There are moments in popular soul music that make you catch your breath; moments that will have you pull your car over to compose yourself. Moments that force you to ask yourself: “Am I doing enough?” Young R&B supernova, Ahsan, had already impressed with his interpretive skills as a vocalist on his star-making turns at 14 on Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” and Michael Jackson’s rendition of “Who’s Lovin’ You?” But, nothing prepared us for the now 15 year-old griot already prepped to be called an Artist with a capitol “A” so soon. If he penned this haunting single from Interscope Records that serves as both a call and a rebuke to every single adult walking these American streets, it’s all the more impressive. Set to old school R&B keys, the chorus in two-part harmony tells the tale:
“Don’t let the city get me/Don’t let the bullets hit me/Don’t let the dealers trick me/Don’t let the streets win me/Don’t let the corners hold me/Don’t let my mother mourn me/Don’t let the hood take me/Don’t let this hood take me under
More than the usual pleas to end violence, the verses on “Under” matter-of-factly covers a litany of unsentimental urban ailings and failings faced by too many children, from absentee fathers to being pushed to grow up too soon to survive.
“Anybody out there like me/Don’t you just wanna feel free?”
Ahsan points out the uncomfortable truths and asks the hard questions whose answers remind us of the rock bottom humanity of those living these blues and of our soul ties to those who just want what we all want, of those children we’re supposed to be protecting, supposed to be loving, including those not our own (and yet ARE our own). “Under” is a powerful statement, powerfully sung by a boy whose just coming into his powers as a young man. Imagine what he’s capable of at full strength, assuming that his Newark, New Jersey streets aren’t allowed to take this young star under.
By L. Michael Gipson