Despite a city that’s suffered an unemployment rate in the double digits for several years, water issues bad enough to need Canada’s assistance and being known for the biggest municipal bankruptcy filing in United States history, Detroit’s Hip Hop scene has continued to become stronger than ever. A few months back, Noisey premiered their episode focused on a handful of established Motor City artists including Trick Trick, Danny Brown, Big Sean, DeJ Loaf and Payroll Giovanni.
Once signed to Young Jeezy’s CTE imprint through his former group Doughboyz Cashout, Payroll has flourished into one of the more notable rappers representing the streets. There wasn’t a better example than this year’s collaborative release of his Big Bossin, Vol.1 mixtape with popular producer Cardo. The project was celebrated enough for Pitchfork to rate it a 8/10 and call it “ a smooth, technicolor tribute to classic LA gangster rap.” Big Bossin, Vol.1 also had an impressive video roll-out including the nearly twenty minute “Day In The Life” mini movie. Coming nearly a year after the release of his Billboard charting Stack Season mixtape, the rapper/producer’s freebie managed to further extend Payroll’s reach outside of Detroit. One question remains: Can he take that street aesthetic nationwide or even internationally? Who knows? But that’s not going to stop Payroll from trying.
“Am I A Gangsta Rapper? No, I Consider Myself A Hustler.”
HipHopDX: 2016 has been pretty good to you between the release of Big Bossin, Vol.1 and the Noisey doc look.
Payroll Giovanni: The Noisey doc really put a look on me for a lot of people who weren’t hip. In Detroit, everyone is hip to me, but it put a lot of suburban kids and older people on me. It got people to look at me on a higher level.
DX: The doc really did a great job of displaying how diverse the city has become Hip Hop-wise. Clearly, Big Sean and DeJ Loaf are doing their thing mainstream-wise and Danny Brown on the indie tip, but your stuff is specifically street. Do you consider yourself in the vein of gangsta rap?
Payroll Giovanni: Am I a gangsta rapper? No, I consider myself a hustler. I wouldn’t call it gangsta shit, but Detroit a gansta city. It ain’t nothing sweet about Detroit. If you’re not from Detroit, you’d probably have the wrong idea from seeing stuff. It’s a grimy place fa sho.
DX: Last month you dropped the “Day In The Life” film which was insanely well done. I thought the themes of paranoia in regards to the hustle were mad realistic.
Payroll Giovanni: That was just some everyday, normal things that go on in the D. You know Detroit got some legendary shit that’s gone down and that was normal day of being on the block being paranoid. It could be nothing really after you, but you gotta stay on your Ps&Qs. You gotta be ahead of the curve so that’s what the song was about.
How Payroll Giovanni Met Cardo
DX: You earned a huge following through your “Giovanni’s Way” episodes which is why the “Day In The Life” film make even more sense. What was your strategy on the visual tip?
Payroll Giovanni: In Detroit, they were up on the music, but we were known before we started rapping. When we started rapping, people wanted to listen to us because they knew we were for real. When the music started coming out, we started getting more fans, but they didn’t know what we looked like. We didn’t have videos at the time and it wasn’t a big market for video directors at that time in the city. Some of the videos out looked real cheesy and I felt people needed to get a good look at us because we really do what we talk about so let’s show it to them. That’s why we started going hard with the videos. I linked up with Jerry Productions and he does all my videos. We just keep all the videos on some real Detroit hustling tip. We don’t do the wild “guns all in the camera” thing. Don’t get me wrong, back in the day when I was younger I was on that, but I grew out of that. I’m really about getting money and bettering myself.
DX: “Day In The Life” was featured on the collaborative project with Cardo entitled Big Bossin, Vol.1.
Payroll Giovanni: Man God put us together man. Cardo had reached out to me through an email that I don’t even check really. I have a business email that I never really check it because there are people all day asking crazy questions.
DX: “Listen to my mixtape, that shit fire” type emails I’m assuming.
Payroll Giovanni: Yeah all of that. “I do beats man.” I’ll listen to the beats and they garbage and I’m like I don’t have time for this. Cardo hit me up and I didn’t believe it was him at first. I gave him a number to another phone I had. He hit me up and it was him. We started chopping it up and he told me how much he liked my music and we started doing music. I already was familiar with Cardo through his work with Wiz Khalifa. Around that time, I was with Jeezy and he did the “Seen It All” beat and I loved it. I was already a fan of Cardo and he sent me some beats after we had our conversation. One of the beats I did a song off of. It was hard and I sent it back to him. He lost his mind and he came up with the idea of doing a whole project together.
Remember The Time Payroll Was Signed To Jeezy’s CTE
DX: Big Bossin, Vol.1 came out the year following the release of Stack Season earned its fair share of notoriety itself and even charted on the Billboard charts without much promotion.
Payroll Giovanni: It did good. I dropped Stack Season on my birthday which is January 30. You know Detroit in the winter time has a bunch of blizzards and snow so people tend to stay in the house and stack they money. Stack Season was the soundtrack for the winter. That did really good around here and other spots too cause it charted. Big Bossin was some summertime feel good. It was feel good type music. Every song felt like cookout music or something. Big Bossin had that feel. Everywhere I go, people ask me about that.
DX: Since you brought it up, you were signed to Jeezy’s CTE at one time right?
Payroll Giovanni: Yeah, I’m not sure, but it was around 2013 or 2014. We were signed right around the time YG had signed. It was at the same time. It was us and YG. We did a mixtape with YG, DJ Mustard, DJ Drama. Really, I don’t know what happened there. It wasn’t going too good buisness wise. It was really a lot going on man. Even with us being in the streets still and a lot of us wasn’t as focused as we should have been. Jeezy still the homie man, matter of fact, I talked to him last night.
DX: You seemed to really hit your stride after that. Did you take any lessons with you in regards to where you are now?
Payroll Giovanni: I really just picked up on how Jeezy work. He grinds like he’s not even on. He grinds like a starving artist and he’s a millionaire. He stays in the studio. In my head, I felt like I had to work ten times harder because he’s already on. I really stepped up my work ethic. I stay in the studio non stop and just spend time building my catalogue. The whole experience definitely taught me a lot.
DX: Considering that you have the Vol.1 with Big Bossin, what’s the plan for Vol.2?
Payroll Giovanni: Oh yeah, most definitely. Me and Cardo have a lot of music we’re stacking up. I don’t know how many songs we have, but we have a hard drive full of music. We have y’all attention so it’s seeing what we can come up with next and we just want to do it right.