It’s not quite a tale as old as time, but it’s pretty damn close. Hustling, running the block, living “that street life” – it’s known by many names and has been glorified, rebuked, deciphered and everything in between. The truth is, it’s no different from any other risky lifestyle involving fast money and shady characters. Whether it’s drugs, gun running, sex trade or something else, the so-called “street life” is, thankfully, no longer something most people aspire towards, but rather something they feel trapped in. Whether or not that claim holds any water should be determined on a case-by-case basis, but suffice it to say that this statement is more often than not a product of exposure, or should I say, the lack of exposure to anything more than what one’s neighborhood has to offer.
I know for a fact there are some truly tough areas in the world to grow up in. When I say street life, I’m not limiting my views to the cliché overly gangsta ghettos so prominently featured in American pop culture, especially in the 90’s. You think the Brooklyn is tough? Try the slums in the Middle East. They’re dodging bullets AND bombs, sometimes poison gases and drone strikes. I’m not saying anyone having to live in harsh conditions has it easier by comparison to another group of folk, only that the idea of “the street life” as an occupation is becoming somewhat of a tired trope that should not be sought after by anybody. I get that people make art by portraying what they see, and what they see isn’t always pretty. That’s cool. Make people aware of the situation. But there’s a big difference between notifying the public via artistic expression and
regurgitating harmful rhetoric exploitation.
Like I said, I know that circumstance sometimes dictates the path we follow. As the saying goes, the struggle is real. That’s where the dream part of the title comes in. Making the best of a shitty situation is pretty much a requirement in life. Unfortunately, the harshness of reality morphs many of those dreams into a waking nightmares complete with death traps and boogie men. The hustle part is there regardless. Unless you’re lazy, in which case, the street life is definitely not for you.
Anyways, that’s my two cents on the topic. I made a mix of a couple of verses and songs covering the issue from multiple points of view. I started with a cautionary tale from Big Tuck and Erykah Badu, mixed in some tragedies and triumphs in the middle, and ended with Tupac’s Loyal to the Game. I believe the overall structure provides a pretty fair contrast of the whole thing. There’s even a piano interlude!
I would like to know what your thoughts are on the subject. Do you think people still romanticize running the streets for their own goals and profit, or is this notion of hustling the block only taken up by those who refuse to find another means of living? Do you think I’m totally off base and couldn’t tell a bird from a brick? Listen to the mix and leave a comment.
Enjoy, and if you like it, please share.