This is the second PSB blog post by Caleb Bollenbacher
It is a love letter to notes, both musical and epistolary.
It is called Can I Read It? (Yes, You Can!)
Can I read Go Ahead in the Rain if I’ve never read a book by Hanif Abdurraqib?
Yes, you can! But what are you doing with your life? Hanif is one of the most important writers working today, full stop, and I think he’s the kind of person who would hate me saying that but hear me out. Hanif processes our culture in a way that I wish I could. He sees the world around us, especially as it pertains to pop culture in this country, through the lens of history (both his personal history and the more ‘Big Picture’ angle), and through the lens of the future, not just where we’re likely heading, but the slight course corrections we could make to end up somewhere more worthwhile for everyone. Those are some clutch bifocals! Hanif’s debut essay collection, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, changed my life. That sounds like hyperbole, but I’m not sure how to say anything less for a book that so artfully teaches us to look outside of our experience, to face the world’s very real injustice and turn the other cheek, to manage to find a productive kind of hope that goes hand in hand with anger. They Can’t Kill Us should be required reading, but you can read it after Go Ahead in the Rain, or you can read it first and then come back to this one. I’m not your Mom. That said, like a mother I do want what’s best for you, and what is best for you is reading Hanif’s words.
Can I read Go Ahead in the Rain if I’m not really a music person?
Yes, you can! Hanif’s essays so masterfully weave genres together that they really become about the whole rather than the sum of the parts. Almost immediately he’s going to take you on a walk and start talking. It’ll be meandering, but always with a destination in mind. Along the way you’ll talk about music, yes, but you’ll also talk about our country, about politics, about Hanif’s own life experience, and so much more. Eventually you’ll get to the end, where you were always headed, and you’ll have found more than you bargained for. I mean that in the best way. There’s also a mythic quality to this book that can’t be discounted. When I first started reading this book the journey felt so epic – in the truest sense of the word – that it felt as if I were reading Lord of the Rings. There’s such a broad scope, generations standing on each other’s shoulders, all leading towards a focal point close to us.
Can I read Go Ahead in the Rain if I’m not a Tribe Called Quest fan?
Yes, you can! I had barely listened to Tribe before reading this book, and now I can’t stop. That’s the beauty of the way Hanif writes about the music he loves: even if it’s something you missed, or something you turned off the first time around, you’ll get to see something from a different angle, an angle that makes it seem worthwhile. I’m listening to A Tribe Called Quest as I write this. I listen to them a lot these days. If you’re a longtime fan you’re going to find new ways of seeing the band you already love, new facts and perspectives you might have missed, but if they’re a totally new discovery to you, you’ll find out why they matter to the author, and why they matter to so many others. That’s a small way we make the world better: by finding what matters to others and giving a listen. Go ahead, you can kick it, yes you can.