Collaboration in hip-hop has never been more prevalent. Last year saw a variety of stars join forces over the course of a whole project: Jadakiss and Fabolous; Offset, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin; Future and Young Thug; Fat Joe and Remy Ma. The first duo to join forces for a 2018 release is Detroit rapper Payroll Giovanni and producer Cardo, who first put the rap world on notice with the release of their 2016 project, Big Bossin Vol. 1, which was regarded as one of the stronger releases of the year.

Payroll, who has built a solo following since coming to prominence as a member of Doughboyz Cashout, capitalized on the momentum of Big Bossin Vol. 1 with Sosa Dreamz, as well as the release of his 2017 project Payface, a collaborative project with producer Helluva. Cardo also saw his star continue to rise in the wake of Big Bossin Vol. 1, earning production credits on albums from Travis Scott, A$AP Mob and Dave East, as well as Grammy nods for his work on Kendrick Lamar's Damn. and Migos' Culture album, respectively.

After taking a year off to tend to their own individual pursuits, Payroll and Cardo return with Big Bossin Vol. 2, the follow-up to their acclaimed debut and their first release after inking a record deal with Def Jam Records. Produced primarily by Cardo, Big Bossin Vol. 2 picks up where Vol. 1 left off, with Payroll spitting game and delivering testimonies alongside the likes of Jeezy, E-40, and Payroll's BYLUB crew, who appear throughout the project.

Payroll and Cardo stopped by the XXL office to discuss their recent success as individuals, the making of Big Bossin, Vol. 2, the secret behind their chemistry as collaborators and the unreleased album they recorded with Jeezy and YG.

XXL: 2017 was a major year for the both of you. How has the past year helped shaped you as an artist and a person?

Payroll Giovanni: As a person, it made me stronger because I took some losses. I lost one of my mans, my mans Rock, long live Rock. And as an artist, I grew lyrically. And in Detroit, it ain't really cool to be friendly so I had to get out that box. I'm getting a little better at networking.

Cardo: As a producer just showing growth and progression. Just trying to capitalize and also do bigger and better shit than I did previously; trying to stay ahead of the curve with everything I been doing.

Payroll, last year was sort of a breakout year for you with the release of your Payface project. What do you feel about that project made it resonate with your fans and broaden your base?

Payroll: Payface was with me and Helluva—that was for my core fans that love that Detroit sound. And it had some bangers on there that I wasn't even expecting to take off like the "Hoes Like" record and "This Is How We Move It." It just got a lot of people paying attention to me. That was like my introduction to a lot of people and they started catching up with the rest of the music like Big Bossin. Everything just bigger now.

You also scored a big look with your appearance on Jeezy new album, on the song "In a Major Way." What led to the two of you connecting and that collaboration ending up on the album?

Payroll: Jeezy, that's my mans. Jeezy always call me to come shoot out to ATL or something and we always get in the studio, just messing around, laying verses down. I actually didn't know that song was gonna go on his album, that was just a song I hopped on and didn't really think anything else of it and next thing I know, it's on his album. I would've probably approached it way different knowing it would've been on his album, but I got good feedback from it though.

The two of you recently released your Big Bossin 1.5 project to hold fans over until the second volume was complete. Were the two of you satisfied with the reception?

Payroll: 1.5 was like a remake of Vol. 1 due to sample clearances, so it was just for the fans, but that wasn't enough for 'em cause it had less songs than Vol. 1 due to the samples and everything. But I'll say that probably held them over for a day or two, they was waiting on that Vol. 2.

What initially spurred the two of you to work together?

Payroll: Cardo reached out to me through an email. Carbon15—one of Jeezy's people—told him, "You should link with Payroll, think it would be dope." And when he reached out, I ain't really believe it was him cause I'm a fan of his music from Wiz and all that. He just respected what I was doing and thought that if we did something together, it'd be big. He had this whole vision of just making some different type of music that the game needed, change the sound of the game. We actually worked on a project with me, Cardo, Jeezy and YG. It never came out, but that's kinda where we got in our pocket, where we found our sound.

Cardo: That album is done by the way. It's in Jeezy vault.

Did y'all have a title for that?

Cardo: It was called Paid in Full.

What qualities about your music as individuals drew you to each other's work?

Payroll: His vision. He got a big vision for everything and he just got a vivid dream and it always comes true. He speaks it into existence. And he don't wanna do nothing small, he want everything to be big and he wants it to look right. That's the same thing I be on. If it ain't gonna look right, we ain't gonna do it at all.

Cardo: Yeah, same shit. What makes me fuck with somebody is the personality and how they keep themselves together in general. And he's a very innovative guy. He's a storyteller so that's always a plus. He paints a picture. You give him a paintbrush, he gonna make that shit what it is, make that bitch beautiful. He's the same, he dreams big, too, so it's like when we put ideas together, they blow up bigger than we think. So that's just the whole chemistry, our flow and our groove of things.

The two of you recently announced your signing to Def Jam Records. How does it feel to get that stamp and have the backing of a legendary hip-hop label?

Cardo: From Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons to Jay being there, it's an honor for us to be a part of that history. When we did that, it was a major accomplishment to us, an accolade. We feel that was the right move for the both of us.

Take us through the story of how that situation materialized.

Payroll: My man Steve-O was over there at CTE when I was signed to CTE with Doughboyz Cashout. He just always seen something in me from day one and he got a good relationship with Cardo, so when me and Cardo got to working together, he thought it was super dope. He always stayed in touch with me, he kept saying I'ma put this major play together for y'all and he put it together. It took some time, about a year.

Cardo: We had so much shit going on but it eventually happened. Like I said, Stevie seen the vision that we were trying to kick and he tagged along—he ain't wanna change nothing. That's what even made us sign to Def Jam, cause we trust Steve-O.

How does it feel to have the spotlight on the two of you for Big Bossin 2?

Cardo: It's unreal to me because we wasn't really expecting a big outcome like that just from Vol. 1. And the anticipation that it brought for Vol. 2 was just kinda weird to me, still, because it was just a little idea me and him had. A little idea ended up being a big-ass idea. Next thing we took off with it and it became a cult and all the kids that was fucking with it, they made us realize we really got something special. Vol. 2 is a little more special to us because we really put a lot into that project. We was really trying to dedicate it to not only ourselves and our family, but to the fans too.

How does this volume of Big Bossin differ from the previous ones?

Payroll: Vol. 1 was more like just hustling and having fun. It was like a summertime feel. Vol. 2 is more serious. It still got that feel-good feel to it, but it's more like dealing with the consequences behind your decisions. We're just telling you the ins and outs of the game, you can do this, but it also comes with that. It's giving you game just on all aspects of the game.

Payroll, you and Jeezy picked up where you left off on "In a Major Way" with the Big Bossin Vol. 2 track "Dopeman Dreams." Were those songs recorded at the same time or were those two separate deals?

Payroll: Yeah, it was two separate deals. I been did "Dopeman Dreams" and that song is really kinda old, but Jeezy added his verse around October or November and he killed it, too. I sent it to him with an open verse like, "I think you'd be dope on this." It took a few days, he laid it down, sent it back and killed it. That's one of my favorite songs on there.

Another high-profile feature on the album comes courtesy of E-40 on "Mail Long." What was it like working with him?

Payroll: For me, that was like a dream come true, man. My old dude, my pops, his dudes was getting money back in the day and that's what they was listening to: E-40, B-Legit and The Click. Detroit and the Bay got like similar sounds and everything. I grew up listening to E-40 so to actually be on the phone and having conversations with him and everything, that blew my mind alone. So for him to get on a song and actually bless me with a verse, man, that was crazy.

How did that situation come together, did you reach out to him or did you catch each other in passing?

Payroll: Originally I did a verse for one of his people back in the day and he was just like, "Man I owe you one." And I was trying to get him on a song  left and right and he finally did it. It was perfect timing 'cause it ended up being on Big Bossin Vol. 2.

Payroll, in addition to your own projects, you've got your Boss Ya Life Up Gang crew, which you've referenced in your music and in interviews. Are you still the only artist officially on the roster or have you added any other talent?

Payroll: It's mainly just the crew. HBK, Doughboyz Cashout. But HB got a solo thing going. Scooch—Free Schooch. Pratt. That's it really right now, we're mainly focusing on the crew 'cause we got a lot of talent in our own circle and we're just trying to put that out to the forefront. I'm just the one in the front right now that's gonna get through the door.

How did the posse cut "Bylug Outro" come together? What was the vibe in the studio like?

Payroll: That's just something we been doing from day one, since like our second mixtape. The outro, we just put on a hard beat and we just go in, no hook, no none of that, everybody just go in. Ain't no formula. You got 16 bars, you got 24 bars, just come with it. And Cardo, he just whipped up a hard-ass beat and we had to kill it. But the vibes in the studio, we just get in there drinking, dice game going, somebody arguing about you took money on the last roll or something. We're just having fun.

What songs from Big Bossin Vol. 2 would you say you had the most fun recording?

Payroll: "Rap My Way," 'cause my pops is on there talking on the beginning and in the middle. He talking all facts on there. For me to get him in the studio talking, that was cool.

Cardo: Probably towards the end of the album, low-key. I'ma say "So Young," cause me and him made that beat in L.A. and that was a time we were mad as hell. We were cool still, but that trip was something else. But we managed to get shit done. The outro got Rock's last verse on there, so that's special to everybody. And "5's and 6's" and "In My Lifetime" because there's like three different versions of both of those records, so we'll probably put out the unreleased ones soon. Those are my favorite records but the whole album was fun working on. It was legit a part of history.

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