The Cannabinoids Release Their First Beat Tape.
On the border of Garland and Mesquite, and tucked away in the cozy confines of Klearlight Studio, where there are so many vintage synths they’ve literally started stacking the sumbitches in the bathroom, R.C. Williams is sitting on a couch in the welcoming room, indulging in a little after-dinner smoke.
It’s almost 10 o’clock on Thursday, and considering the name of the group he’s here with — The Cannabinoids, the 2008-formed, Erykah Badu-helmed collective of nine area producers, DJs and musicians — you can imagine the substance he’s inhaling. He takes a couple of puffs and passes the joint along to the handful of collaborators joining him this evening.
They’ve gathered here for a few reasons — because this studio has been these musicians’ second home for the better part of a year now, because they have to prepare for their then-upcoming, Red Bull-sponsored South by Southwest showcase — but specifically because they’re two days away from putting out a free download of the first-ever release to bear their name, and they still haven’t heard the finished product.
It’s a modest debut, this first release — just an introductory, 15-minute collection of beat snippets the crew has crafted — but that hardly means it’s unimpressive. It’s quite the opposite, actually, and Williams can’t help but be proud of that fact.
“It’s a lot of stuff from when we were in our really early stage,” he says of the recordings about to blare from the engineering room of the compound.
One room over, in the recording space, DJ Big Texas, the man responsible for the cuts and scratches and sample-dropping heard throughout the soon-to-be-premiered tape, expands: “We just recorded our very first jam session. Just three or four hours of us jamming out.”
“When we went back and listened to it for the first time,” Williams adds, “we were like, ‘Damn, we were doing that? Wait, who did that part? Who dropped that sample?'”
With their debut album still a couple of months (and an impending recording excursion to Hawaii) away, the group figured they might as well make something of what they had. So Cannabinoids A1 and Jah Born listened back to the tape, marked their favorite parts and passed the tape along to Badu and producer Mike Chav to tweak even further.
Having worked on the 15-minute collection for a week straight, Badu has taken this night off. But Chav, in from Detroit for this very purpose, is here, anxiously awaiting the band’s approval.
After herding the members present at the studio into the engineering room — Williams, Big Texas, Jah Born, Rob Free, Symbolyc One and, eventually, drummer Cleon Edwards — he plugs his laptop into the speaker system, presses play on the recording and exits, content to let the band listen to it on their own. They do more than that. Within seconds of its start, the band is hooting and hollering along with their creation — clapping along and playing air keys and air drums, too, just for good measure.
“That’s serious,” Jah Born remarks at one point, certainly pleased.
“I mean, we’re taking it to another level!” responds Symbolyc One, who should know a thing or two about that, having recently produced hit singles for Kanye West, Jay-Z and Beyonce.
After the tape ends, the group exits the room and thanks Chav for his production work.
“Rappers hear that, and they’ll be like, ‘Man, I wanna hear the whole song!'” Williams says.
And that’s the point, Williams continues. The goal for the Cannabinoids is to work with a number of artists in the future, not just their leader, Miss Badu.
“We’ve got straight-up headbangers!” Jah Born exclaims, back in the welcoming room. “All the way through! And none of it was rehearsed. It was all original!”
That’s the remarkable thing about the release, for sure. It is, after all, simply a collection of jam session snippets recorded some four years ago at the collection’s first meeting. Live, on two tracks, right into GarageBand. That’s it.
Doesn’t sound it, though.
“I’m just glad we recorded some of those sessions,” Symbolyc One says.
“I know,” laughs Free. “And it sounded so clean!”
Download The Cannabinoids: The Beat Tape, Vol. 1 below.