Two years ago, Don Trip and Starlito teamed up for Step Brothers, a mixtape that paid homage to the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly comedy of the same name, but it was hardly a joke. The initial response to the surprisingly thoughtful and nuanced tape was big for two well-respected solo artists that hadn't quite launched their careers on a major scale yet. The former was selected as a 2012 XXL Freshmen (but was left in record-label limbo soon after) and the latter built a regional buzz during his time with Cash Money. Both have remained underground favorites in hip-hop ever since.

Last week, Trip and Lito rolled out Step Brothers 2, the hard-hitting and reflective sequel to the original. The 13-track effort includes “Leash On Life,” the revealing single that addresses ongoing issues of school shootings, bullying, poverty and more. The video follows a troubled child through these scenarios and aims to reignite the conversation around these sensitive topics. In our Train of Thought, we spoke with the pair about the song’s message, its inspiration, and how it came together.—Eric Diep