Intro by Ronit Pinto, article by Candace McDuffie, photography by Sam C. Long
Grammy-winning artist Erykah Badu explains her relationship to the cannabis plant and so much more in the cover story from our 16th print edition, available now. As Badu unveils her latest "That Badu" gift set for Mother's Day with Cookies, read on to learn the insights she shared with us about women's health and the power we all hold.
Erykah Badu's "That Badu" Cannabis Collaboration With Cookies
Erykah Badu. Spiritual. Music. Cannabis. Goddess. Like the plant, Badu is a full-spectrum artist and entrepreneur who recently launched her premier and premium cannabis line, “That Badu,” a collaboration between international cannabis brand Cookies and Badu’s cannabis accessory brand, Apple Trees. To me, Erykah Badu embodies so many of the core elements that Honeysuckle represents. Individuality, beauty, freedom, natural talent and grace. Watching footage of her past performances before our photo shoot with her at the Cookies Maywood store and grow facility in Los Angeles, I was transported to another place, another dimension, really. Not only is she brilliantly talented, but she also takes the time to truly connect with her audiences in irreplaceable and one-of-a-kind ways. Every performance is unique; she is in it, she is there, she is present.
The fact that Badu and rapper Berner, the founder and CEO of Cookies, insisted on meeting every single individual in the queue that wrapped around the block at Cookies Maywood for her "That Badu" release, didn't come as a surprise to us. We were excited to patiently wait for the subject of our cover photo shot.
It was worth the wait. In addition to our one-on-one time with Badu, Berner and Edwin Movagharian, the owner of Cookies Maywood, invited us to tag along on the tour they gave the Badu team. With a focus on women's health, wellness, and empowerment, the images we took and the spread's ensuing designs reflect the sentiments that Badu portrays as well as that of her new cannabis company.
Award-winning journalist Candace McDuffie, who interviewed the singer for this story, is the author of the book 50 Rappers Who Changed the World. She said that Badu was her bucket list interview. Badu is a bucket list cover for us too and the perfect artist to symbolize the new emerging energies of the cannabis industry. Feminine, Powerful, Bold and Beautiful. B is for Beautiful. That Badu.
What Makes Erykah Badu "Queen Of Neo-Soul"?
By Candace McDuffie
Transformative R&B artist Erykah Badu has always embraced the concept of evolution. From her 1997 debut album, Baduizm, that captivated audiences immediately, to her continuously boundary-pushing work decades on, and into journeys where most may fear to tread.
Earning the honorific “Queen of Neo Soul” from music critics, she stands as a pillar of the genre. Her vocal and visual style is sometimes noted as a mix of Billie Holiday tones and Afrofuturism packed with raw emotion. Numerous younger artists, including SZA, Ari Lennox, Jillian Hervey, and others who have been dubbed "Badu Babies," were inspired by her vocal and artistic approach. She has appeared in numerous hip hop, R&B, and pop songs over the past 26 years and is thought to be the inspiration for the character of "Ms. Jackson" in Outkast's famous song. She was the only woman of the era to shatter that particular barrier because male contemporaries like The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Cease, Redman, and M1 and stic from Dead Prez admired and resonated with her creative strength even from her earliest days.
Badu tells Honeysuckle there was simplicity behind her subversive introduction to the industry. “I guess it was because that's where I was… as an artist, as a woman, as a person. It's changed throughout time with me as I evolve or eliminate or create…and I share that.” She has five studio albums under her belt and a distinctive voice that details Black womanhood in a way that only she could execute.
Launching "That Badu" With Berner At Cookies Maywood
Now the superstar, whose cannabis advocacy is documented through her creative output (see her classic “On and On”), steps into the industry side of weed. On March 8, International Women’s Day, Badu’s cannabis company Apple Trees introduced its premium line of products called "That Badu” in conjunction with the globally-recognized cannabis lifestyle brand Cookies. The initial drop featured flower, pre-rolls, and eighths and took place at the Cookies Maywood dispensary in California.
“It was really cool,” the artist says of the Cookies event. “It was emotional, even, because I’m so proud of my friend [and Cookies’ co-founder] Berner, who has worked all these years to build his enterprise, which is expanding and doing very, very well… I’m inspired by his work ethic and his creativity. Working with his company has been a real joy to us at Badu World. It’s been fun. Work is fun. That’s what I love about it.”
The "That Badu" Strain And Cannabis For Women's Health
The “That Badu'' strain developed for the project is a terpene-saturated Lemoncello (AKA Limoncello or Lemonchello 28) crossed with Jet Fuel Gelato. Bred by leading cultivators at Cookies’ sister brand Lemonnade, the cultivar’s genetics are rare and cherished by Berner, who told Leafly that he’d been waiting for the right opportunity to use them. Reviews of the strain call it “strong,” “funky,” and “euphoric.” Most important to its namesake, is the fact “That Badu” is curated to address women’s health from a holistic standpoint.
“After studying and researching where I would be valuable in the cannabis conversation,” she explains, “I found that joining the dialogue with women who are in cannabis – women farmers, women activists, women dispensary owners, women growers, women connoisseurs. People practicing ritual. Just communing with all of that made me feel like I could add something to the conversation. And my strain is for everyone, but my interest is women and our health in every way – mind, body, spirit.”
That aspect of cannabis speaks to Badu most prominently. Though she affirms that she’s consumed “at different times in my life for different reasons,” the vocalist finds the plant singularly impactful for artistic expression: “It always has a spirit of really being free and creative and always eases my mind so that I can focus and be able to discriminate between things that serve the moment and then don’t. So it helps me to focus creatively. I don’t take it for granted. It’s a gift, it’s a medicine… It's a ritual.”
“Ritual” as both concept and practice mean everything to the deeply spiritual performer. “It’s a plant medicine that has been used from the beginning of time,” she acknowledges, and advises that consumers treat it as such. When asked how she hopes people will connect with "That Badu", she immediately suggests doing exactly that, “Just treat it as ritual,” she said. Adding, “There are many types of strains, but things are what we say they are. Put it on the altar or aside for when you really want to commune. Be aligned. Be aligned.”
How Was "That Badu" Designed?
Partnering with Berner’s team, the artist reports, makes it possible for her daring aspirations to become a reality. “We meet once a week with every department–each of my departments and each of Cookies’ departments–to hash through marketing, publicity, packaging and whatever creative graphics that we have in mind. They tolerate all of my creative dreams and wishes. They are really easy to work with and our weekly meetings are a highlight to me…[I’m] just learning how it feels to work with a team who is kind and very much like Berner's personality: laid back but still on the ball. Everybody is playing their position to the fullest.”
Keen observers might note the stunning “flower vase” packaging surrounding "That Badu", featuring a logo that appears to be a Third Eye. While the musician demurs to confirm what it means, preferring to let consumers interpret its significance for themselves, she does admit that the design was a joint effort with renowned ceramics artist Roberto Lugo. “I did come up with the blue and white floral porcelain Persian/Asian antique look… But [Lugo] painted the initial background, the artisan flowers, which are cannabis infused and mushroom infused in the other packaging. Berner’s team came with a few ideas and we fused them together and they became what you see today.”
Is that a piece of chaney* on the star's finger on our cover? Chaney jewelry is made from shards of fine china that can be found on the beaches and old plantations of the island of St. Croix. The pieces are said to have a mystical, transportive quality because of their layered history. During slave uprisings against plantation owners, particularly the 1878 “Fireburn” rebellion, former slaves destroyed their masters’ luxury goods, shattering china and pottery across the island. These remnants, holding a history of oppression and revolutionary liberation, are still being discovered on St. Croix today. Metamorphosed into chaney, they become statement jewelry that symbolizes transposing generational trauma into beautiful heaing. With Badu, everything has meaning…
Which Cannabis And Wellness Products Does "That Badu" Offer?
As the "That Badu" line expands, the musical icon informs fans to look out for products including topical creams, edibles, more merch and accessories, and a mushroom tea line featuring adaptogenic, functional fungi. “Nothing hallucinogenic,” Badu notes with a laugh, “but very, very calming for the central nervous system and a good substitute for coffee for those who want to slow down on the coffee. There’s a morning blend and an evening blend. The morning blend has an herb called Blue Lotus, and so we blended the mushrooms with that. [Both blends are] really good… especially if you’re enjoying a nice spliff.”
If you’re seeking a more psychedelic experience, that could be possible down the line, but nothing has been announced yet. However, Badu herself takes mushrooms as seriously as cannabis. “It’s part of my very sacred practice, and it’s part of my personal journey. It’s not a recreational thing. It’s plant medicine that is very, very carefully timed in my life. Fungi is technology, so it’s a special relationship that I have with it.”
"That Badu" Mother's Day Collection: Essential Gifts For Women Who Love Plants
No surprise then that the newest Cookies collaboration drop featuring many of these products is the "That Badu" Mother's Day collection, which includes the limited-edition "That Badu" x VIBES Dozen Roses Rose-Cones, fragrant hand-rolled cured papers develped with Berner's VIBES Premium Rolling Papers. Badu and Berner reunited on May 13th at Cookies Hayward to launch their latest capsule. The Mother's Day items reflect the same serenity that Badu has ambitiously bottled for enthusiasts to savor. And as always, to uplift the spirit of women.
Items are available to order at BaduWorldMarket.com and the Cookies online shop; the collection includes:
"That Badu" Lady Vessel And Tray
A magnificent porcelain bong and rolling tray, which also functions as a flower vase and vanity tray, designed by Badu and Roberto Lugo. When not in use, the vase's chic tapered neck can be filled with flowers or used to clean the rubber grommet junction and vanity tray.
"That Badu" x VIBES Dozen Roses Rose-Cones
Handcrafted with natural rose petals, these VIBES-branded papers are expertly rolled and cured for at least 21 days and deliver a fresh appearance and flavorful smoking experience. Presented in a 12-pack, Badu advises coupling it with an eighth of "That Badu" premium flower to ensure that mom’s day is filled with good vibes.
"That Badu" Technology Tea: Black Magic And Blue Badu
If you think mom might "needa cuppa tea," Badu suggests gifting her "That Badu" Technology Tea, a line of non-psychoactive caffeinated and decaffeinated mushroom teas from Cookies. Black Magic Tea is a caffeinated blend of vanilla and bergamot-flavored black tea leaves. Made with Lion's Mane and Cordyceps Mushroom Complex, 10 mg of CBD, and 5 mg of CBG, the carefully chosen ingredients are intended to improve one's memory and spirit.
For a more tranquilizing experience, give mom a sip of serenity with Blue Badu Tea. This decaffeinated tea is sure to calm the mind, body, and soul with its specially formulated Reshi, Maitake, Shitake Mushroom Complex Turkey Tail, 10 mg of CBD, and 5 mg of CBN, as well as Croatian chamomile, French lavender, and Egyptian rose tea leaves. Blue Magic Tea is sure to help mom achieve a state of relaxation as she enjoys the peace and quiet of her special day.
"That Badu" Chu-Chu Strawberries N Cream Cannabis-Infused Gummies
"That Badu" Chu Chu Strawberries n' Cream Cannabis-Infused Gummies have a delightful fruity sweetness and are presented in gorgeous packaging, making them simple and discrete for mothers on the move. The gummies give a potent, full-spectrum experience that can last for hours because they’re made with premium solventless extract from high-quality rosin.
"That Badu" Lavender Topical Cream By Cookies
A fast-acting pain relief lotion formulated to soothe sore muscles, eliminate aches, and leave skin feeling silky smooth. Skillfully formulated with a blend of high-dosage CBD, CBG, relaxing lavender, arnica, and aloe, "That Badu’s" first topical release is here to relieve tension, put your body at ease, and restore your body’s natural balance.
"That Badu" Pre-Roll Joints
The stresses of motherhood will melt away when Mom lights up a "That Badu" Pre-Roll Joint. Available in single 1 gram pre-rolls or a 3-pack of ½gram mini pre-rolls, these spiffs will put a grin on her face with their tampon-inspired packaging and a twinkle in her eyes with their gentle euphoric high. Beyond feeling elevated, Mom will find that cannabis offers potential health benefits. It has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and relieve chronic pain, making it an ideal treatment for a wide range of ailments.
Erykah Badu On Motherhood, Doula Work, And The Divine Feminine
After nearly three decades in the spotlight, Badu continues to inspire countless fans to stand tall in their truths and revel unapologetically in who they are. For Black women creatives, this is a complicated task–especially when the goal post for respect and acceptance constantly shifts for this particularly vulnerable demographic. Despite the sexism that still runs rampant throughout the culture, she insists that the pressure for women artists to conform has dissipated in the age of social media. “I would say we're at the tail end of it because people are being granted permission to be creative… we're flooded with examples of creative things every single day. I think people are beginning to be transparent and to feel okay with that.” In addition to serving as a mentor to a generation of new artists inspired by her work, Badu takes pride in showing up for her community in other ways.
The mother of three, who is a certified Reiki master, is also one of the world’s most famous doulas – assisting celebrities like Teyana Taylor and Summer Walker with their births. This calling began over 20 years ago after Badu assisted a close friend with her labor and delivery. “During my first birth, I was just a friend assisting another friend… just being there for her. The labor ended up being 52 hours. I was right there with her… I stayed up with her and walked with her and joked with her and talked with her. I guess I started to believe at that time this is a service that I can be happy inside of. That’s when I decided to become a student of midwifery and I became a doula. The relationships are pretty organic and we're encouraging more and more people to learn about midwifery and [to become] doulas for people who are on the way in and who are on the way out. It's a rewarding service to all who participate.”
That’s right, “on the way out.” The artist is also a death doula, meaning that she provides end-of-life services to people.
Before the conversation ends and Badu returns to the hectic life of an icon, where crowds clamor for her and the audience’s energy at each session onstage “puts a battery in my back,” she stops to think about the best way to handle her favorite magic plant. The words curl out slyly, part whisper, part guttural growl that could be one of her songs - an ode to cannabis, which is Divine Feminine after all.
Badu grins. “Go easy… It’s like a lady, you know what I mean?”
"That Badu'' is available now in all Cookies and Lemonnade locations in California. For more information, visit shop.cookies.co and baduworldmarket.com. To learn more about Erykah Badu and upcoming tours, follow @erykahbadu on Instagram.
*Editors’ Note: On chaney, our Creative Director says, “It’s like a local gemstone formed by telling The Man to fuck off.”
A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!
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Featured image: Erykah Badu for the "That Badu" launch at Cookies Maywood, Los Angeles, March 2023 (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture