It’s Quando Rondo’s Turn

Quando_AtlanticRecords - Credit: Atlantic Records*
Quando_AtlanticRecords - Credit: Atlantic Records*

Quando Rondo is comfortable at home in Savannah, Georgia.

During our conversation, the 23-year-old rapper can be overheard telling someone leaving the house to “stay safe” and calmly answering “Yes, Granny” during another juncture. He sounds at peace. But that’s not the whole story.

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Violence has continually hit close to home for Rondo, who first garnered acclaim with his confessional work, like 2018’s Life B4 Fame, from the Neighborhood to the Stage, and debut album QPac. In August, he lost his friend Lul Pab in L.A., after the 23-year-old was fatally shot while sitting next to Rondo in the back of a Cadillac Escalade. A clip of his inconsolable grief made the rounds on social media, with his cries being inexplicably mocked by those vicariously living through his ongoing disagreement with Lil Durk. Whatever’s going on between Rondo, NBA Youngboy, and Durk is the kind of stalemate that’s so precarious one’s not sure what to responsibly call it, but he knows it needs to be acknowledged. Soon, Rondo will release his long-awaited collaborative project with NBA Youngboy.

For now, Rondo says he’s resigned to the noise, noting, “I really don’t care about [the comments] being positive or negative shit, because you bringing me up. It really don’t matter.” In this generation, a click is a click. Shortly after Pab’s death, Rondo made lengthy Instagram Story posts in which he expressed disillusionment with the streets and said, “I’m my own man; I [laid] my flag down.” The posts were perceived as him denouncing gang life altogether. Yet, instead of the public rallying behind an artist choosing to take agency over his life and leave a lifestyle that’s taken lives, many ridiculed him, including Nipsey Hussle affiliate J. Stone, who opined, “Don’t cry now. We lose homies all the time.”

Rondo says the statements were both an expression of grief and a test to see where people stood with him. “I said what I said to see who was going to go against me so I could know not to spare them if they ever was in front of me.”

Still, Rondo has mixed feelings about how rap fans in the age of social media can seem particularly eager to amplify the types of street-level disputes that end in tragedy. “The world damn near got to end, God got to come wrap this up for that shit to change,” he surmised. “I don’t want nothing to change. I like what’s going on. It’s more like it’s my turn now — it’s my time to show the world. I’m still going to be great.”

Rondo talked to Rolling Stone about upcoming music, his thoughts on why fans find violence entertaining, and some of his musical influences.

How did the songs on the NBA Youngboy project come together?
Man, it is like, man, we got the gold mine. We got the same pain, man. It was really on something like that. It really feel like our dead homies there, bro. It’s basically us uplifting our upbringing on the project. It’s really like us putting our community on and trying to get our block known. We both got dead homies that was from these areas. He got dead homies from 38. I got dead homies from my side. We really just want to put on for them and keep they name alive. That’s what’s going on in the atmosphere right now.

What made y’all want to release “Give Me a Sign” first?
That song make me feel like my homies still alive. That song was like my homie was there when I did that song, so it just gives me memories.

How long have y’all been putting the project together?
We did a lot of recording. I went to Utah to Youngboy’s house. I went to Miami and recorded some. Went to Denver, Colorado, recorded some. I tried to put myself in different vibes, different areas, and different atmospheres to come up with different feelings and to make some of the songs. I just wanted [a] change in feeling. I was trying a lot of new stuff when it came down to doing these songs, trying to do certain songs over, trying to be high on certain songs and just doing different stuff to make sure my mind stay in a creative place.

What gave you the idea to try those new things?
Me seeing people I grew up with get killed and me feeling like you only live once.

Are there certain places that you prefer to record at in general that give you or just a certain inspiration?
Yeah, man, I like recording in my hood where I grew up at. In the slums where it’s dirty outside, roaches and shit. That’s just my vibe.

What do you think get out of recording at a certain location?
I be in areas I don’t even supposed to be in if you want to be real. It’s like I do stuff, and I be places that another person in my position wouldn’t even do, wouldn’t even go, wouldn’t even try. It’s like, I be where it is real at. Like right now, man, at my auntie’s house with all my little partners in the slums. We all going through the same thing. We all fucked up. We all struggling in such a way. You feel me? We could walk outside right now and get in a cookout. Recording in these type of places, it make me feel like, ain’t nobody doing this. I’m doing it. I’m really scared to be here, but I’m saying fuck being scared. Fuck all that, I’m just challenging myself too. I’m being brave over being in fear.

When do you say scared to be there, where are you referring to?
Being where you seeing these savages and shit, knowing what niggas got under they belt and shit, knowing I’m around niggas with shit under they tennis shoes. It’s up there, bro. Niggas live a violent life. Ain’t no changing that. It ain’t no way to change this. I don’t care what everybody could say, “You could change. You could do this. You could do that. It’s over with big bro, nigga too far off.”

Do you feel like you’ve tried to change things in the past and it didn’t work out for you?
Nah, I ain’t going lie, man. I think about changing all the time, but man, a nigga can’t change because people don’t want a nigga to change. It’s like the respect and my rep going to leave if a nigga change. So sure, niggas is going to continue laying down law and shit, the same person they hope, a nigga don’t change, I just hope they don’t be the one I lay that law down on.

I saw you put something out on your stories a couple of weeks ago about wanting to change and prioritize your family. It could have been a positive thing, but it seems like a lot of the reaction was negative. How did that make you feel?
I really just was emotional last week. I was grieving in such a way. I was really emotional, and I said what I said to see who was going to go against me so I could know not to spare them if they ever was in front of me. It was more like me trying to manipulate and see some shit.

Do you feel you achieved what you were trying to achieve by expressing that? And you saw what you needed to see from that?
Yeah, I really, yeah, I did because I seen a lot of people say some crazy that they got to stand on.

How do you feel about fans who are attached to the turmoil and the drama more so than the music?
I really don’t feel no type of way because shit, they still helping me. Keeping my name going.

But do you think it can be keeping your name going in negative ways?
Shit, I don’t give a damn. I really don’t care about it being positive or negative shit, because you bringing me up. It really don’t matter.

OK. Why do you think music fans are so interested in the street element that surrounds hip-hop instead of just the music? What do you think that gives them?
I really can’t answer that as a fact, but I can answer that in my opinion. For me being young, growing up, watching hip-hop and people beef, they never seen nothing like what me and Lil Top and ‘nem got going on. This some real Tupac, Biggie shit, but this shit way deeper. They choosing a side between this rap group and that rap group, because they see like, “Oh they, for real. They not fakin.’ Yeah, I’m on this side. They going to win. No, I’m on this side. They going to win.” On that type shit.

There’s real violence tied to it, so when [fans] root to keep it going, [they’re] contributing to an environment where people can get hurt. What would have to happen to change that circumstance, for fans to be less thirsty for drama and violence like that?
Man, only way something like that will happen is the social media and technology died for five years. Other than that, this what’s going on. This the world we live in. The world damn near got to end. God got to come wrap this up for that shit to change, but I don’t want nothing to change. I like what’s going on. It’s more like it’s my turn now.

Your turn in terms of being able to release your music and go about your career?
It’s my time to show the world. I’m still going to be great. I’m going to get across all this shit. I’m going make it through. Not everybody can jump the gate. I could and I am. Just sit back and watch. It’s my turn. Ain’t no other way to put it. It’s my turn for everything and any subjects jump from top to bottom, from beginning to end, it’s my turn now.

In what ways do you feel like you’ve grown the most in the past year or so?
Man, I feel like I got grown enough to start letting shit slide, but I feel like I shouldn’t have grown this way. I wish … Well, it ain’t even I wish because now I know to go back to my old mindset from when I was younger, because when I was younger, I ain’t let nothing slide. I feel like that’s what got me to where I’m at and I let nothing slide, and now that I let certain things slide, certain situations, it got me looking weak, but I know it. I know I just grew up and had a child and I know I got a major responsibility in my life now, but there’s ways around that too, so man, I’m back on that old shit. You feel me? I’m back on my old mindset. You feel me? Can’t trust nobody. I’m in this shit by myself, whatever I got to do to wake up and have more life. That’s what I’m going to do. No matter the circumstances. You dig?

What do you think drives you to be so vulnerable and open about what you’re going through in your music?
I really be at a point in my life where I feel like, what else is it? What else can I like, this is going on. I don’t have nothing else to talk about. There’s nothing else to discuss but my life because it’s me.

Did you always feel like that from when you first started writing, first started making music?
Yeah, I never been the type to be on some Lamborghini, chain swinging, fuckin’ bitches, big Lexus, throwing-racks-in-the-strip-club-type rap. I never really been that type rapper. Never been that type of artist. I always been the type to be like, “I’m in the slums. My mama smoked dope, grew up adopted, in and out of jail, what I’m going to do to make it to the next day. Jail come with this shit. Not trying to go to heaven or hell,” that type rapper. I always been that type.

Do you feel like the artists that you listened to growing up, did they appeal to you because they were also on that timing with their content?
Yeah. See man, I grew up on Boosie. Bro was like that. I respect Boosie like a hundred percent. I just seen the other day, VladTV asked Boosie a question about me, and I know big bro got real love and he really genuinely fuck with me, and his answer was heartwarming because it was like, he didn’t really want to speak on nothing because I know the type love he got for me. Big brother know I respect him. Every time I ever been around Boosie was on some, “You a living legend, OG, to me.”

Do you feel like at one point, did y’all have a relationship where he was kind of like a mentor figure, or was giving you guidance or anything in that realm?
I mean he is a mentor in past action. He motivation in his past actions. Just the life he lived, the things he did, and the situations he came up out of with his chest out strong. You talkin’ about Boosie. Beat murders beat life in Angola. Still did time in Angola, one of the worst prisons in the United States [as a] rapper. Ain’t did no flaw shit. Came home and showed the world. It’s the way out of this shit.

He’s definitely lived a serious life, and he’s still here to talk about it and rap about it.
You feel me, man? Beat the cancer. Come on now.

Boosie’s everything that we just said he was, but then he’s also kind of a character. He’s always on social for something funny. I was wondering if you ever had any moments like that with him, where you were around him and had a funny experience or memory of being around him?
I mean, yeah, man, that’s Boo. Boosie’s the first person to ever give me Actavis. He had real Actavis. Put me out in five minutes.

What do you think the future holds for you as an artist?
I see myself with a Number One song. I always did.

Oh, yeah? Do you think it would still be from the kind of sound and themes that you’re accustomed to writing about? Not trying to chase a hit or anything like that?
Nah, I been stopped chasing hits.

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