Detroit’s own Payroll Giovanni and producer Cardo start off their newly minted Def Jam campaign with a bang, releasing the highly anticipated Big Bossin Vol. 2. After serving up an appetizer of sorts in late December with Big Bossin Vol. 1.5, they come through with an exceptional body of work once again channeling elements stylistically of traditional West Coast Hip Hop, with Payroll breaking down the ins and outs of Detroit street life.

Big Bossin Vol. 2 is a prototypical cruise around the city with the top down music. The album opens with “Rap My Way,” where Payroll floats over a smooth jazz influenced instrumental, giving insight to how rap music became his avenue out the drug game. This serves as an appropriate intro, as the content sets the stage for the rest of the project. The vivid storytelling and lyricism mesh almost seamlessly with Cardo’s melodic synth-driven production.

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The LP may be chock full of Payroll’s distinct memoirs, but they aren’t stories of glorification. The album has a continuous narrative of a guy who made it out and wants to give words of wisdom to the younger generation. On “10 Years, 1 Summer” Payroll channels his ghetto gambler with lines like, “Gotta know when to hold fold em and walk away/Listen to your gut when they tell you not today/This for my niggas that chose the narcotics way/I pray that after each sell you make it home safe.” Don’t get it twisted; the braggadocious raps are still in abundance, but they don’t overshadow the album’s intentions.

Payroll taps legends from all regions, receiving standout features from Bay Area OG E-40 on “Mail Long” and Atlanta’s own Jeezy on “Dopeman’s Dreams.” The duo of Payroll and Cardo shine brightest on records like “In Me Not on Me,” which not only is one of the best beats on the album but has some of Payroll’s strongest stretches of imagery, as he dives deeper into the nuances of his past drug dealer lifestyle. Giovanni declares “I got my game from the block/Some caine in the pot financed the chain and the drop/This rap shit easy I used to maintain the spot, pop up and set up shop like a pop-up shop.”

The album mobs to a close with a posse cut titled “Bylug Outro” featuring seven fellow Detroit MC’s including a verse from the late Doughboy Roc of the Doughboyz Cashout collective. There are a couple tracks that could have been omitted to make the project a bit more compact (see the flossing filler “Chills”), but the vast majority of the songs serve a purpose.

Cardo’s production is reminiscent of vintage L.A. gangsta rap, and his smooth beat selection in combination with Payroll’s vivid recollection of his past makes for digestible listening. Lyrically speaking, this is most polished release yet. Big Bossin Vol. 2 doesn’t deliver “bangers” in the modern sense, but the music has a timeless feel and will go a long way as they muscle up their discography.