This week's RFT cover story by Albert Samaha and Tony D'Souza, tells the complex saga of Yo Banga, a north St. Louis rapper who grew up in gangs, saw his best friend shot to death and spent five years in jail, which is where he started rhyming.
Today, he's working with groups like James Clark's Better Family Life to try and keep St. Louis kids away from guns.
"It's important for the kids to see somebody who looks like them, who was hands-on with this shit," Banga says. "Ain't nobody trying to hear nothing from nobody in a suit. [Better Family Life's] Mr. Clark can speak his ass off, but he can't get it to them the way I can get it to them. I just want them to see that this shit is hard. Most kids think, 'Man, the streets are where it's at.' I don't glorify what I done, but I'm gonna talk about my life. When you take a motherfucker's life, you still can't get back the partner you lost. Is it really worth it?"
And he's making strides in the hip-hop scene as well, his growing following earned partly on the strength of last year's Fresh Out the Blender. But he hasn't completely escaped his old life. Read the story for more, and watch the video, produced by Mr. A, for single "Goon Anthem" below.