“I was bruised and battered, I couldnt tell what I felt I was unrecognizable to myself. I couldn’t tell what I felt…Ain’t no angel gonna greet me…” Those are a few lines from the brilliant, poetic Springsteen song: “Streets of Philadelphia.” Bruce was iconic, inspirational to the northern coal workers, blue collar America, a voice resignating to the lost, dismayed, beaten down, and forgotten soldiers. This was all of course, prior to social media, his earlier stuff, was being played on tape and CD’s weren’t even out yet. Needless to say, times were extraordinarily different but the struggles that made Bruce Springsteen such a voice of compassion, such a smooth lyricist, singing songs to the jagged, rough, workers that went to work every day, only to come home to a trajedy of past failures and empty pockets, is now retired and rarely tours anymore. Being a milennial, a witness to today’s rough, jagged times, I see the despondent, desperate actions of those in need of a voice accurately depicting the inequalities affecting citizens in Atlanta. This city has become a hub for music and aspiring musicians and modern day music is for the most part, rap, the expression of life on the streets. Yesterday’s coal workers are today’s drug dealers and hustlers. Out of necessity, this trade has become an expression of the inequalities exposing the disenfranchised. The system capitalizes on the illegal nickle and dime sales and Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail is over 90% black. Where’s the hope for change, where is a talented, yet beaten up product of the system going to escape the violence and pressure to conform? Where can someone exorcise his or her true talents? Our modern day “artists” whom I’ll get to in a moment are few and far inbetween the short lived careers of entertainers, catering to club owners and teenage girls. Oblivious idiots dance in clubs to unfocused, new wave genres of music, while taking ecstasy and bath salts. In reality, this club going, tweeting population of people my age and mainly younger, are missing the main point, which is the lack of any meaningful communication. Believe me when I tell you that there is an even greater struggle out there today and although there are thousands of channels for people to express these pertinent inequalities, what’s going to put food on the table or pay the bills? Selling drugs offers a day to day reprieve from starvation and the misguided hope that it’ll catapult them into JayZ like stardom. I’d say that out of any of the modern inspired day voices, JayZ best illustrates the “struggle” from Marcy projects to selling out stadiums. He freely expresses the will to win despite having to overcome seemingly insurmountable past realities. Just as Springsteen didn’t necesseraly promote a movement of monetary success, his actions along with his words were an instrument for change. He was a reminder of the insurmountable odds plaguing the country’s many “Streets of Philadelphia” residents. JayZ is a modern day reminder of the traumas and tribulations facing a youthful movement of stagnancy. Although, I think Jay best defines realities harsh times, artists like NAS, BIG, Eminem, all “sing for the moment” knowing all too well, tomorrow’s moments could end as it all began.
As a modern day music lover, I find heroism in the words of the great artists and inspiration through the actions of these undervalued humanitarian men. Whether, it’s charity, spending time with today’s youth, producing films meant to uplift and inspire millions, the responsibilities that these artists take on is huge! It’s NOT every one of them, but staying with JayZ, NAS, Eminem, and of course, the one and only Notorious BIG, social responsibility is exuded through the artistsir words and actions. So as haters will point to the violence in what these artists “say”, I’ll point to the stories in how they got to where they are as a “reality” indicative of the few, who make it, and what that says about our society. I’ll surely point to the logic behind their often troubled expression of reality because as Springsteen did for blue collar America, the artists that I chose to focus on, point to today’s forgotten, misguided youth and maybe, if more people paid attention to the “message in a bottle” to quote another great, we’d as a society, have a better shot at addressing the many concerns I see facing Atlanta, as well as every other “D Block” part of the country today.