Cannabinoids in action. (Danny Duran )
After releasing her 1997 debut album "Baduizm," it didn't take long for Erykah Badu's jazzy R&B feel and bold, earthy style to earn her the title of "first lady of neo-soul." Four Grammy awards and four albums later, she is still inventing her own sound.
Her latest project is the Cannabinoids, a digital band made up of musicians and producers from her hometown of Dallas. With its debut album set to be released in early 2012, the group hopes to create a sensational, electronic musical experience for its audience. On Friday, the group will be performing downtown at Rams Head Live as part of its "The Science of Addiction" tour.
In advance of the show, Badu, as well as producers and fellow group members Jah Born and Rob Free, talked to b about how the group formed and what the Cannabinoids have planned. And just in case you haven't already guessed it, their answers to our questions are exactly what one would expect from a group who goes by the name of "cannabinoid" — mellow, wondrous and a bit out of this world.
Where did the concept for the Cannabinoids come from?
Badu: About five or six years ago I came off a tour and wanted to do something to put some fire under the asses of Dallas, Texas. I wanted something that was quality, dope and new at the same time with elements of how I started in Dallas. All the producers I called have worked together from day one. We're living life and we know we can make some magic happen if we put our heads and metronomes together.
Where do your stage names come from?
Badu: Cannabinoids are receptors that give sensations while you're smoking. For example, my name is THC, which gives the sensation of floatiness. We each have a different name, as well as a name related to the brain. Mine is Sarah Bellum.
Born: Mine is Cerebral Cortex. We all have these names and we personify them as we go and play. We actually fit those roles — it just happened that way.
How would you describe your sound?
Born: I would describe it as electronic, cerebral, digital, organic, rhythmic, funky, big beat, synchronized. Just big, big sound. There are lots of hip-hop sounds and elements. It's like crackish analogue on steroids.
What message are you trying to send to the audience?
Badu: The name of the group is the Cannabinoids. We want to make people addicted to the science of what we do. We want them to come empty and ready to be filled with what we're giving. It's the freestyle of it and invention. We want them to be part of that.
Free: We're feeding off of each other as the audience is feeding off of us. It's unique.
What was the inspiration for the upcoming release?
Badu: We just jammed real hard, and felt we should capture it. We created a moment and wanted to capture it for all time. I don't know if that's possible, but we caught it on tape.
What challenges have you had to overcome as a group?
Badu: None. It's an amazing situation where everything works. We can't predict anything; it just happens. We're riding the wave because there are no obstacles and we don't have enough time to have them. There's lots of respect and trust involved. Everyone is pretty busy, so if one person isn't there we miss them, but someone else picks up their part.
What has been the most rewarding part about working together?
Free: It's most rewarding when we come together, and we're all just continuously in awe of each other. It's inspiring, motivating and there's a perpetuated energy of the group.
Badu: When we go in the studio we're not only a technical hip-hop organism, but also a singing group. We all have to get on the mic, and everyone is phenomenal. They've been holding out on me.
Where would you like to see the Cannabinoids go in the future?
Born: It's kind of crazy how we automatically vibed. It takes half of a thought to come up with incredible soul. It's crazy, bangin' out of this world. We just want to keep doing that.
Badu: I think there are no bounds. I didn't expect this to be as fresh as it is. I have no idea where this is going, and I don't want to put expectations on it. The universe is the limit and beyond.
How has your vision for your music changed over the years? How do the Cannabinoids fit with that?
Badu: As time and the world evolve, so does sound, thought and mind. I don't know how it actually manifests, but it seems like a natural progression. We're pushing boundaries and taking it further and further. It's the way it's supposed to be, and I couldn't have guessed it. It was just a feeling and I ran with it. I trust that they feel the same way at the same time. We're still exploring. I think we got the boogie — if y'all looking for it, we got it.
Free: We're excited and can't wait to sell what we have. We're bringing the boogie to Baltimore.
If you go
What: Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids
When: 7 p.m. doors Friday
Where: Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place, Downtown