Free Press Summer Fest

Erykah Badu's Adventure Time: "We Just Freak It"

Songstress Erykah Badu first brought her own brand of spirituality, sensuality and street smarts into the R&B/hip-hop charts over a decade ago with her debut album Baduizm. Her sound, managing to speak to the worlds of both hip-hop and soul, as then predicted has proven to be something of long-term substance, earning her the moniker "Queen of Neo-Soul."

Now a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, producer, DJ, actress, activist, designer, mother, midwife and more, Ms. Badu is on a constant creative roll. Her most recent concentrations are on completing an album with The Cannabinoids and filming a video with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips for their cover of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

She is also constantly on tour and, fittingly, is going to be performing at this weekend's Free Press Summer Fest, both with The Cannabinoids and as a guest with the Flaming Lips. Houston, we have a solution.

The Cannabinoids, crafted by Badu herself, are an improvisational superband that includes producers S1, Picnictyme and R.C. Williams, DJs A1 and Big Texas, drummer Cleon Edwards and longtime Badu collaborators Rob Free and Jah Born.

Badu and Rob Free, A1, Jah Born and R.C. Williams of The Cannabinoids managed to carve out some time from their busy lives to talk about their creative process and recent projects.

Rocks Off: What brought about the creation of The Cannabinoids? This isn't a new group, correct?

Erykah Badu: Yeah, we know each other very well. We got born when we produced "On and On" for Baduizm. Actually, Free and I started out together as a group. That was the original Baduizm. It was called Erykah's Tree, and we produced several tracks on that album.

Free also produced several tracks on a lot of different albums and projects...I mean, I know them all very well, but most of them have produced on my earlier projects. That's how we know each other, and that's why we kind of got together, because we wanted to continue, you know, evolving, the sound and...we just had to be serious because this is what we love so much. And, um, I think we're a great, great, great mix.

RO: How is your upcoming album with The Cannabinoids going to differ from your solo works?

EB: It's pretty experimental. Most of the stuff we do is really impromptu, so the sound kind of came together, you know, on its own. We're just kind of exploring freestyling and free verse.

Rob Free: We're exploring and improvising and everyone is feeding off of each other's energy, kind of coming out with creations, as opposed to coming in with a set agenda on what we're actually going to create, so it's really coming from a place of pure spontaneity.

A1: Also, our live shows kind of incorporate things from the recorded album and also things from our impromptu-type electronic band. It always involves some stuff that's unrehearsed.

EB: Yeah, what we do is a mix of things. We jam for a while...then we do some covers, where we remix them. We do some original Cannabinoids tunes from my forthcoming album that's coming out soon.

You know, we just freak it, you know, however we feel. For the most part, when we rehearse, we rehearse my standards, but we don't have a set show. Right before the show, RC and I will discuss what we need to run, and somebody will throw something else in and...we've been happy with that process so far.

RO: Erykah, besides The Cannabinoids, what other music projects are you working on?

EB: My own album comes out at the end of the year as well. I'm working on it with some of the same guys as in The Cannabinoids. They're producing it. Then I'm working on some songs with the Flaming Lips.

RO: What can fans expect with your solo album?

EB: It definitely won't be like the last one [2010's New Amerykah Vol. 2: Return of the Ankh]. There will never be another one like the last one. Um, ehhh, I can't really describe it. It's too soon to say exactly what it is because it's developing right now. Or, really, I'm just keeping it on the down-low (chuckles).

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Alexa Crenshaw