Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Why Do You Think They Call It Afrocentrism?

A riddle: why is Frederick Douglass like Arsenio Hall? Both are or were African American, of course, but KRS-One has something less reductive in mind. Matching wits with black journalist Michael Lipscomb in Issue 57 of Transition, an African journal of ideas recently revived by Henry Louis Gates's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, the Teacher applies the same adjective to the abolitionist hero and the talk-show celeb: "insane." And the African American self-definition they share is the nub of it, because "An African wanting to be an American is a crazy man." KRS-One's principled, stubborn, or insane rejection of his Americanness--even though "America is probably the greatest nation in the world"--dominates a 22-page q&a that stands as the most searching interview with a rapper we've ever seen. Unless his position on this question evolves, as they say, either he or his audience is in for some very painful and confused times.

Village Voice, 1994