Savannah holds the distinction of being the oldest city in Georgia, but time wouldn’t be kind to the state’s original capital. In recent years, the violent crime rate mushroomed to one of the nation’s highest as poverty, addiction, and despair overtook the neighborhoods just under the shadow of renowned historical landmarks. At only 19-years-old, rapper and singer Quando Rondo stepped up to tell the uncut story of his town in 2018.

“We live in poverty,” he sighs. “We’ve got nothing down here. Everything’s fucked up. There aren’t any one-hundred-thousand-dollar houses or things like that. We’re poor. Everybody’s killing each other, robbing, stealing, thugging, shooting, and selling crack. That’s how it is. I’m showing people.”

If anybody can paint an accurate picture, it’s him…

Born one of eight kids and adopted at the age of five, Quando spent countless hours rapping as he walked around the housing projects he called home. He can vividly recall “getting into trouble and breaking into houses trying to come up” during his early teens before landing in a Juvenile Detention Center for two years.

Upon returning to Savannah, he started uploading remixes to Soundcloud in 2017, merging hard-hitting bars and haunting melodies.

Born TyQuian, he chose “Quando” based off his childhood nickname “Ty-Quando”, while “Rondo” pays homage to his favorite basketball player: Rajon Rondo. At the start of 2018, his new name began circulating throughout the industry as the artist’s Instagram raps drew label attention. The single “I Remember” [feat. Lil Baby] generated over 714K Spotify streams in less than three months as The Fader pegged him as “The next big thing out of Georgia” upon the release “Paradise.”

He recorded his very first mixtape, Life B4 Fame, in two months. Within a week, it garnered a staggering 1.9 million downloads, setting the internet on fire in the process.

“It was about life before all of this,” he explains. “I always knew I’d be doing this. I figured I’d show everyone what life was like. Back then, I had nothing to lose. I didn’t care about anything. Now, I’ve got something to lose. It’s like this was destined for me though.”

In addition to the previously released “I Remember,” “Paradise,” and “Motivation,” Life B4 Fame touted the cinematic single “Project Kid.” Backed by a skittering beat and bright piano, he walks listeners through a day in his life highlighted by a chilling prayer—“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Before I walk up out this door, I gotta grab that .38…”

“I’m a young dude from the projects on some project shit,” he goes on. “That’s all I know. It’s all my family knows. Truth is, all of us are family. If one of us goes down, all of us go down. That’s how we’re rocking.”

That honesty is why his story will resonate far beyond Savannah.