That will never be more true than on Sunday, when he's up for a song of the year Grammy, for co-writing Bruno Mars' single "Grenade" -- which the pair will perform onstage. Mars' album Doo-Wops and Hooligans has been a monster hit, and it also features Brown's contributions on "Runaway Baby," "The Other Side" and "Our First Time."
Though it may have sabotaged his schooling, the Compton Crips member believes music nonetheless helped saved his life. "I've been shot at," he says, adding that he's also been incarcerated more than once. "My music is a blessing, and it has kept me safe from a lot of crazy shit. My crew wants to help our generation, not ruin it."
In any case, he's been vaunted into the top realm of hip-hop and R&B, having worked with -- either solo or with his production/composition team 1500 or Nothin -- Lionel Richie, Timbaland, Lil' Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Cee Lo Green.
In fact, it turns out he's played a big role in Bruno Mars' success. The pair met in 2008 through Steve Lindsey, their shared music publisher, and though Mars originally wrote "Grenade," he wasn't satisfied with it. "I started playing the piano, and Bruno was playing the melody and he said, 'That's it!' ... We added some big drums and strings, and now we're performing it onstage at the Grammys."