Daily Distraction: Listen as Paisha weighs 'The Chicken or the Rent'

The singer and songwriter recorded the stripped-down performance live at Streetlight Guild in 2021

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Paisha Thomas

On "The Chicken or the Rent," musician and artist Paisha Thomas sings from the perspective of a worker struggling to make ends meet, torn between spending their last few dollars on a needed meal (the chicken) or putting it toward keeping a roof overhead (the rent). 

Thomas initially composed the tune in 2018 for The New Black Eastside Songbook, a project commissioned by the Johnstone Fund for New Music and curated by Scott Woods, a poet, gallery owner and Alive columnist, among other pursuits.

“We're in a time and place where your art needs to be more than art sometimes,” Woods said in a 2018 interview about the project. “My art isn't just art. It's statements. … People come to my shows knowing they're gonna hear things they've never heard before. They want to be surprised. If you're doing culture right, it will surprise you. That's kind of its job.”

More:Paisha Thomas sculpts with the blood, sweat and tears of her ancestors

Thomas' track certainly makes a statement, and the message at its core continues to resonate nearly four years later, arriving amid a pandemic that has only created greater economic inequality, driving more workers to push for better conditions and pay and revitalizing a long-stagnant labor movement.

"Poor people rising up, we're fighting back," Thomas sings with understated power toward the end of the slow burning take, which was recorded at Streetlight Guild, Woods' East Side gallery, in 2021.

Give the song a listen below.