in the Rain
Notes to A Tribe Called Quest

The first chronicle of A Tribe Called Quest—the visionary, award-winning group whose jazz-infused records and socially conscious lyrics revolutionized rap in the early 1990s.

A New York Times Best Seller

Series: American Music Series, *** We expect more stock by February 25, 2019. ***

Sales restrictions: Not for sale in the Commonwealth (except Canada) and the European Union
February 2019
Active (available)
216 pages | 5.5 x 7.5 |

A New York Times Best Seller

A February IndieNext Pick

Named A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by Buzzfeed, Nylon, The A. V. Club, CBC Books, and The Rumpus. And a Winter's Most Anticipated Book by Vanity Fair and The Week

Starred Reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

"Warm, immediate and intensely personal."—New York Times

How does one pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest? The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces such as The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. Seventeen years after their last album, they resurrected themselves with an intense, socially conscious record, We Got It from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service, which arrived when fans needed it most, in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself.

Abdurraqib traces the Tribe's creative career, from their early days as part of the Afrocentric rap collective known as the Native Tongues, through their first three classic albums, to their eventual breakup and long hiatus. Their work is placed in the context of the broader rap landscape of the 1990s, one upended by sampling laws that forced a reinvention in production methods, the East Coast–West Coast rivalry that threatened to destroy the genre, and some record labels’ shift from focusing on groups to individual MCs. Throughout the narrative Abdurraqib connects the music and cultural history to their street-level impact. Whether he’s remembering The Source magazine cover announcing the Tribe’s 1998 breakup or writing personal letters to the group after bandmate Phife Dawg’s death, Abdurraqib seeks the deeper truths of A Tribe Called Quest; truths that—like the low end, the bass—are not simply heard in the head, but felt in the chest.

  • 1. The Paths of Rhythm
  • 2. Once Upon a Time in Queens
  • 3. Push It Along
  • 4. The Low End
  • 5. Award Tour
  • 6. 1nce Again
  • 7. The Source Cover
  • 8. Lament
  • 9. Documentary
  • 10. Family Business
  • 11. Common Ground
  • 12. Thank You 4 Your Service
  • Acknowledgments

Hanif Abdurraqib
Columbus, Ohio

A New York Times best-selling author and visiting writer in the MFA program at Butler University, Abdurraqib is an acclaimed poet and cultural critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times, MTV News, and other outlets. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize, he is the author of the highly praised poetry collection The Crown Ain't Worth Much and the essay collection They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, which was included in the Chicago Tribune's 25 Must-Read Books list for fall 2017 and received recognition from reviewers coast-to-coast, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly. He is currently at work on They Don't Dance No Mo', a history of black performance in the United States.


“[R]iveting and poetic…Abdurraqib's gift is his ability to flip from a wide angle to a zoom with ease. He is a five-tool writer, slipping out of the timeline to deliver vivid, memoiristic splashes as well as letters he's crafted to directly address the central players, dead and living.”
Washington Post

“[W]arm, immediate, and intensely personal...This lush and generous book is a call to pay proper respects not just to a sound but to a feeling.”
New York Times

“Abdurraqib's book doesn't attempt an arm's length, scholarly approach to analyzing the group and its music; instead, Abdurraqib speaks from his own experiences, often in the form of questioning or appreciative open letters to members of the band. It's a bold conceit, but if the book loses a bit of reserved objectivity in the process, it gains much more: an emotional grounding for why the group was so important to the author, and, by extension, why their music should matter to readers, too.”
Foreword Reviews

“Even those who know little about the music will learn much of significance here, perhaps learning how to love it in the process.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

Go Ahead in the Rain is more than just an homage to A Tribe Called Quest…it's more like a reckoning. The result is a critical examination of the group—their message and history—as well as a musical memoir of sorts, and an exploration of the lasting impact music can have on the soul.”
Vanity Fair

“Abdurraqib explores and exposes the power of music, of art, to not just connect with people, but to connect people, to make movements, to inspire change and revolution, on levels both large and small. In powerful, poetic language, Abdurraqib makes clear the legacy of ATCQ, both the one the group called upon for their own creation and the one they left behind.”

Go Ahead in the Rain is an accurate, honest documentation of the band, their music, and the time…Brilliantly entertaining, informative, and self-reflective. This is essential reading.”
February Indie Next List

“[Abdurraqib] allows us into his own history alongside the groundbreaking group, blending personal, musical, and cultural insights into something that truly resonates. ”
Buzzfeed News

“The book comes to life when [Abdurraqib] speaks from his own experiences…Although Go Ahead in the Rain is a no-brainer for devoted hip-hop heads (even those who think they've read all there is to know about the group), Abdurraqib's poetic homage to ATCQ (and hip-hop in general) will captivate casual music fans as well.”
Booklist, Starred Review

Go Ahead in the Rain is a literary hybrid: part academic monograph on the group and its music, part pocket history of hip-hop, part memoir, and part epistolary elegy. It is a book that conveys the wonder of being a fan and the visceral impact of experiencing the feeling of having oneself reflected back in music and pop culture.”
Publishers Weekly

“If you're a hip-hop fan, you need to get it…a brilliant piece of music writing.”
Nikesh Shukla, Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

“Abdurraqib...manages to write about music by making his language a type of music. He pays homage to A Tribe Called Quest in the only way fitting, with flow and charm and emotional rawness.”

“Fans of Abdurraqib’s writing will recognize his ability to seamlessly weave together stories about multiple, often disparate topics. Whether he’s reminiscing about his failed attempt to master the trumpet as a child, or geeking out over the history of sampling in hip-hop, or dissecting a 2011 Tribe documentary, each story serves the larger purpose: recounting the life of A Tribe Called Quest through a fan’s eyes.”
Columbus Alive

“In his personalized approach to the group's musical legacy, Abdurraqib articulates how the group helped to define his personal growth, helping readers appreciate the power that our favorite acts have in helping us create a durable sense of identity.”

“[T]his is a writerly talent worthy of our awe. One could argue writers are at their best when they use their insight to make sense of the world they observe. In a book about A Tribe Called Quest specifically—a group that attracted fans across race, gender, and generation gaps—Abdurraqib’s penchant for holding and showing so much simultaneously is a perfect fit.”

“[Abdurraqib] has a seemingly limitless capacity to share what moves him, which means that to read Go Ahead in the Rain, you don't need to be a Tribe Called Quest fan: Abdurraqib will make you one. His love for the group is infectious, even when it breaks his heart...[Abdurraqib writes] about music so beautifully and intelligently that readers are moved to love it, or reminded to love it more.”

“[Abdurraqib's] exploration of A Tribe Called Quest uses his love for the group to leverage remarkably sharp insights about the band and himself. Forthright without being solipsistic, the book is a marvel of criticism and self-examination.”

“It's a dazzling act, watching Abdurraqib weave in and out of Tribe's fabled history, working outside of their historical narrative to more clearly contextualize it.”
Passion of the Weiss

Go Ahead in the Rain is both the promised love letter of its cover image and a remarkably helpful guide to Tribe neophytes. Those who know nothing will know slightly more, and will find a place to start. Those who grew up listening to these records...are likely to find joy and connection in Abdurraqib’s memories.”
Rock & Roll Globe

“[T]his book is like an all-night hangout session with a really smart friend. Abdurraqib writes about A Tribe Called Quest as a fan, but also as a thinker with a finely tuned sense of what's at stake in their music. Brilliant.”
Parnassus Musing

Go Ahead in the Rain reminds anyone fortunate enough to receive its pages that being black in America is to be part of a lineage, that no one person’s story exists in a vacuum, and that, like Hanif with Phife and Ali and Q and Jarobi, connective tissue exists all around us, invisible to the indifferent and brightly illuminated to the curious. ”
Rembert Browne

“This book is a gorgeous offering that will bury itself in the overjoyed heart of every kid who came of age in the '90s.”
Samantha Irby

“If readers first encounter Hanif Abdurraqib's Go Ahead in the Rain as a chronicle of fandom and the development of an aesthetic sensibility, when they come to his bereavement letters—addressing each member of A Tribe Called Quest on the breakup of the group—they will realize something far more compelling is going on. This book is about the struggle of the writer to fully connect with something bigger than himself—ultimately, the world at large, as it will present itself for the rest of his life.”
Greil Marcus