Hanif Abdurraqib on A Tribe Called Quest's final album

Brittany Moseley

If there’s one thing we learned after reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s new book, Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, it’s that the author is a huge Phife Dawg fan. Phife was known for his short stature, but in Go Ahead In The Rain he looms large. Phife died in March 2016.

“I remember thinking, ‘How sad is it that we’ll never hear his voice on a track again,’” Abdurraqib said.

The world would get to hear the rapper one last time when Tribe released its final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, in November 2016. Abdurraqib discussed the album and how it fit into the year as a whole.

“It came out the Friday after the election, and the night that many of us found out Leonard Cohen was dead. … I personally was at a really challenging part of my life. My marriage was ending and I was … about to embark on writing what would become (2017 essay collection) They Can’t Kill Us [Until They Kill Us]. I felt kind of adrift in some ways, and just angry like a lot of people were in that moment. Angry that I had endured this enraging and pandering and exhausting political cycle to be met with this bill at the end, the election. I think that album, for me, managed to crystallize the intersection of grief that comes with loss and just unbridled anger.

“I think Tribe never really gets talked about as a group of angry musicians, because so much of their music was not explicitly angry, and their brand of black anger was not the sell-able brand of black anger. They weren’t Public Enemy. They weren’t N.W.A. To have this album where the movements of Q-Tip throughout the album and the promotional cycle really oscillated between grief and anger in a way that was so relatable to me — it was super-clear that Q-Tip was heartbroken and sad, but also propelled by very visceral anger. It seemed like he didn’t even know what he was propelled toward, but anger was the vehicle.

“That album holds a special place for me. I don’t know how well its aged. I listened to it when I was working on the book, and it’s still good. It’s still good music. But it was so inexplicably linked to that moment for me. The moment of the end of this awful year and what are we gonna do and how are we gonna get through it?”

Read Moseley's full interview with Abdurraqib at Columbus Alive.