They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us


Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a spectacular musical analyst. Each chapter in this book explores an artist in a quick and concise manner, relating their performances, effects, and influence to some currently relevant social, political, or personal issue. From Marvin Gaye to Prince he takes us on a tour through the music world and asks us to think more deeply about what it means to consume what others create.

Being an academic, I recognized the article/journal style of this book. It’s marketed more generally, but the flow of the book really reminded me of a more academic collection of writing that you might read more selectively instead of completely. Some of the short chapters really touched me, because they spoke about a musician or artist that I was a fan of or perhaps addressed an issue I am passionate about. Other chapters were about someone I have never heard of or an issue I couldn’t relate to, so even though I read them, they felt like an assignment rather than an enjoyable journey.

I was disappointed that the excitement that came over my friends about this book did not seem to reach me. So many people loved this book, but to me it just read like one of those books you read in a doctoral seminar for another point of view. It’s a textbook, a dissertation, and after awhile I just lost interest. Despite this I would encourage you to read other reviews on this particular book because I know that so many others raved about it, and so my experience might not be the norm. But if you’re looking to me for guidance, I would say it’s boring and you would be best to find inspiration elsewhere.