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.
Series: American Music Series
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
“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.”
“Even those who know little about the music will learn much of significance here, perhaps learning how to love it in the process.”
“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. ”
“This book is a gorgeous offering that will bury itself in the overjoyed heart of every kid who came of age in the '90s.”
“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.”