The Cannabinoids is a group of Dallas-based DJs and musicians led by R&B singer Erykah Badu, which focuses on using the tools of studio tracking and hip-hop production to produce a psychedelic, hip-hop sound.

{welcome to the human brain… and the science of addiction}

8 laptops, 3 turntables, 6 keyboards, 4 drum machines, a Theremin, live onstage production

The Cannabinoids represent a musical exploration of the science of addiction. It’s the sensational reaction created when the synthetic combines with the organic, and The Cannabinoids are the receptors that bind the experience. The project was originally conceived when Erykah Badu sought to manifest live musical improvisation utilizing the tools of studio tracking and hip-hop production.

Inspired by her cosmic collaborations for her award-winning New Amerykah, Part I album release in 2008, Erykah reached out to musicians, DJs, and beatsmiths from her hometown of Dallas, Texas, whom she felt would be able to vibe with the concept. The musical concept was improvisation, and has developed into a live “remix” set. The ideological concept was akin to the studies done on cannabinoid receptors, which identified specific proteins present in the brain that are responsible for the euphoric effects of cannabis. With each member of the group assigned a specific cannabinoid (musical role), the receptors proceed to serve as a catalyst to inspire creation in each other, and to collectively create a psychedelic, live hip-hop experience for the audience.

Introducing: in no certain order:

1. Jah Born – HU-210… as cerebral cortex aka grey matter (control’s thinking)

2. Erykah Badu – THC as sarah bellum aka meddula oblongata (known as the ‘little brain’/controls heart rate)

3. DJ Big Texas – SR141716 as sphenoid (bone in skull that is known as ‘two great wings’)

4. RC Williams – JWH-133 as maxilla (part of skull that fuses 2 halves of mental symphysis)

5. Symbolyc One – NABILONE as somatosensory cortex (triggers the sensation or experience of touch)

6. Rob Free – LEVONANTRADOL as superior colliculus aka substantia nigra (generator of hand eye coordination/black substance in midbrain)

7. Picnic – MARINOL as corpus callosum aka white matter (connects rt and lft cerebral hemispheres)

8. A1 – SATIVEX as cingulated gyrus (controls emotion, memory, processing, learning)

9. Cleon Edwards – GOOD FOOT – as Tetrahydrocannabinol aka Delta9 (the main psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant)

DALLAS, TX — The idea, at its core, was to bring about something different, something new, something that’s never been seen before. The notion first came to proud Dallas native Erykah Badu some five years back or so in the late evening hours, as her best ideas often do.

Next came a series of phone calls — late at night, once more. The first went to R.C. Williams, Badu’s longtime musical director, the man in charge of both Badu’s live touring band and Snoop Dogg’s.

“She just asked me which producers I knew from around town,” recalls Williams, a three-time GRAMMY® award nominee. “Then she asked me which were the dopest. Immediately, I thought of Rob Free and Jah Born.” Two phone calls later, GRAMMY® award winners Free and Jah, both Badu producers dating back to Baduizm, agreed to hear more details — although pertaining to what exactly, they weren’t yet quite sure. More phone calls soon followed to renowned Dallas-area DJs A1 and Big Texas, and then to up-and-coming Dallas-area producers Picnic and Symbolyc One. The details were vague, and intentionally so. But there was palpable excitement on Badu’s end of the line — enough to pique the interests of these increasingly busy talents, and certainly enough to allow them to agree to a meeting. Days later, over a Godfather-like roundtable dinner at Terilli’s Italian Restaurant in Dallas’ M Street district, Badu unraveled her master plan in full: The self-proclaimed “analog girl in a digital world” announced that she would soon be creating a collective specifically aimed at highlighting the growing digital aspects of the hip-hop world. She detailed her plan to bring the creative process out of the studio and onto the stage. She described her vision of a more impromptu-inclined and less-rehearsed outfit. She explained that she wanted this very group of producers and DJs seated around her to join in on the effort. “I just wanted to put some fire under Dallas’ ass, to remind everyone of who we are and what we can do,” Badu says now, recalling the coalescence of the outfit she immediately deemed The Cannabinoids, referencing the receptors in the brain that allow the mind to process the chemicals contained in cannabis. “I just thought we could bring that about musically. So I compiled a group of talented artists that I knew were from the same tribe I was from — artists that I knew felt the same way I did.”

Now, with the addition of a ninth Cannabinoid — Cleon Edwards, the touring drummer in Badu’s more standard live band set-up — Badu and her collaborators are ready to unveil the high-minded fruits of their labor. The collective is currently on tour, bringing their potent strand of live collaboration and on-the-spot creation to live audiences across the country. The Cannabinoids’ as-yet-untitled, in-the-works debut full-length will drop in early 2012.

Just don’t expect to see the Badu you know on this tour or on the group’s impending release: The Cannabinoids, in theory and practice alike, are very much a group effort, an entity that showcases not just Badu’s extensive abilities, but those of her partners-in-innovation. And each of those collaborators, who all use a synthetic cannabis-derived stage name while performing as The Cannabinoids, boast impressive resumes of their own — notably Picnic (Cannabinoid name: Marinol), who has recently produced tracks for Kid Cudi, Rick Ross and Devin the Dude, and Symbolyc One (Cannabinoid name: Nabilone), who has produced chart-topping singles for Jay-Z and Beyonce and recently earned his first GRAMMY® nomination for his production work on Kanye West’s “Power.”

“It was a hand-picked group of guys,” says Williams (Cannabinoid name: JWH-133). “If she just wanted musicians that could play, she could’ve gotten them. But here we had all these producers and DJs. From the very first jam session we had, it was like, ‘Wow, OK, so this is how everyone creates.’ So we’re presenting something to the world that nobody really knows. And she has the stage to do it; with Erykah, the whole world will see it.” And, each time, Badu (Cannabinoid name: THC) promises, the world will see something different each time The Cannabinoids perform. “They really will,” Badu says. “There are no rules. These guys are just so very talented. And it’s special because most of them aren’t really musicians — they’re producers who are just naturally talented scientists on their machines.” It’s a stunning thing to watch as the combined efforts from this group — be it in a breakdown from Edwards (Cannabinoid name: Tetrahydrocannabinol), a subtle scratch or sample from Big Texas (Cannabinoid name: SR141716) or A1 (Cannabinoid name: Sativex), a break-neck beat from MPC guru Jah Born (Cannabinoid name: HU-210) or a melody plucked from the ether by melody magnate Rob Free (Cannabinoid name: Levonantradol) — blend seamlessly into what Badu describes as “a sonic gumbo.”

“The crazy thing is that it’s happened like that from the very first time we got together to play,” says Free. “For all these producers to create together and for it not to sound cluttered — it’s just magic. It really does work like a brain; you’ve got all these nodes, and we’re just making the connections.” Be it in the live creation of an infectious beat or through an off-the-cuff remix of a classic Badu track, watching these synapses fire is an inspiring thing — and intentionally so. In describing her vision for the group, Badu isn’t afraid to aim high; she sees the Cannabinoids as being Dallas’ production answer to the live musicianship of Philadelphia’s The Roots, with whom Badu has long been affiliated. As such, in the future, the collective hopes to work with other artists. Given the acclaim the Cannabinoids’members have been receiving individually of late, that much seems a given.“Questlove [of The Roots] called me the other day and was like, ‘Man, there’s this dude in Dallas, right there in your hometown, named Symbolyc One — how come you ain’t messing with him?’” Badu says with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? We’re in a group together!’”

With that group now ready for its formal introduction, fans around the world can expect more surprises along these lines: an electronic outfit that effortlessly combines the genres of soul, hip-hop and dance into its other-wordly blend; a high-end visual display that aims to stimulate the mind; and, perhaps most important, a mind-blowing crew of top-notch music producers, all of whom, like Badu, proudly call Dallas their home.

“I have unshakable faith in Dallas, in its people and its music,” Badu says. “What we say is relevant.”


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