Earlier this week, after disclosing the Sept. 2 release date of his upcoming fifth studio album, Seen It All, Jeezy graced the hip-hop faithful with one of the most powerful tracks of the summer so far, in the form of the potent banger, "Seen It All" featuring Jay Z. While Hova and the Snowman are household names to hip-hop enthusiasts across the world, the producer on the track, Cardo, while acclaimed within certain pockets of the hip-hop landscape, has yet to see the same acclaim among producers in the rap game today. But in the 48 hours since "Seen It All" dropped, featuring Cardo's woozy, cinematic production, that is no longer the scenario.

Born in Denver, Colo., raised in a combination of Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and Minnesota and eventually landing in Fort Worth, Tex., the 29-year0old rapper-turned-producer, real name Ronald La Tour, has had quite the journey, not only throughout the country but through the music industry as well.

Initially coming into hip-hop with Wiz Khalifa, Cardo joined Taylor Gang in 2011 and has since gone on to work with a plethora of notable artists from Jeezy to Mac Miller, Big Sean, Meek Mill, Dom Kennedy and Curren$y, among others. Fresh off the triumph of "Seen It All," XXL spoke with Cardo about the thrilling, yet anxiety-laden process that led to the track's finished product. —Michael Blair

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XXL: It's been an exciting 24 hours for you, man. Has all of the love and recognition on the track begun to fully sink in yet?
Cardo: Man, I'm still trying to settle in on this. It's like the element of surprise, you know? Everything just caught me off guard, for one. And two, I'm like, how am I supposed to react to all this? I don't want to say I'm dumbfounded, but it's just like, damn, this shit is really happening. It may not mean a lot to other people, but to me it means a whole lot to have a track with Jay Z. I mean, that's like a milestone accomplishment. I'm just trying to stay humble and take it all in.

You had the beat for "Seen It All" done for an extended period of time before it dropped this week. How long had it been completed for, and what's the story behind why it took some time before actually coming together as a finished product?
Man, it was crazy how everything happened. I made the beat back in November of 2012, and around March of 2013 Jeezy had hit me for some beats. A few days before SXSW, I sent him two beats, and then the next day Jeezy hit me back telling me how crazy this one record was and just letting me know that he just embraces me, and telling me that this record was about to be "the one." He was like, "Just know that this record is about to be next level. You'll see later."

And he sat on the "Seen It All" beat for over a year. Was that frustrating for you to know he really liked the track, but you didn't know what was going on with it?
Yeah, real talk. I have been anticipating it for a long damn time, because I knew this was going to be a life-changing record, for me at least. I knew it was going to make a big impact, but not this much of an impact. So I was overly excited, but at the same time I was in a more joyful spirit. Just knowing that this came from hard work and being patient. Me being a student of patience, made me appreciate having to be patient that much more.

It's definitely frustrating but it's like, you've got to keep composure at the same time. You know, if you break character, people could be scared to work with you again. I have to be 100 percent on my toes and not let my emotions get involved with the business, because that's a bad combo. So yeah, it's very frustrating, but you just got to know that it's going to happen and it's going to come, but it's just not going to happen on your time. When you let these records take their time, it builds up so much more momentum within yourself, and the song has so much more value. It makes you more appreciative, and that's exactly what's going on right now.

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When did you initially find out that Jay Z was going to be on the track as well?
I want to say in like April or May, I got a call from Ty Dolla $ign. He was in the studio with Jeezy, and this is when him and YG were working on the album, so everyone was in the same area. Ty told me like, "Yo, you have the craziest record right now and you don't even know it." I was like, "What are you talking about, man?" and he was just like, "Man, all I'm going to say is you got a home run on your hands." I didn't know what they were talking about, so I was just rolling with it, and was like "Okay, I'm assuming it's a Jeezy record," and they were like, "It's not just a Jeezy record. There's somebody else on it, too." So I'm asking who it is and they were saying they couldn't tell me. So I found out it was Jay Z by playing the guessing game. They wanted me to be surprised, and I'm like, man, I am the composer so I have every right to know whose on it. But at the same time, people do different things, so if they want to keep it a big surprise it's cool, I'm just a guy that hates surprises. [Laughs]

So Jeezy had been marinating on the track for a while, and eventually ended up reaching out to Hova to join him on it?
Yeah, Jeezy was with Hov around the time I sent him that track. I believe there is some part of the story where they were together in Justin Timberlake's dressing room or something. There was a weird story behind it. I don't know if they recorded it in Justin Timberlake's dressing room or not, but there was something like that in the story, where they were together and working on the record in Justin Timberlake's dressing room.

What was the process behind the actual recording of it? Were you guys ever all together in the studio to work on it, or did they do their thing separately and then get it back to you?
Yeah, that's pretty much how it happened. I didn't even get the record back from them, to be real. They were trying to make sure no one got that record. They didn't want to have any leaks. That was the first record that I wasn't around for, of all of the music that Jeezy and I have recorded together. All the other records me and Jeezy did in Miami and L.A., I was around the whole time. We knocked out a lot of records together. The history of Jeezy and Hov goes back 10 years, man. There's a deep history there behind those two. They've done and seen it all. They got all these classic songs and the chemistry they have whenever they are talking about these dope boy dreams, and dope boy tales, they love it, man. It's as real as it gets.


So when did you actually hear the completed version for the first time? Can you try and explain the feeling you had after hearing it in its entirety?
I heard it on my birthday last year in September over Skype. Jeezy played me the final mix of it, and I just remember telling myself, "Man, don't tear up man. You better not cry, boy." 'Cause it's like, you hear Jay Z on your track and it's something else man. It's like, that's a legend in our books. Especially us coming up in that era of Roc-A-Fella. It just means a lot to me. It hit me real hard, because it was just one of those records that I had to wait so damn long for, and it paid off.

I can't really explain how it felt. It was just a surreal moment, and it still is. It will be for a while. I don't care what anyone says, critics or whatever. I mean, they've got the say so to say whatever, but for me, that shit holds a lot of value to myself. I have a record with Jay Z! Of course, Jeezy, too. Jeezy is an OG in the game now, too. He's been in the game for a decade and you have to respect that man for what he's done. For both of those guys to change my life with just one song—and I know it's cliché to say something like that—but that's pretty much what's happening. They are making the world know who the hell I am. There's a lot of people who may not have known who I was, who now know who I am. We're trending worldwide for the past 24 hours! I mean, that's never happened even when I was I was with Wiz and Taylor Gang.

How was your approach on this track different from how you have approached previous tracks?
I wasn't thinking of Jay Z or Jeezy when I made this beat. The beat just offered natural progression and it was how I was feeling. It was a natural mood-type joint, and I was in a more melodic mood at that time. My mind was in Japan when I made that track. You know, the lights in Japan and shit, and just the culture alone. I was just thinking about that. That's why I used that sample.

The sample is from an artist in Japan?
Yeah, it's a song called "Twilight" from this Japanese artist named Tazz. She's like a Japanese R&B artist from back in the day. So I was just like, "Oh yes, I'm going to mess with this." The sample came out pretty damn dope and I ended up adding the drums. I didn't want to do too much, because it sounded just right how it was. It came out just how it was supposed to.

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As you were growing up and coming into your own musical cultivation, were there any specific artists or producers that really influenced you significantly more than others?
Yeah man, my parents listened to a lot of old school shit. Especially stuff like the S.O.S. Band and the Gap Band. My uncles and cousins listened to a lot of DJ Quik, C-Bo, Brotha Lynch, and just a lot of different music. So I was always surrounded by something else that was new, you know? That's pretty much how I came upon music. As far as producing, it's always going to be like DJ Quik, Dre, Timbaland, of course Pharrell and The Neptunes, Traxster, and DJ Premier. I was always influenced by producers who sample a lot, you know so Jake One and Alchemist, too. Those are like my big dogs right there, and Jake One is one of my mentors. He gives me a lot of advice on things whenever I ask him for it.

What do you think your production is bringing to the culture of hip-hop that it currently might be missing? What differentiates your style from the rest of the producers out there right now?
I just feel like I'm bringing something new and more energetic to the game. Something different from what everyone else is doing. I feel like everyone is doing the same damn type of music, which is cool, but my sound is just different. It's atmospheric and very melodic, and at the same time it has that high energy. We are mixing sounds with other sounds and doing this and doing that. Everyone could do the trap shit and the pop shit, and all that, but I want to be the abstract of all of that. I want my team and I to come in and do the total opposite of what they're doing. It's all about the structure. You know, you can always change the sound of the game, it's just how you do it and how much you move. How much you believe in yourself, in your craft, and in your brand. And I think highly of my brand and the people that's with me.

You mentioned on Twitter yesterday that you cried tears of joy due to the culmination of all of this love you've been getting. Can you kind of just touch on how special it is for you to see the actual progress of your journey reach this point? 
Yeah man, it was just a good moment. Something I haven't felt in a long time. It was just very surreal. Shit, it's just like, can you imagine how Kawhi Leonard felt when he got MVP for the Spurs in the NBA Finals this year? It's like that same feeling. You know, he was always being overlooked and was very underrated, and that's how I felt about myself within this music business. You know, I'd rather be underrated than overrated. Although I'd rather be overpaid than underpaid. [Laughs] But yeah, I felt the same way how Kawhi Leonard felt. I put myself in that same position, because I know how he felt and it's exactly how I felt. It's just a moment that you can't regain. It's like, where do we go from here now? There is going to be numerous opportunities that follow, but that first moment, nothing beats that.

Previously: Jeezy Featuring Jay Z “Seen It All”
Jeezy Says His New Album Will Be His Most Honest Work
iStandard Selects The XXL 2014 Freshmen Producers