Mike Chav: It’s actually really dope from a creative standpoint to see this happening because this is not something I’ve ever seen done before. This is a group of multiple DJs and producers and people that are very in tune with music but very adept to technology. They play like they’re a band. They play like they’re a jazz band. To be in the Cannabinoids you have to have chops like you’re in a jazz band. They play together, all these DJs mix and sample and loop together on the fly. It is not something your average, ordinary producer can do. It’s pretty technologically advanced. I think this is the new face of musicians of our era so it’s kind of, for me, as a fan and as someone seeing something develop, it’s crazy to kind of witness it because I think it’s kind of new. They’re all dope. Erykah is obviously dope. Everybody brings something to the table and when you hear some of their kings like “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Fuck You,” you hear this certain cohesiveness that comes together and it feels like something I’ve never heard before. I’m kind of honored to be involved like helping with the project.
EB: Thank you. Mike Schaaf is not a member of the Cannabinoids, but he is the engineer He did that with New Amerykah Part One and Two, so that’s when I really got into my digital phase. A1, he’s the lone Asian. He’s not Asian though. What are you?
A1: I’m Filipino.
EB: He’s Filipino. Like Manny [Pacquiano], A1 is a DJ. A1 and I met when I used to just come to the clubs and I heard him spin. I was a DJ since high school but I was not a digital DJ, I used records and crates and things. A1 is the person who taught me how to use Serato. And I mean dudes don’t teach you how to use Serato, DJs feel like if you wanna do it, you gotta learn, read the manual. He taught me because he knew that I was breastfeeding and washing dishes and going to elementary school. He felt like I needed to know and he showed me things that other DJs would not show you because now I’m messing with his money and we’re both in doubt. [Laughs] But he did that anyway. One thing about A1 DJing is his catalog. He shares his catalog. He shares his music with me. He’s one of the best blenders I’ve ever heard. Just amazing and impeccable taste and that’s important for DJs.
DJs don’t share...
EB: Jazzy Jeff didn’t show me shit! Questlove was like, “Hell no!”
What made you want to teach her how to DJ?
A1: Just looking in her eyes and I knew she really wanted to learn and I don’t know, it just felt right at the time.
Around what time?
A1: A year or two ago.
EB: Two years.
A1: I started out showing her the basics and then she just practiced and practiced and she was a fast learner and I just felt really comfortable showing her what I know as far as tricks and blending or whatever and gave her a hard drive of music for her to practice on and that’s pretty much it.
So for someone who hasn’t heard your album, and you guys are 80 percent done, what can they expect sound-wise? Is this going to sound like an Erykah Badu project?
EB: Erykah Badu projects don’t even sound like Erykah Badu projects. I don’t even have one album that sounds like another one of my albums. I don’t think I have one song that this sounds like. It’s very impromptu. That sound will be determined by what we’re all doing, what Schaaf does and it’s a moment by moment creation.
Rob Free: Erykah is such a genius that she’s brought out the genius in us. She’s encouraged us to sing and we’re like, “Okay, wow, we can sing.” She’s finding new ways to contribute to this whole project. It’s like that kind of thing continues to evolve the band.
EB: Where’s Picnic? Picnic, also known as Marinol. He was on stage with us. He’s a producer. He was in a group called EPT. Me and Picnic happen to have the same birthday and we just really gelled very well. We’re just kind of mirrors of each other. He’s a couple years younger than I am or something like that, but we just gelled very well. I thought about him because he carries a lot of really good energy, creative energy in the group. We’re also missing DJ Big Texas, also known as SR141716. He’s also a Cannabinoid receptor. Each Cannabinoid receptor has a specific job that it does in the brain when a person takes in the cannabis plant... [Big Texas walks in] We were just talking about you. That’s another one of the DJs in the group. We have a member that’s not here, Delta 9 [Cleon Edwards]. He actually plays electronic drums on stage with us. He keeps the time... But THC what it does in the brain is it changes the stomach’s method. It makes you hungry. HU-210 measures how sleepy you get or how much sleep anecdote is in a certain cannabis.
Jah Born: Also, hand-eye coordination, which plays into my personality as well because I’m a visual artist as well—and that hand-eye coordination is there.
EB: These people are not just producers or musicians in a way, they all do some form or different kind of obscure or abstract, sometimes controversial art. Rob Free, for example, went to the Art Institute of Chicago, he also went to the Arts Magnet high school. He’s my cousin, he was a senior when I was a freshman. I idolized him. He’s a visual artist. He was a B-boy. He was an MC. He was a producer. He constructed some of the most beautiful structures I had ever seen, some of the most beautiful charcoal and pencil drawings I had ever seen, paintings, these are things that he does. RC is also the MD of my regular band, he’s the director so he has an organized kind of mind. Big Texas is a DJ, too. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as a DJ as him, he also drives 18-wheelers; he’s starting his own company. He puts out a mixtape—shit, every day. A1 does all our videos. He’s a videographer. He’s a photographer. The rest of them really can’t do nothing else. [Laughs.]
How much research or time did you guys put into the greater meaning behind the Cannabinoids?
EB: It’s conceptual. It was one of my dreams, the concept that I had. I called each person individually and asked them if they wanted to be part of it.
This is really your dream team.
EB: Yeah. And not only did they say yes, each person contributed their spirit and their energy to it. The lowest common denominator is compassion. It’s trust. It’s God. It’s light. It’s love. We all have that in common. We all do. Me and Jah Born, we go so far back. Our religion is Cannabinoids. Some of us have different faiths and follow different kinds of ways and call God different names. However, we see this little seed that we planted blossoming more and more every day and as it blossoms between us all, it also grows in our heart. We’re connected by visible umbilical cords and it’s just like, they feel something, I feel something. My next step is adding another chick.
I was about to ask what it’s like being the only woman with a crew of men.
EB: I don’t know, I don’t even think about it. I just don’t know no chick who this good in Dallas. I’m sure there are some that have been born by now.
So you might add to the group?
EB: Well I can tell you what my vision is. When I thought about Cannabinoids as a collective, I didn’t see myself being a part of it for the whole time. I saw myself like The Cannabinoids featuring Erykah Badu. Then it’s Cannabinoids featuring Nas. And that’s how I saw it. That is the vision that we have. This mixtape is their creation, I’m on it, but it’s their creation, really. It’s what they brought to Dallas so it’s really about them and how they keep me motivated more than anything.