Payroll Giovanni & Cardo on Their New Album 'Big Bossin' Vol. 2': 'We're the New Roc-A-Fella'
Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer Cardo and Detroit street poet Payroll Giovanni are an unlikely union that the music of hip-hop has brought together. The two artists come from enormously different cities; Cardo was born in Minnesota and raised in Texas, while Payroll hails from Detroit. As individuals, both Payroll and Cardo have carved a successful lane for themselves. Payroll’s penchant for hustler-themed raps are evident on Jeezy’s “Woke Up” and Big Sean’s "It’s Time.” On the flipside, Cardo also hasn’t slowed down since emerging out of Wiz Khalifa’s collective Taylor Gang. He’s produced some of hip-hop’s biggest hits from Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” to Drake’s newly-named No. 1 record on the Hot 100 “God’s Plan.”
As a duo, Payroll & Cardo have displayed a working relationship that exudes a certain creativity that both artists bring out of each other. Their first collaboration, Big Bossin’ Vol. 1, was a smooth luxurious ode to the West Coast G-Funk era. The artistic rapport between the two were displayed on records like “Never Seen Money” and “Sell Something” where Payroll’s motivational lyrics complemented Cardo’s smooth, bouncy production. After the project was well-received by the masses, the duo returned with Big Bossin’ Vol. 1.5, a selection of records that were left off Vol.1. Last December, the same day Big Bossin’ Vol. 1.5 was released, the duo announced their signing with the famed Def Jam Records.
Fast forward a year later and the duo has released their highly anticipated third entry into the Big Bossin’ series with Big Bossin’ Vol. 2. The project features E-40, Jeezy, Yhung To, Jade Jones, Cashout Calhoun, and more. Records like “Rapped My Way” and “5’s and 6’s” showcase the chemistry between Payroll & Cardo on their latest offering. Payroll even steals the spotlight, going bar-for-bar with Jeezy and E-40 on “Dopeman Dreams” and “Mail Long.”
Billboard sat with the duo to discuss their new album, how a series like Big Bossin’ comes to light, and what it’s like being a part of such a historic record label. Check it out below.
Billboard: After releasing a project like Big Bossin’ Vol. 1, what’s the chemistry like going into volume 2?
Payroll: The chemistry, it just flows naturally, man. We just clicked from day one. You know what I'm saying? He sends the beat, the beats talk to me and I just lay it down. He comes with the smooth player beats and I'm talking that hustle talk on there.
Cardo: Yup. It's just really based off what we did with Volume 1. We wanted to keep the same recipe, but switch it up a little bit. You know and just keep the same flavor in it. Just put some other mix in between it and you know that's what it became.
What makes a producer from Minnesota, who was also raised in Texas and a rapper from Detroit make a project like Big Bossin' Vol. 1?
Payroll: Detroit and California have like the same type of sounds, like musically. That's just people from Detroit traveling to Cali, people from Cali traveling to Detroit, you know? They pick up game and the sounds are kind of similar. So, when he was sending me the beats, I didn’t look at it like it's a Cali beat. It sounded like Detroit beats to me. But I wouldn't call it like gangster music. I would just call it, you know, some hustle motivation type music. That's all I'm talking about on there. I'm telling you how to get some money and how to stay out the way and how to change your mind-state up and dodge a bunching of suckas.
Cardo: Definitely. Really, it's just based on the music that we grew up on, you know being in the Midwest. We was in the middle of everything. So we heard everything especially from the West Coast, particularly the Bay Area because the Bay Area had that mobb music. Mobb music ran through the Midwest. From E-40, B-Legit, The Click, Ant Banks, everybody up in you know, Sacramento, all that. Like we kind of just caught wind of that and everything else that was going on in L.A. too. So it was just like a big old pot of gumbo type shit.
You guys announced your signing to Def Jam Records the same day you released Volume 1.5. What it's like to be a part of such a legendary label?
Payroll: It's a blessing just for me to just see all the artists that came before me and all the artists I grew up on listening to and looking up to. To be a part of that same label, you know, it’s a big blessing for sure.
Cardo: It definitely is, man. We looked up to this label as youngin's, you know with the JAY-Zs, the DMXs, shit, even Ja Rule, man. Everybody. They done a lot, you know Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons; so it's a legendary label to be a part of.
Switching lanes, what was it like working with E-40 on the new project?
Payroll: It was another blessing. E-40 is somebody I grew up listening to, you know? My pops was listening to E-40, B-Legit, and The Click and they was getting money. I was a little young buck around them just wanting to be like them. So when I started getting some money, I was listening to E-40. For me to actually be on a record with him and have a conversation with him on the phone? It's crazy.
Cardo: I'll say the same. Like us just growing up listening to those records just based off our older cousins and uncles and shit playing that around us [was a blessing]. It was an honor to have the OG bless us, plus giving me a shoutout and letting you know Detroit and The Bay is cousins. Like, he's clarifying that. So, you know, people have a better understanding of what's going on. So it's a dope shoutout to Uncle E-40 for even blessing us with that and not giving us any hell about it.
I know you two have your favorite tracks off Volume 2. Which tracks are they?
Payroll: Mines right now would be "Dopeman Dreams" featuring Jeezy.
Cardo: Mines is the "BYLUG Outro" because it's like 2Pac and the Outlawz type shit. Everybody just going in. Plus, it's the last verse of Roc of Doughboyz Cashout who passed last year, so it means a lot to us. especially Payroll. “Deep" is one of my favorite records too, but it's like everyday you listen to it it's like you find something new that you like. It just depends.
Payroll, which guest feature challenged you lyrically?
Payroll: The features kind of came after the records were already recorded. So, it was like a different process but I just challenged myself like I'm always trying to top myself all the time. I'm trying to impress Cardo. When I send the track back to Cardo, Cardo gotta send me back the flames.
Cardo: Fire flames! if I don't send them fire flames man, it's quiet. There's this one record, though. I can't even talk about the shit that he did. I was like "boy, what?"
What's the name of this record?
Cardo: Man, [laughs] that record is called I don't know yet. That's what its called [laughs]. It's one of those records where its like the whole audience is clapping. You know, it's a movie. Everybody claps, they applaud and shit. That's what that is.
Is this record a bonus cut off Big Bossin' Vol. 2?
Cardo: No, no, no. We're keeping this one for Giovanni's Way, Payroll’s next project. When he let me hear that record I told him, “We're going to have some talking to do brother because this record is one of them records.” He impresses me every time. So it's like, we don't have to remind anything of each other. It's like, “Go ahead and go do your thing.”
Payroll, you’ve worked with fellow Detroit rapper Big Sean before. How do you view his evolution and what's he's contributed to the Detroit music scene?
Payroll: I got a lot of respect for Big Sean, man. Big Sean showed a lot of Detroit artists love. A lot of people don't even realize. When he had a show in Detroit he brought out DoughBoyz Cashout. He didn't grow up with us and he didn't have to do any of that. He was just lending out a helping hand. He does that for a lot of artists.
How do you feel you're adding to the Detroit music scene on your end?
Payroll: Detroit has shown me a lot of love. They call me the Detroit Jigga and all of that. I would say I'm just bringing my hustle. You know, get money stay out the way. I'm not trying to be something I'm not. I'm not following any patterns, no waves, I'm just doing me.
Cardo, talk about your contributions to Drake's "God's Plan.” What was the session like working with Boi-1da and Young Exclusive?
Cardo: Young Exclusive, that's my cousin, so that's family all day every day. The beat was already done. I sent the beat to Drake like last year around September. He called me and he was like "Yo, we got a big record. We got an anthem." So I'm like, "Oh shit.” I'm excited as fuck. It's like 5 in the morning. Months went by and then, December came. That's when the snippet and all that shit came out. Drake called me saying they were going to drop the record and I was like, “Wassup?” and he's like, “We're going to drop it this week though and that was it.”
What's in store for both you in 2018?
Payroll: For sure the whole Big Bossin' brand. Me and Cardo just going to get bigger and better and level up as time goes on. Individually, for me, just building up my label BYLUG Entertainment. Getting my film company off the ground. Clothes, more beats everything, man. I'm trying to corner the market.
Cardo: Same man, just Payroll’s next project Giovanni's Way. The album and the movie going along with it based on Payroll’s life. My album coming in pretty much late summer probably early fall 2018. Working on the brand as well. We're keeping everything under one umbrella. I feel like we're the new Roc-A-Fella. That's how we look at it. You know, nobody believed in us, but they will see it.