FROM life's former dark tones to a more hopeful future for the next generation, a collaboration between aspiring St George hip-hop artist "UC Brigante" and ex-gangster Michael Odisho is hitting the high notes.
Singer/songwriter UC Brigante, 19, and Odisho, 29, merged on a project that caught the eardrums of their social media fan base.
Their song The Block depicts the harsh realities of gang life, exemplified in the lyrics "this life is so vicious, tell me why you wanna get in it?" and "I'm sorry mamma, I'm sorry mamma, I apologise for the drama." There's no sugar-coating it — the lyrics reflect a shady back story.
But there's a hidden message — think twice before heading for a troubled lifestyle.
And when producers heard it, they knew it could be a hit but the pair held on to their independence.
Upon release, it peaked at No. 6 on the iTunes Australia hip-hop/rap charts this month — and slotted in between Snoop Dog and Eminem.
UC Brigante has released songs, recorded in his home studio, on YouTube since he was 13.
His previous song, Rest in Peace, also with purposeful anti-crime beats, was inspired by the fatal Bexley shooting of Bassil Hijazi of Hurstville in 2013.
"I started doing music to vent, and with The Block, it's about not wasting your life," he said.
"We thought about how we could reach out and use a personal story to inspire a positive message to youth who look up to our music.
"When our new song came out, we were overwhelmed. We got messages from these little guys saying they could relate to the lifestyle, and how they didn't want to go down that path . . . we felt good about that."
Odisho isn't coy about his ex-links to Brother 4 Life as a teen, having been shot from an apparent internal dispute among gang members.
He is publishing a book next year about his experiences, and is a part of an upcoming ABC documentary.
"This song is not a made-up story," he said.
"I've been there, done that.
"It's a song that touches everybody — whether you're a gangster or a nine-to-five worker, everyone is hustling, going through struggles, or know someone who has been in trouble.
"We're saying gangster life isn't fun, it's not worth it. All it does is hurt family.
"But you can move along and have a good life."
Download the song at http://apple.co/1DCp0SG