Cash Money Hungry: A Review of Pass and Nu Blaxploitation
By Karrie Myers


There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to choose:

Your favorite CD's…or dinner?

I've had to ask myself this question several times in my 25 years, although the dinner part would often alternate with rent, bus passes and tampons. In 1997, after a particularly confusing break up, I decided I could never again live with another human being, and therefore, commenced to paying double my rent on this shitty one bedroom apartment in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

It was a rough time, fending on only Top Ramen and tunafish for days on end, handing my whole paycheck over to The Man like it had never even graced my fingertips. Often at times, I would take a dusty little crate from my closet, sit outside on the corner alongside the rest of the career addicts, look heavenwards and shriek

"Why me?!!"

Luckily one day--as I was preparing to marinate my own hand for supper--God decided to spare me. He/She/It looked down on my poor ass and said:

"Ye shall fret no more my child
Ye shall pack all of your CD's up in a little garbage bag
Yes! Even G Love and Special Sauce
and ye shall take them down to Streetlight Records and sell them to the highest bidder
and with this gold ye will eat for days and days!
Wake up my child!
Wake up!"

And so I did. I woke up to the wealth lying in my CD collection.

However, there are two CD's I own that I never allowed to leave the apartment, no matter how hungry I got, or how many times I tried to chew the jewel case. As a creative writer, I've collected my share of spoken word albums, but these gems are my prizes, headlining my collection to this day:

Pass, the latest album from the Bay Area's Beth Lisick Ordeal is like listening to Parker Posey if she were William Foster in Falling Down. Backed by The Ordeal (George Cremaschi on contrabass and Andrew Borger on drums and samples), Lisick spits the perfect example of your typical spoken word poet; sardonic, self-exploiting and emotionally unavailable. Gems like Weekend Warrior, Nancy Druid and Hit and Run spin the tales of urban suburban transplants...people like myself who grew up with penny loafers and decided to trade them in for a lip ring. Bus Ride of Diminishing Returns features an all too familiar midnight ride on the #22 Fillmore, a San Francisco bus line famous for it's out-patient-clinic-on wheels-like qualities. Lisick has the uncanny gift(?) of telling you the gut truth about yourself, especially if you don't want to hear it. Which can help when you're hungry and mending a bruised heart.

I bought Don Byron's Nu Blaxpoloitation (featuring Sadiq Bey and Existential Dred) because someday I am going to bear his children, and it will be nice to have something to listen to until then.

Actually, I bought the album at the prompting of a lawyer friend who moonlighted as a clarinet player. He told me it was the best purchase he'd ever made, but he couldn't explain the album in any way. Nu Blaxploitation can never be an intentional purchase, because you have no idea what you're in store for. Schizo Jam (featuring Biz Markie) is worth the price of the whole CD alone, but it's subtle, political songs like Dodi and Furman that really make you commit to this artist. Byron is a jazz experimentalist, and his foray into political content (his former albums highlighted klezmer and Afro-Latin swing) is refreshing and addictive.

Personally, I loved the interludes between songs the most, beginning with Domino Theories Part I, where-over a casual game-Byron and Bey one up each other on their many bouts with racism. These discussions are the real clues to the mental genius of Don Byron, even more than his musicianship, his voice, his lips, his hands, his eyes…


Anyway, you may want to check out these artists sometime, if only to get the full experience of being a starving artist on Turk Street. But, I'm warning you: if you ever get hungry enough to hock them for Taco Bell Bean Burrito, call me first. I'll talk you through it.---dw

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