Sep 082023
crisis actor pusherman

There are many different techniques in sales, even if your product is “coke and weed”, and you are the “Pusherman”. Crisis Actor’s new update of Curtis Mayfield’s classic shows a character very different from his predecessors, where gentle persuasion is replaced with paranoia and fear.

Curtis Mayfield and his band introduced the song as diegetic music in the classic 1972 Blaxploitation flick SuperFly. At that stage of the movie, Youngblood Priest is enjoying the fruits of his profession, in his element in Harlem. Priest enters a nightclub where Mayfield and his band are completing their rendition of “Pusherman.” The song is one of a salesman who is only apparently comfortable in his world, but beginning to harbor doubts. The song’s sales technique is one of seduction and glamour, his products providing a glimpse into his aspirant milieu. The sound is enticing and warm, Mayfield’s peerless falsetto complementing the astute guitar work over a funky bassline. You don’t have to think that drugs are actually glamorous to accept that the Pusherman is presenting them that way, and his customers are buying the lifestyle.

There is no glamour in Crisis Actor’s rendition. Their world is always paranoid and scary, and the buyer is promised no more than a bad trip. The band retain the key signature and pace of the original, but have a new tone. Zach Crawford’s bassline opens but immediately jars and unsettles. Jonathan Ihejeto’s vocals, over his own drums, indicate that he has no interest in selling a seductive lifestyle. No one wants to be in his world, including him. But both the Pusherman and the “junkie” are stuck together by their needs. Tony Knox adds his customary discordant guitar commentary.  We get remarkable insight and character development, as apposite for an opioid epidemic as the original was for its time.

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