Drill has gone global. Close to a decade onwards from when the pioneering movement of UK Drill music blossomed out of south London, the genre has spread like wildfire across the world. Rappers from Australia to Albania alike, have taken inspiration from the harrowing soundtrack to life on the London streets, adding their own distinct cultural imprint.
Rondodasosa, hailing from the San Siro area of Milan, has been one of the most explosive international entrants to the drill scene. Bursting into the British consciousness with his electric performance on cult classic “Louboutin” with fellow 7Zoo member Vale Pain, Rondo has been on a seemingly endless hot streak since. From numerous collaborations with the likes of Central Cee and Russ Millions, to dropping his debut project Giovane Rondo, there’s no doubt that Rondo has been flying the flag for the Italian rap scene.
These days, Rondo separates his time largely between his home of San Siro and London. Not only does he relish the opportunity to be in the epicentre of the drill scene on these trips, but he also finds the culture and atmosphere more conducive to productive work. Like any prosperous drill rapper, the biggest distractions are often closest to home. I linked up with Rondo in a conference room at his Knightsbridge hotel, to get the breakdown on his evolution as an artist, the impact of drill, and what the future holds.
How is life treating you? Are you enjoying yourself in London? How are you finding it?
“It’s good, it’s a good city for work, everyone here has a great business mentality. I thought I would learn from the US, but I have learnt a lot more here and I feel I can still learn a lot as the London mindset is great.”
That’s an interesting thing. Growing up everybody looked to America as the holy place for music and if you wanted to make it, you had to go to America. What do you think has changed?
“I think nowadays Europe is getting stronger and stronger and it’s something new. I mean, America has always been important, but it’s the same, the European reality is kind of new and it’s sick! All the different countries they help each other, the rappers support each other and it’s a nice thing.”
Speaking of collaborations, obviously you have been closely associated with Central Cee out here; I’ve been hearing that you have been working with Russ Millions since you have been here. How have you found working with him?
“It’s a vibe! When we met in the studio, we smoke a lot and we make music, it’s a vibe! He is a good person and he is such a good vibe, you can’t be sad around him!”
I see that you are associated with a lot of UK brands, I can see you are wearing Trapstar today, but you have also been wearing Fully Paid.
“They all helped me and supported me from the start; it’s like they love me more here than in Italy. It’s crazy over here I had a shoot with Trapstar, but then back in Italy some brands don’t work with me.”
Why do you think your style fits more here?
“I don’t know, I mean, here everything rap related seems stronger over here. Rap here can get to the top while in Italy at the top of the charts, it’s mainly pop.”
In Italy, if you want to be at the top of the charts, do you have to water down your sound?
“Yes and I don’t want to compromise my sound. In Italy, all rappers when they start they speak about street life but then, if they want to upgrade, you are somehow forced to switch into a more pop vibe.”
How would you describe your sound?
“I do drill mainly. Then from the very beginning I also have a melodic side, which is not pop, but it’s like a ‘pain’ kind of song like Lil Durk.”
Who were your influences? Who were you listening growing up?
“I always loved music and I was listening to everything.”
More American music?
“Yes, before music from Europe was not as present as now. I mean, up to 2 years ago music from the UK was not as present in Italy.”
Why? Do you think it’s because of drill?
“Yes, I was one of the few one in Italy who was listening to grime back then, but now everyone listens to UK drill.”
Let’s talk about “Loubutin” with Vale Pain which was the first song here in the UK where we discovered you. How did you receive that impact?
“It was cool, I remember GRM did a 7 artists you need to know feature. It was cool also because you know back home in Italy, they didn’t want to recognise I was the one that brought drill to Italy. But I think the hate at the start is normal.”
One thing that really stood out to people was ‘Spaghetti mafia’; did you know when you said it that it would have that impact?
“Yeah, and that’s why I pushed it even more, like a joke. As I know people associate Italy with pizza, pasta and mafia, the usual stereotypes.”
Let’s talk about “Eurovision” which is doing incredibly well; did that feel like a big moment for European rap?
“Yes, defo, the video did incredibly well, like 3 millions in 3 days. Everybody can see Europe is there and growing.”
How did you find out about Cench making the song? Did he call you?
“We were in the studio together, I think in December, we met and we did it, very spontaneously.”
Let’s talk about San Siro, your area and growing up there. How did it shape you and influenced you?
“As a person it influenced me massively; for example I am the only Italian there, they are mainly Arabs and the whole area is somehow forgotten and abandoned by the government. Most people don’t have an official home, there is rubbish everywhere, there is tension. If I grew up somewhere else, of course, I would be a different person. Growing up there made me humble and gave me the hunger to make it.”
I wanted to go back to “Movie”, which, alongside “Louboutin” had a massive impact over here. When you were recording that song and you were filming the video, did you think it would have been so big here in the UK and it would have impacted the UK audience?
“Yes, I thought it would have been big because I aimed at doing something different that I have never seen in the UK: a melodic chorus. Up to that time I could see most drill songs were a bars on bars, rapping fast with a jumpy vibe and not melodic.”
I think this is such an interesting thing that is unique about your music: you take a drill sound but you won’t just rap hard on it, you sprinkle in a melodic side too, like in “Dubai“.
“Yeah, defo, that’s the way I approach my music.”
I wanted to talk about 7Zoo, the movement. Tell us more about it and its background.
“It’s a group of artists coming from San Siro in Milan, it’s 6 of us: myself, Neima Ezzaa, Keta, Kili Money, Vale Pain and Sacky. They were all already rapping, I was actually the last one to start rapping. We kind of got into the industry as a genuine group of friends.
“Often in music people are not real friends, they can be fake or be associated because of strategy. While we are truly friends, the same thing happened with another collective Noparlatanto with Baby Gang, Simba la Rue and Escomar and so it’s was kind of organic that we united. We were these 2 realities who joined and we did Noisey Gangsta with Noisey UK which will come out soon.”
When you are the last one to join, are you looking at people like Vale Pain like an inspiration for you?
“Of course, and he helped me a lot! Vale has been the first in Italy to support me; when I only had 2K followers Vale was already bigger and he was telling people to listen to me and that’s why we did “Louobutin” together. Having that level of support really helped me with the whole collective, I don’t even know if I would have been here by now if I would have done it all by myself.”
I would like to talk about the first time when you heard drill: is there a memory or period of your life when you started to hear UK drill and started to get inspired and influenced by it?
“Yes, Harlem Spartan, Loski and 67 were the first ones for me.”
Loski he raps with a lot of swagger and charisma and I feel I can hear the same in your music as well.
“Thank you, we actually met the other day actually at Popcaan’s video shoot.”
We were talking about it a bit earlier, you have a very diverse musical catalogue, you are not only a drill rapper you have stuff which is more of a trap ballad like “Solo/alone” and “Dolore” . What’s the role of pain in your music?
“I only just started a year and half ago. Everything happened very fast, and those are the songs that I wrote at the beginning when I was not famous. It’s hard to explain it but I link those songs to the beginning when I was starting. The hunger is still there now, but what I felt before blowing up has changed. My life has changed since then.”
Do you feel the responsibility to hep other Italian rappers (within and outside of your collective) to get to that global stage as well?
“Yeah, we all help each other, but I believe you as a person you need to be hungry, you can have all the support and help in the world, even Drake, but if it doesn’t start from yourself nothing will happen.”
Has the hunger always been in you, has it always been part of your DNA or is it something you learnt?
“It has arrived from rejection, from the exclusion. Even from not getting into a club, or girls who didn’t look at you…All of those things, pain and struggles come together.”
You made a massive impact over here; who do you think is the next Italian or European artist to have a similar impression on the UK?
“I guess Gazo or Freeze Corleone from France and of course I hope some Italians as well.”
Your recent drop with Simba was pure drill; NKO particularly impressed me with the beat, it’s more of a ‘Chicago drill’.
“With all respect to all producers, but I think that NKO is one of the strongest in Europe and yes, this one is a slower one, more of a ‘Chicago’ kind of sound.”
Are you involved in the production process when you work with NKO?
“Yes, we do it together, we explore together, and with this one I wanted to bring the Chicago vibe back. In 2016 there was a couple of songs which blew up and then nothing. So I knew that the song would not perform as well as the rest of UK drill sound but I still wanted to do it for fun.”
Tell me more about a typical studio session with you and NKO?
“We are just vibing. If I am sad of course I make sad songs, if I am happy when I get to the studio we make some drill music.”
Do you think the fact that you worked mainly with Italian producers gives you a bit of a different sound from the UK ones?
“Yes, defo and maybe this is one of the reasons why I got to where I am. NKO is crazy talented, a genius!”
Speaking of recent music, I saw on your IG you were teasing about dropping new music.
“2 albums, maybe even 3. There could be a 7ZOO album and my own album and then, who knows, maybe another one of mine as well!”
Are you in the studio every day? Do you record a lot of music?
“Yes! If I don’t go to the studio, I feel sick. I need it. When I am here in London I feel calm, back home there is more tensions and beefs.”
Last question: where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I hope not dead and I hope rich. Who knows, maybe I’d have quit music by then, maybe I would have created my own family by then? Only God knows.”