Minnesota-bred producer Cardo dishes on his new Drake and Migos tracks—and his own project

Payroll Giovanni and Cardo.

Payroll Giovanni and Cardo. JFilms

It’s been a hell of a week for Cardo.

As co-producer of Drake’s “God’s Plan,” the record-breaking new song that’s a welcome return to Drizzy’s Take Care-era sound, the Twin Cities-bred producer Cardo (aka Cardo Got Wings) has the biggest hit of his career on his hands. Plus, following his production on Migos’ Grammy-nominated Culture, he also contributed to the Atlanta rap trio’s brand-new follow-up, Culture II.

Still, Cardo—who grew up on Minneapolis’ Northside and St. Paul’s Eastside, and now splits his time between Dallas and Los Angeles—is more invested in his new album with Detroit rapper and Doughboyz Cashout member Payroll Giovanni. Big Bossin’ Vol. 2, the pair’s first album for Def Jam, builds on the warm, luxuriant G-funk of 2016’s Vol. 1 by incorporating jazz instrumentation and even elements of ambient music. It’s Cardo in top form, and with Pay at his vivid best as a lyricist, the album tops its predecessor.

Cardo spoke with City Pages about “God’s Plan,” joining the Def Jam roster, the making of Big Bossin’ Vol. 2, and more.

City Pages: Did you expect “God’s Plan” to immediately make the impact that it has?

Cardo: With Drake being who Drake is, he’s a very big deal to the music world, period, and he ain’t dropped nothin’ in a while. I was expecting a lot of crazy shit going on, but with records being broken and having the No. 1 record in the world, it’s just crazy to me. I ain’t never had a No. 1 record.

CP: How does it feel for you and Payroll to be on the Def Jam roster together?

C: It means a lot to us. It’s a label we looked up to as youngins coming up in the game of music and whatnot. It’s an honor to be a part of history with a label that’s done so much for the culture. We get to be a continuation of that path and that journey. It’s very, very dope for us to be on that roster.

CP: What made you and Payroll want to make a second Big Bossin’?

C: The fans’ reaction [to Vol. 1], and us being super cool and close. We had so much material, we’re like, “The world needs to hear it.” Vol. 2 really came from the fans and of course ourselves. The vibe and groove is always there; we don’t never want to shake that chemistry.

CP: How do you think Vol. 2 compares to Vol. 1?

C: I think Vol. 1 was a whole different bounce, but it was in that same realm, the same groove and that pocket. I feel like we had to amp it up a little bit, beef it up with Vol. 2, and kinda kick somethin’ new to ‘em. That’s where we came with the more jazzy feel, the more ambient feel. It kinda got a little dark toward the end of it, which is a good thing—that’s what we wanted it to come out like. But it still has that bounce to it some way. I feel like it’s better than Vol. 1 to me, even though that’s saying a lot

CP: You made a post on Instagram with a caption suggesting it was difficult to complete this album. What made you say that?

C: It was a bunch of madness going on, period, with personal lives, and us trying to figure out the next move, and Payroll losing a close friend [Doughboyz Cashout member Doughboy Roc]. It was just a bunch of shit going on—just the whole ordeal of this whole album, just getting it finished. But we made it through and got over that obstacle.

CP: Why have you been calling you and Payroll “the new Dre and Snoop” on social media?

C: It’s really the energy, ‘cause Snoop was laidback and cool with his flows. That’s what Payroll reminds me of, and his substance and choice of words. That’s what I get from him.

Dre and Snoop created a whole new wave for the West Coast. Me and Pay, we’re creating a whole new wave for the Midwest. For people who are sleeping or whatever, we’re presenting a whole new avenue for them. For some of them who aren’t hip to what we’re doing yet, they’re gonna get hip and see what we’re doing.

CP: You’re someone who likes producing an entire project for one artist. Why is that?

C: It’s like building a sculpture. It’s like building a skyscraper-type shit. You’re building a foundation, and it’s something you either work on or work around with. You never know what you could possibly do at your full potential, as far as creating or being an innovator

CP: With all the major artists you’ve worked with in the past couple years, does it feel like you’re in the prime of your career so far?

C: I kinda feel like a newcomer, but I also feel like I’m … I don’t wanna say an “O.G.” in the game, ‘cause I ain’t been in the game that damn long. I feel like I was an underdog. It’s all new to me: [“God’s Plan”] is my first No. 1 record that I ever had in my entire career, and I had a lot of records, but as far as a No. 1 overall, I ain’t never had that. Ever. I had top 100 records, but not No. 1. So it’s all new. It’s just refreshing, and it’s also inspiring, ‘cause it’s like, “OK, I’m doing everything in the right way. Let me just keep doing it so I can get my bro Pay on that same level, if not bigger and better.”

CP: You have production on two of the Best Rap Album nominees at the Grammys: Kendrick’s DAMN. and Migos’ Culture. Do you think one of those albums will win?

C: It’s gon’ be Kendrick. I’m going for my brother. That’s my dawg from day one. I’d love to see him get this because he deserves it; he worked his ass off all 2017, all 2016. That’s my bro forever. He’s opened up so many doors for me.

[Editor's note: Yep, it was Kendrick.]