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To hear Big Bossin’ Vol. 2 on a sunny day, you would think that the album had been handcrafted in the ’90s by only the finest Los Angeles gangsta rappers. You might be surprised, then, to learn that it was actually the brainchild of a Midwestern duo, Payroll Giovanni of Detroit rap crew Doughboyz Cashout and Minnesotan producer Cardo, whose beats have soundtracked hits from the likes of Wiz Khalifa, LA stalwarts G Perico and Dom Kennedy, and his now-native Houston’s own LE$. Songs like “Rapped My Way” and “Good Day To Get Money,” simply put, slap. There’s just no other way to describe the easygoing pace of Cardo’s drums’ swing and Payroll’s confident, self-assured lean into the pocket of each. The album even features West Coast rap legend E-40 on money-getting diatribe “Mail Long.”
And there’s no fancy group name for this power-packed duo. That’s how they like it: Stripped-down, raw, and organic. Big Bossin, their debut album on Def Jam Records (and follow-up to their cult classic Vol. 1), displays the absolute peak of this approach. The beats are melodic and spare, with a funky bounce that, as Payroll says, speaks to the listener’s ears of sunshine and freshly-washed cars cruising on a lazy day, providing enough groove to float off the vibe but enough punch to support Pay’s gruff, measured, unadorned delivery. He doesn’t dress up the rhymes, so to speak. He cuts right to the point; whether boasting or admonishing, he doesn’t mince words or obfuscate his point. He says exactly what he means, as much as Cardo crafts beats designed solely to bolster his gangster communiques and relax your conscious mind into its most receptive mode to partake.
Combined, the pair is equal parts witty, playing off each other to hilarious comedic effect, and sincere. When they talk about their creative process or their plans for the future, they are complimentary towards each other in a way that seems unpracticed and unpretentious, simply stating facts as they see them. Over the course of the interview we conducted by phone, they remained magnanimous and patient, even when the call dropped midway. It’s just the way they are — unshakeable, self-possessed, and utterly, completely themselves, which is what makes Big Bossin Vol. 2 one of 2018’s must-listen hip-hop albums.
When I listened to the album I was transported to a different time in my personal history, to the late ’90s West Coast. Very G Funk feel, very traditional authentic sounding West Coast. What is it about that LA sound that drew you guys to it, made you want to create such an authentic sounding album of LA sounds?
Cardo: It’s really more my music. We were really… even though they have similarity between LA and the Bay, but we were more influenced by the E40, the Click, Mac Dre shit, you know what I’m saying? It’s just something that we grew up on, me and Payroll both. Both of us coming from the Midwest, we were always surrounded by music coming out of the Bay, or just the West Coast period, that we enjoyed because of our parents or our older cousins and siblings and whatnot. So that’s pretty much where that came from.
We were really trying to dig and find a sound because before that, me and Pay were making a whole other type of music. We were in between that shit, but it was a little bit more energetic, you know, because we were working with Jeezy, so we were kind of surrounded by other kind of different energy. We finally hit it off 2015, and I just started creating a whole new bounce of things and sent it over to Pay, and the rest was history. That’s how Big Bossin’ was kind of created.
Payroll: To everybody else, it sounds West Coast influenced, and like it come from LA, but to me, that’s like a Detroit sound because if you listen to the earlier Detroit music it had like Cali influences on it because the Bay and Detroit is real close knit together. Our music is similar and we grew up off E40 and B-Legit. B-Legit damn near lives in Detroit. The earlier Detroit rappers was getting game from the Bay and Bay rappers was getting game from Detroit. So it all sounds the same to me.
True. It took me about 20 years to figure out MC Breed wasn’t from LA. What’s your guys’ process when you’re getting ready to do an album like this?
Cardo: Really we do everything off of email for both projects. We finished the last bit of Volume II in LA, and we did quick readjustments to some of the records, like via email. We both have busy schedules. Pay, of course being Pay, he has a million things on his plate as much as I do. Although we wanted to work hands-on with Volume II 100%, we ended up, like I said, just doing it pretty much by email.
It doesn’t seem like the circles overlap a whole lot with Payroll being from Detroit with Cashout. And then Cardo being a producer for a lot of more West Coast centered artists. How did you guys link up and decide that you wanted to become a group?
Payroll: He reached out to me through email. Sent me a pack of beats, and I sent him back, and he was just like, “You know, we should do a project together.” I was all for it. We did the project and it got a cult following. It just took off in another way. The fans wanted more and more of it. It was to the point where the fans didn’t even want to hear what they were used to me doing. They were like, “When you and Cardo gonna do something else?” So we just ran with it.
Cardo: That’s pretty much how it happened. He thought I was a fake Cardo too. He failed to mention that part. He thought it wasn’t really me.
Payroll: Oh yeah.
Cardo: Like I said, we hit it off just based off conversations that me and him had. But yeah, he’s styled. You can tell he’s authentic. You can tell there ain’t no fakeness in his bones whatsoever.
Payroll: Probably because Cardo’s beats just brought a different side of me out. Cardo’s beats is like smooth and laid back, and you really gotta be saying something on there. I don’t know, it just brought a … I’m giving more game on his beats, a lot of advice and stuff you can live by. I’ve been doing that, but on the Detroit beats it’s kind of more —
Cardo: It’s more enhanced.
Payroll: Yeah, it’s kind of more flossy. But Cardo’s, you could sit down and listen to it like it’s a speech almost or something.
Absolutely. I did notice that it did have a lot of “game moments” where you were just like saying something that was like advice or making observations that felt really real. Do you have any favorite observations or advice that you gave on that album that you want to draw people’s attention to?
Payroll: Yeah, I think “10 Years, 1 Summer,” that’s something that could change your life. A lot of people don’t get in the perspective like that. Like, is doing 10 years in federal prison worth balling one? If somebody asked you that, you would probably think twice before you get into what you about to get into.
Yeah, absolutely. Cardo, you work with a lot of different artists all over the current industry. What was it about Payroll that you really wanted to work with him out of all the people that you have worked with in the past? What was it about him that was like okay, this group thing seems like a good idea?
Cardo: We were both inspired by what Snoop and Dre did. It was like when I heard the first record we did together, which was “Street Heaven,” I was like fuck, we gotta make more shit together like that one record. You know what I’m saying? I just knew from the jump, I was like, yeah he rides the beats so damn well, that’s just right there. We’re right there. We hit it off right away because I sent him like four or five beats, he sent some shit right back to me the next following day. I was just like yeah, this is gonna work because we weren’t even intending to do anything like that, it just happened naturally. There was just something at that moment that we felt that needed to be done because he was really saying some shit on these records. He still is, you know? But it was like this shit needs to come out now, this shit sounds so modern and current. It’s way ahead of it’s time, to me at least. That kind of made me fuck with it more.
Pay, why do you get so personal on records? Because a lot of what you do talk about is very hectic stuff, like “10 Years, 1 Summer.” It’s very dangerous stuff to talk about, but yet you spill it out in such a realistic way, and you don’t hype it up, or as Nipsey would say, put scoops on it, for the public consumption. You really are brutally honest. What do you think drives that about you that you want to be so brutally honest when you express these stories?
Payroll: I’m just really being me. I’m just giving you the game raw and uncut. I ain’t gonna sugar oat nothing. That’s the only way I know how to do it. And at the same time I’m telling my life story, and stuff I’ve been through and seen and been around. I’m just telling you how it was given to me basically.
Cardo, you probably come from a different sort of environment than Payroll, but do you ever have a moment of clarity listening to him where you’re just like, “That’s something I can relate to?”
Cardo: We come from the same background with this shit. The Midwest is a whole nother world to us, so it’s very relatable if you come from that background. That’s what made me feel like… it reminded me of my childhood all over again. Me growing up just hearing him, just hearing this previous record before I even got with him. I felt like, I can relate to that kid, you know what I’m saying? So that really pushed me more forward to get with him and actually make music with him because I related to everything he was talking about. I fucked with him because you could just tell there was not an inch of fakeness in this n—a’s soul whatsoever. He’s a rare artist. I don’t want to call him a rapper, I want to call him an artist because he’s painting a picture of everybody to see.
What do you guys have next on the agenda? What are you guys planning for the future?
Cardo: Right now me and Pay, we just putting everything together right now. Just trying to create a new bounce, a new feel, a new groove of what we are already doing, but we want to just enhance and see how further we can push the envelope because we’re both innovative people. He’s always got some shit to say. He will call me, and he’s like, ‘Hey, I got this song in my head.’ He’s like DJ off of Hustle And Flow. He was telling me what he got in mind. Oh, okay. So I make something, I send it to him, I’m like, ‘Is this it?’ He let me know, he was like, ‘It’s cool.’ You know what I’m saying? When he said it’s cool I know it ain’t. We gotta keep pushing, we gotta keep going.
Payroll: Really just getting everything together with my label, BYLUG Entertainment. It’s our HBK project. And really just getting into the movies more. We’re gonna jump head first into the whole movie scene and put out some good quality movies like we put out good quality music.
Cardo: Yeah, we just talked about it. We just go this whole new idea for this movie we about to do. Whenever me and Payroll talk, he’ll tell you, we throw a million different damn ideas at each other every time. I was like damn, this n—-a Payroll just said some shit. I was like bro, that’s it right there. That’s what we need to do right there. Let’s just put it together, write the script. We just want to be them cats that just do everything we put our minds to, you know what I’m saying? You never know until you do it.
What kind of movies would you guys want to make?
Cardo: All kinds. Action, comedy.
Payroll: Gotta be some hustle and drama, you know, the good and the bad. The good and the bad of the game. I get into comedies, not corny comedies, but some tasteful comedies, some action, some documentaries, all types of stuff.
Cardo: I would do it on Pay to because I feel like with Pay’s background, him being the quiet cat, you know what I’m saying? He’s done a lot. He’s helped a lot of people, everybody. He doesn’t look out just for himself. That n—a looks out for everybody. And I seen that with my own two damn eyes. That n—a, if he gotta be somewhere with the squad, my n—a’s there.
Payroll: And I’d do a documentary about Doughboyz Cashout too.
You guys have both definitely come up in the game. What are some of the real lessons that you’ve taken away from a lot of what’s happened to you guys over the years? If you could go back and tell your younger selves something to watch out for, or give yourselves some advice, what would you say?
Cardo: That’s a good question. Man. Don’t trust everybody smiling in your face and everybody shaking your hand ain’t your friend.
Payroll: They show you they ain’t right one time, cut ’em off.
What inspires both of you guys when you’re doing your individual respective aspects of the craft? What motivates you?
Payroll: I’ll probably write a whole song and then end up finding a beat that matches. But usually, with Cardo, the beat will tell me what to talk about. His beats be speaking to me. Like this beat sounds like a sunny day, and you just going about your day at the car wash, staying out the way. What motivates me is a lot of different stuff. It could be from my man telling me, ‘You the coldest, man, you gotta drop this, you gotta do this.’ My fans, they want new music from me every week damn near. I get motivated by a lot of different things.
Cardo: Dang, man. Same applies. I’m just motivated by my kids really, man. I be making my beats in the studio and my daughter or my son, they’ll be coming in. My daughter mostly, she’ll come in there and she’ll just sit and watch. I’m like, ‘Little girl, what are you doing?’ She’ll just be like, ‘I’m just watching,’ and she’ll let me know if the beat weak or not, and I’ll be like, ‘All right, you like this?’ She’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I like it.’ I was like, ‘All right, let me send this to Payroll then.’ She likes the stuff that me and Payroll did. She’s musically inclined I want to say. Really just that and just the fans that show love every day, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I get a lot of love from them, you know? They just be like, ‘Yo, you one of the greatest.’ I still don’t believe that because I got a lot to prove and I got a lot to work for, so when people tell me that it’s kind of like I don’t see it, you know what I’m saying? I don’t think I work hard enough. These kids, they remind that I do, so I just keep pushing. That’s where all the motivation really come from.
You know what motivates me, is you guys. I listen to you guys’ album and it just gets my day going, it gets me in the mood to really, like you said, do that work. So I really appreciate you guys putting that album together, and looking forward to hearing what you guys have next up.
Cardo: That’s love, bro.
Payroll: I appreciate that, man. Appreciate that. You just motivated me. That’s the motivation we’re talking about right there, it could just be a compliment or anything. You know, just a reminder you gotta keep going.
Cardo: Yeah, we take this into consideration because me and Pay will talk about it and there’ll be some days where we’ll kind of be off because we got a million things going on, but when people kind of remind us what’s going on and what we got, it just lightens up our day, you know what I’m saying? Of course, we’re used to it, but we hear when people like yourself, and you telling us what it does for you and how it affects you, that makes us just not stop doing what we’re doing. We just keep it going, we can’t stop at all. Full throttle with it.
Big Bossin’ Vol. 2 is out now via Def Jam. Get it here.