The “Blank Check” riddim is the first multi-artist collaborative effort produced by Austin based reggae group Lion Heights. Following in the tradition of Jamaican riddim culture, the album features a solid lineup of U.S. and Caribbean reggae artists voicing their own versions; each with its own unique style and lyrics. There’s something here for everyone, even a version recorded entirely en español.
The concept began in March 2020; not long after Austin’s music industry grinded to an abrupt halt in response to the Coronavirus lockdown. Lion Heights was unexpectedly forced to shift their focus from live performances to studio work. The band’s newest member, drummer Tom Leslie, brought a rough demo of the instrumental to the group: “I had this idea for a riddim that I had created just using Ableton and my laptop on the backburner for a while, and it seemed like the right time to show the guys. They vibed on it and were all on board with building the track out, so we just went with it from there.”
The richly textured instrumental track that forms the foundation harkens back to the digital aesthetic of early dancehall: a hard hitting, hypnotic bassline combined with electronic drum sounds. Accompanied by chill-hop inspired guitar melodies, R&B synth lines, and dub-infused post-production, the “Blank Check” riddim is as atmospheric as it is raw. Regarding the songwriting process, Jeremy Carlson (vocalist and keyboardist for Lion Heights) mentions: “I really enjoy making music that combines aspects of different genres. It can be subtle too. When it comes to reggae music, I think a lot of people have preconceived notions; and I think it’s fun to switch that up and keep listeners on their toes. For others who aren’t familiar with the genre, it provides familiarity; a win-win!”