Pawn Stars is my writing kryptonite. The History Channel always seems to be showing it at just the right/wrong time, in hours-long blocks of unbridled predatory capitalism, and I can’t look away. It’s the perfect marriage of financial and emotional voyeurism. You get to cast judgement on how people do business — at least, how well they can haggle in a high-pressure situation — AND how they manage their lives in general, because selling something at a pawn shop is, under most circumstances, an act of desperation. The underlying message is chilling: everything has its price, as long as a buyer and seller can agree on one.
A similar battle goes on inside my head each time I step into a record store.
Having to decide whether to pull the trigger on used vinyl is a multivariate mindfuck that I’ve yet to master — in part because I still have a great deal to learn about the market I’m participating in, but mostly because my “buy” instinct is rapacious. I can talk myself into just about anything. Colored vinyl? OK! First pressing, eh? Better grab it before someone else does! (It’s a good thing I don’t own a pawn shop.)
As hazardous as my elastic buying ethic may be, it came in handy this weekend. That’s right — after a lengthy, self-imposed record-buying moratorium, I’m back baby! Sunday was my first trip to Steady Sounds in ages, and I managed to talk myself into an album called Yes We Can by Ghanian master drummer Okyerema Asante. It wasn’t cheap, but my internal seller was on his game. The pitch started with the album’s name and dynamite cover art, and a quick in-store spin brought me to the precipice, but the tipping point came as a result of some fateful, mid-listen iPhone research. Turns out, Asante backed up Paul Simon on his Graceland world tour. I just so happen to be in the throes of a full-on Graceland binge, so that’s all I needed to hear.
Who knows if I paid the right price for Yes We Can. The record is definitely rare, but it skips a few more times than I’d like. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. With all due respect to the Harrison family, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “right price” for music. The right song at the right time is priceless, and if this dude helped Paul Simon bring “Gumboots” to life, I’m buying whatever he’s selling. Check below to view a brief documentary about Okyerema Asante and hear his work on “Mother Africa,” and just for fun, give “Gumboots” a spin as well.
“Listen” documentary feat. Okyerema Asante
Okyerema Asante — “Mother Africa” [YouTube]