The amenities in Club Plays inside downtown's newly renovated Town Residences feel like they came out of a Detroit rapper's fever dream. There's the stripper pole that greets you as soon as you walk in, a fully stocked bar, DJ booth, a 70-inch flat screen TV, and a walk-out patio with clear views of the city from 16 floors up.
Inside, members of Detroit hip-hop group Doughboyz Cashout are lounging and laughing over red cups full of Añejo while taking shots of Don Julio. Payroll Giovanni, Big Quis, Chaz Bling, Clay, Scooch, Dre, and Freddy K are tipsy enough to share stories about their early years, shouting over each other as they click through their old YouTube videos, recalling forgotten stories and laughs while viewing their biggest hits.
There was "Good Ass Day," a Detroit summer anthem since its 2010 release. They joke about how young they looked in the video for "Grind 2 Shine," and remember how seemingly everyone in the Strathmoor and Fenkell neighborhood came out for the video for "Mob Life."
Payroll teases Clay about having a full beard and goatee at age 14, and how he almost torched a whole house when he accidently knocked over a fire pit. "Man, you almost burned down ol' girl's birthday party," he says. "You damn near set the whole thing on fire!"
The energy feels like a family reunion. And as we all approach a third year of a pandemic, it feels good to just get together for a little bit and reconnect, remember, and reminisce.
Member HBK isn't present, dealing with a family issue. Neither is Bmo Maine, but their names come up anyway. Same with members Doughboy Roc and Doughboy Josh, who have died.
You get the feeling that the guys haven't shared this kind of energy in this kind of way in a very long time. The members of Doughboyz Cashout are at a middle ground in their well-established careers — they've been in the game long enough to still be considered little brothers to acts like Rock Bottom and The Street Lord'z, but big brothers to newer acts like BabyTron and Bfb Da Packman.
Before Doughboyz Cashout officially formed, they were two different crews of high school kids committed to getting money and looking out for one another. HBK, Payroll, and Chaz Bling called themselves the Cashoutboyz at Oak Park High School, while Roc, Crispy Quis, Clay, Bmo Maine, and Dre called themselves the Doughboyz at Southfield High.
In 2006, the two crews combined to create Doughboyz Cashout — as if the Voltron Lion Force merged with the Vehicle Team Voltron.
"It was just a clique. Two sides, two groups of niggas that were just getting money at that period of time. Everyone was just shining," Clay says.
"We kind of had a high school beef, we had mutual enemies, and we just teamed up from that. It was never like, 'Let's team up and rap,'" Payroll adds.
"It worked out in our favor," Clay says. "We all somehow grew up together. Pay and Chaz went to school together and have known each other since kneehigh to a grasshopper. Dre and Josh are brothers, Quis and Scooch are cousins, and me and Roc, that's my blood nephew. We just ended up bridging the gap."
They established their own sense of fashion, wore jewelry most kids had never seen up close, and drove nicer cars than the teachers. There was a mystique as to how these kids were getting money and a magnetism to their personalities. As the saying goes, "The girls wanted them and the boys wanted to be them." They didn't need hip-hop to make them cool; they were going to make hip-hop cool.
"Being a rapper was just something you didn't want to be back then," says Payroll.
"You gotta see where we coming from," says Quis. "We looked up to the hustlers."
"We wasn't really thinking about rapping when we were young. We really didn't start putting out music till 17," Scooch adds. "But we was already stars though."
From Street Lord'z to Doughboyz
Although acts like Slum Village, Eminem, and D12 had been the national face of Detroit hip-hop in the early 2000s, they only represented one side of the music. Tales from Detroit's criminal underbelly — murder for hire, dope boy shoot-outs, and crack house heists — were being told by groups like the Eastside Chedda Boyz, Rock Bottom, and the Street Lord'z. "When we was coming up it was different as far as the climate in the streets," says veteran rapper Street Lord Juan in a separate interview. "The streets had a big impact on the music, the different things you were hearing in the music was a reflection of the different bags."
Without radio play or big label support, those groups were able to build fanbases and alliances in places like Atlanta and on the West Coast. "You go to the Bay, it sounds like Seven Mile," Street Lord Juan says. "Detroit dudes do what they do. They go to other states, other people's neighborhoods, get cool with the people, do their thing, make money, and it's all love. In any city you go to you're going to find a Detroit dude there probably running shit."
By 2007, Detroit hip-hop was in transition and redefining itself. The city was still mourning a number of deaths in its hip-hop community, including Blade Icewood, the de facto leader of the Street Lord'z, who was fatally shot in a drive-by in 2005 rumored to be part of a beef with the Eastside Chedda Boyz. The next year, D12's Big Proof was shot dead during an altercation at a club on Eight Mile, and super producer J Dilla died following a battle with a rare blood disease.
Doughboyz Cashout drew inspiration from Blade Icewood and released the We Run the City Vol. 1 mixtape. "When Blade got killed at the car wash on Seven Mile, I damn near wanted to walk to where he got killed at," says Clay shaking his head.
"Blade was the one that we really looked up to," says Dre.
"We really just started recording to see what would happen," Payroll says. "We had this song called 'Flood 'Em with Ice.' We was talking about Cartier glasses. We just did that playing around. The streets gravitated to it, and next thing you know we're performing the song at all the banging teen parties. And it took off from there, we just kept going."
We Run the City satisfied Detroit's thirst for street music. Although the 2007 Doughboyz Cashout were clearly raw and unpolished, they were unapologetically flashy and aggressive. They were loose and carefree in a way that created an unmatched authenticity, preferring melodic chords over heavy basslines, while their lyrics were trap but witty. "Icey as R, yeah I'm Roc and Republic / If you ain't talking money homie change the subject / In the streets all day so my life ain't promised / I gotta track record so these niggas pay homage / You ain't rich nigga how yo' team still winning / Nigga them ain't diamonds how yo' rims sill winning," Doughboy Roc raps in "State Yo Name."
"See, a lot of people will make a song and then become famous. We was already the popular dudes in the city," Quis adds. "We looked up and everybody was banging our music and we felt like that's what they were supposed to be doing! We were signing autographs way before we made a song. It's crazy." Doughboyz Cashout was never the crew you would see huddled in a cypher in the high school lunchroom flipping five-syllable words, nor were they rapping for popularity. Hip-hop started off as simply an fun extension of their brotherhood.
"We damn near was making music just for us," Scooch adds. "The shit spread like crazy. It's like someone would hear a tape, steal the tape, burn a CD. Two or three months later, the whole city would be riding to our shit before anything was even out."
Doughboyz Cashout's 2009 follow-up, We Run the City Vol. 2: Floodzone, continued to grow the momentum of the group. Even though they consider the project the "sleeper" of their catalog, it churned out trunk-rattling anthems and strip club favorites such as "Beast Mode'' and "How It Started." The proverbial baton had officially been passed down.
"They called them 'baby Street Lord'z,'" says Street Lord Juan. "They brought their own personality to it too. I love all of them. I've supported it from the first day we met. And anybody hating on them are actually haters."
Helluva and the rise WorldStar Hip-Hop
In early 2010, Detroit producer Helluva was looking for a new musical catalyst. He was four years removed from his biggest production hit, "It Takes Money to Make Money" by Stretch Money. He had spent the previous decade trying to make whatever sound he felt the music industry was promoting at the time when he finally decided to stop chasing what he thought people wanted to hear and create what he felt Detroit sounded like. He called it "basement music."
Helluva reached out to Doughboyz Cashout. "He called me and he was like, 'Ya'll the truth,'" Payroll says. "I had already been a fan of his. We knew once we got with Helluva it was over." Helluva worked with Doughboyz Cashout for their third album, We Run the City Vol. 3: Chances Make Champions.
"I was one of the first people to start working with the Doughboyz," Helluva told Metro Times in 2018. "Once they came out, a whole wave of more younger music started coming. After Doughboyz came, Detroit reached a point where we started being fans of ourselves ... Detroit people started to like Detroit music. All the other times we were making music, nobody really cared ... Detroit was like, 'This is hot, we listening to it, we don't care about what everybody else is doing or what everybody else sounds like.'"
Helluva's sentiments toward local support had been a shared gripe throughout much of the Detroit hip-hop community. Many artists felt like they would be better off looking for popularity and acceptance beyond Detroit first. Others felt local support was only obtainable if you were emulating the sound of a nationally known artist. Whether trap or backpack, Detroit just didn't seem interested in giving a heavy embrace to a "local" artist for longer than a summer. "What made our music different is that we weren't trying to fit in," says Clay. "We were just rapping about our lifestyle and what we were actually going through."
Armed with Helluva's new basement sound, Chances Make Champions extended Doughboyz Cashout's run as the hottest hip-hop group in the city. But it was the 2011 Helluva-produced No Deal on Chill album that made Doughboyz Cashout a national underground hip-hop powerhouse. "Everything was just real polished on No Deal on Chill," says Payroll.
Doughboyz Cashout had also become a mainstay on World Star Hip-Hop, a popular website and YouTube page. WSHH was an urban Dateline of sorts, a chronicle of mostly cellphone videos showing the good, bad, and ugly of urban culture. Viewers would get treated to videos of bathroom sex shenanigans, road rage fights, neighborhood shoot-outs, Kimbo Slice's backyard beatdowns, and music from the hottest new street artists in the country. Doughboyz Cashout's videos for "Good Ass Day," "Low Key Chick," and "Mob Life" garnered millions of views on the platform back when getting a million views by Detroit underground artists was unheard of. Doughboyz Cashout swear it all happened organically, and say they never reached out to WSHH. "We never had to reach out to anybody. They all came to us," says Quis.
Doughboyz Cashout became a mainstay on World Star Hip-Hop just as social media was transforming — putting them in the right digital space at the right time.
As content from WHHS made its way to social media, Doughboyz Cashout's exposure was amplified because it came just as social media was becoming the preferred way music and performances were shared and critiqued. The group's Detroit fanbase and national cult following had put them in the right digital space at the right time.
However, just as things were elevating to a new level, Doughboy Roc, the self-proclaimed mayor of Doughboyz Cashout, turned himself in to authorities in 2011 to serve time for carrying a weapon with unlawful intent. "Before he turned himself in, he told me I had to step up," says Quis. "I wasn't rapping like that. He was like, 'We can't let this shit die.' And I stepped it up for him, too."
Signed to CTE
With Doughboy Roc in their hearts and minds, Doughboyz Cashout released the album Free Roc in 2012. The cover art featured photos of jail cells and "Free Roc" signs faded under Roc's portrait. The project lit the city up so much that it's widely regarded as their most complete project to date. "That was our most important album," says Dre.
Doughboyz Cashout doubled down even harder on their bossin' and hustlin' mantras. "In the 6th grade my pops had a dropped Vette / Couldn't wait to hop in it, damn is it 3 yet? / I saw the love he got I wanted the same thang / He rocking platinum / Fuck gold, I want the same chain," rapped Payroll in the street-charged single "My Idols."
In May of 2013, Doughboyz Cashout made a huge power move when Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy signed them to his CTE World record label. Doughboyz Cashout had been on Jeezy's radar, as they had already received verbal acknowledgments from Atlanta rapper T.I. and Detroit-born Black Mafia Family leader Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory, who had a strong friendship with Jeezy. "I saw Detroit, I saw some kids that did all the work," Jeezy told WJLB 97.9 in 2013. "They did all the work and I just wanted to show the world what they were working on."
The signing sent major waves through the hip-hop scene. CTE was a collaboration Jeezy had with Atlantic Records, which meant Doughboyz Cashout was officially on a major label. Roc was going to be released from prison soon, and there was a feeling that with that kind of big money marketing and backing, Doughboyz Cashout was headed to a platinum-plus status. "We did that for the city," says Payroll. "We were already good independent. We had money, but that never happened before, where a street crew from Detroit got a record deal. We kicked the door down."
Even Pitchfork declared Doughboyz Cashout "the biggest street rappers in Detroit, and the best rap group in the Midwest." But the transition from street underground artists to big-label signees wasn't a smooth one. "We was fresh out the streets and just really didn't know how shit went," Payroll told AllHipHop.com in 2020. "We was unpolished to the whole industry thing. We was still wilding and doing dumb shit and I think that scared a lot of the corporate people."
The 2015 Bo$$ Yo Life Up Gang mixtape would be the only project the group released under the CTE imprint before they parted ways. "I ain't gonna say that didn't work out," says Dre. "That was a power move. Because it never happened before." With their relationship with Jeezy still intact, Doughboyz Cashout moved on from CTE, and independently released We Run The City Vol. 4 in 2017 and continued their reign.
Doughboy Roc, unity, and brotherhood
On Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, 29-year-old Rodney Yeargin, aka Doughboy Roc, was gunned down near Westfield and Stoeepel on Detroit's west side. His killer still hasn't been identified.
According to reports from The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, Roc was under investigation by the DEA months before his death, and had more than $55,500 in cash seized at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Feb. 28 of that year. The feds said they believed the money was linked to a drug deal, but Roc said he earned it from his music, and was going to Arizona to buy a car. Roc was not charged with a crime, and his death has not been linked to the money. Roc's lawyer maintained his client was not a drug dealer.
Weeks before his death, Roc posted a photo on Instagram of the ankle tether he wore as part of probation. "This joint off," he wrote, adding, "#blessed."
Roc's death sparked a litany of condolences from fellow artists and fans alike.
"He was our brother, he was a main piece of the group," says Dre, who paid tribute to Roc in his 2019 single, "Never Be."
Doughboyz Cashout hasn't released a record as a group since. That will soon change. They say a full-length album is in the works, produced by Helluva and Payroll, set to be released this year.
"Roc was the biggest reason we haven't released an album," says Clay. "It's just different when you have all your brothers together and then one of them is gone. But we have to keep that legacy going."
Since Roc's death, Doughboyz Cashout has held on even tighter to their brotherhood. "You not gonna see one of us on the internet going at each other in a dispute," says Payroll. They also added closure to long time disputes that never should have existed in the first place. Payroll blames Doughboyz Cashout's feud with rappers Icewear Vezzo and Team Eastside on instigators, hearsay, and Detroit's typical east side vs. west side rivalry, which started well before hip-hop ever existed, but has also been embraced by hip-hop. Many veteran hip-hop artists who witnessed the deadly Eastside Chedda Boyz vs. Street Lord'z beef were more than willing to bring unity to this current generation of Detroit hip-hop artists. "Payroll and [Team Eastside's] Peezy, I fuck with both of them... I was one of the first niggas like, 'Yo bro, let me put ya'll together. Come in a secret room and talk,'" veteran emcee Al Nuke told One Top Studios in a 2021 interview.
"I feel like the city really wanted that," says Dre.
"It just showed the maturity of Doughboyz Cashout as well as Team Eastside as a whole to put aside our differences to look at the bigger picture as far as blossoming and making money," says Clay. "Vezzo and Peezy, I fuck with them. They good people, they show love. They some real ones."
"The city embraced it and they wanted to see it," says Payroll.
"It was a good look, the whole city was happy about it," says Peezy in a separate interview. "We got a bunch of new stuff on the way."
Legacy and moving forward
In many ways, Doughboyz Cashout are still the bunch of kids that leaped into hip-hop without a care in the world in 2007. But their professional growth and character evolution is obvious. Payroll has become just as good a producer as an emcee. He's the level-headed leader that doesn't scream, "I'm the leader of the group." Clay and Quis are both passionate and boisterous but in a way that's engaging and not obnoxious. Scooch and Dre are introspective, while Chaz and Freddy K walk with a huge presence and speak only when they have something to say.
They're all still recording, still rapping about flexing flashy cars, Cartier sunglasses, and avoiding jail time. Big Quis released singles "Told Niggas," "What Would Meech Do," and "Fist Pumpin" in 2021. HBK released his album, Sweet Chin Muzik, and Freddy K dropped Rich Nigga Paradise 2.
In December of 2017, Payroll and Minnesota-born producer Cardo signed with Def Jam to continue their Big Bossin mixtape series. The music was banging, but the relationship with Def Jam fizzled out. "When Def Jam worked with Cardo and Payroll on the Big Bossin series, it kind of fell flat because they weren't targeting the right audience, and they like things to be more refined," says Payroll's manager Chelsea Donini. "You can even talk to Helluva about where they try to overly mix our sound. That might be pleasing to the editors on Apple or Spotify, but in reality that's not what the kids want. They want to hear the gritty recording from our home studios, because that's what's authentic to us and that's what's more relatable."
"Def Jam for me was a business move," Payroll adds. "Me and Cardo was already coming out with Big Bossin Vol 2. Steve O reached out to us, and we decided to put it out on Def Jam so it would have a bigger stage, a bigger platform."
The issues with big labels understanding how to market and embrace the Detroit sound has been a common conversation of late. Icewear Vezzo has expressed similar views since he ended his relationship with Motown, and it's one of the many reasons that many Detroit artists who have strong local followings remain unsigned.
"Everyone is hyper-focused on the Detroit market in the Midwest, and the issue is that these major labels are headed by more corporate executives who are very far removed and out of touch from our world, our cultures, what moves and what works," says Donini.
Despite the outcomes, Doughboyz Cashout say they would still entertain the idea of signing with a major label again. "If them numbers are right we would talk to them," says Dre. "We already own our publishing."
Doughboyz Cashout has stayed the hottest thing on Detroit streets since Dodge redesigned the Challenger, and they have no regret they never took over mainstream America. They know they set the stage for fellow Detroit artists like Babyface Ray, Tee Grizley, Baby Smoove, 42 Dugg, Sada Baby, and a host of others.
"We still run this bitch!" screams Clay amidst a room of laughter.
"It did get big, just not with us," adds Scooch. "The influence we had on the city is everywhere."
As Doughboyz Cashout continued to plan for future individual and group releases, they were once again set back by the passing of Doughboy Josh, aka Freshcobar, to cancer in 2021. Although Josh is much younger than the others, he was still considered a member to the fullest extent. "That situation, same thing as Roc. Him and Roc was best friends," says a heavy-hearted Dre, who's his older brother. "We went on a journey. Josh loved everybody. He was younger than everyone in this room."
"He embodied this Doughboy energy. I met him in first grade. He was everybody's little brother," adds Freddy K.
Despite adversity and challenges, Doughboyz Cashout has no plans to retire and promise they will continue to give their fans exactly what they want. "We're just giving game at this point. We ain't talking about dumb shit. We trying to tell y'all to live better," says Payroll.
"I feel like our fans love us so much they don't expect anything different. We been winning for so long," adds Clay.
"You'll see better production and maturity," says Scooch of Doughboyz Cashout's new music, which does not yet have a release date. "We done lived longer, we done accomplished different stuff, and it shows in our music."
Ultimately, Doughboyz Cashout's legacy will be defined by brotherhood and loyalty, not just Buffs and foreign cars. They maintain that the main reason their music thrived was because the band of brothers behind the mic genuinely believed in each other. They lyrically took the best and worst of Detroit's urban culture, and owned it. "They embody something we can all relate to; getting together with our best friends and just experiencing life together," says Donini.
"We might be the only group that stayed together," says Quis. "Name another group from the city that has done what we have done. A lot of people have done it individually, but not collectively."
Clay adds that the group's mission is bigger than music. "I just wanna show my kids that when you find a group of brothers, sisters, cousins, or whoever you choose to link up with, whatever it is y'all trying to accomplish," he says, "you can accomplish it."