It’s Friday night, and I’m sitting at the Westin hotel bar in Southfield, Michigan, with Payroll Giovanni and Chaz Bling of Doughboyz Cashout. Payroll and Chaz are passing a bottle of Patron beneath the bar, stealthily pouring shots while we wait on a photographer to arrive so Payroll can take us on a mini-tour of what the Doughboyz call “Real Detroit: hood ghetto shit, ballin’ grimy shit where everybody is their own boss in their mind.” The ‘boyz are celebrating Payroll’s recent album Stack Season, which is currently sitting atop iTunes’ top-selling records chart for metro Detroit. Tonight will end with his official album release party and performance at the Sting, a strip club in southwest Detroit. As he brandishes the Patron, Chaz shines a murky grin at me: “You’re gonna get faded with us tonight.”
It’s not hard to believe the night could get wild. In Detroit, Doughboyz Cashout are longstanding underground superstars. Right now, they’re the city’s most respected rap crew and a face of the Detroit streets for those outside the city. Their music videos routinely generate hundreds of thousands of views despite almost zero media visibility and, other than intermittent support from Jeezy’s CTE World label, limited engagement from the rest of the hip-hop world. They are a big deal, and they have been for a while—and not always because of rap.
“We was balling, all hoes on my nuts, and we was getting money,” Payroll told me a couple nights earlier with a shine in his eye. “Shit, Quis had a beamer in the tenth grade.” Sipping a grapefruit margarita, he added, “We all hustled different avenues.”
The collective came together as a street crew around 2006. Dyed-in-the-wool Detroiters from around the metro area, they met at Southfield High School, the west side suburban school where they were sent due to the scarcity of public high schools in the city itself. The official lineup of the crew seems unclear to even those in it, and they stumble to not forget anyone. Members include Chaz the manager, Payroll, Big Quis, Dre, HBK, and Roc. Chaz and HBK are actual brothers, and Chaz and Payroll have been tight since the first grade. When I first asked them what they were doing together as a crew before they started rapping, they all chuckled and looked around, “we was getting money” is as much as they’d divulge. “Just listen to the music,” they offered.
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