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What Erykah Badu Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Getty Images

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and electric toothbrush. We asked Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter Erykah Badu — whose cannabis company has recently partnered with lifestyle brand Cookies — about the guitar strings she uses to memorize chords, the chlorophyll she drinks daily, and the protective pads she uses when going barefoot. 

I like to earth it a lot — that means go barefoot. And I like to go barefoot a lot because it helps ground me. So when I go to places where it might be a little too nasty for my feet (because, you know, the feet are very open pores), there are these stickies that go on the bottom of the feet that I use for shoes. You’re still getting the reflexology when you’re stepping on the little pebbles and rocks, but you’re not getting the germs and cuts. You can wear them at the beach, too. They don’t come off; they’re waterproof.

I moved to Brooklyn alone when I was about 24 years old, and by serendipity, I met a guy at a poetry reading called Supernova. We hit it off really well, and he brought me to his house and introduced me to his mom, who was none other than Queen Afua. In our culture, Queen Afua is one of the most profound African American healers, because she caters strictly to our bodies and what’s good for them naturally. One of her products is Breath of Life: I’ve used that product every day since I’ve known her. I use about a bottle every three days — she thinks I’m selling it because I get so much of it. I burn it in my oil burner, and it fills the room with the aroma of fresh peppermint and eucalyptus. It helps me to breathe well, helps my vocal chords stay open, and my mucus membrane stays really clear. I use it as a breath freshener, I use it on my children’s foreheads when they have headaches, I use it on my aching body joints. I use it for everything.

I was working at Electric Lady Studio in New York on an album called Mama’s Gun. I went into a guitar store in the city, and I saw this Baby Taylor. It was so small, and my fingers are so little, so it was just perfect for me. The salesman’s name was Nobody. He taught me my first chord, and I used it for everything, and that guitar is still signed “Nobody.”

I started out with metal strings and they were too tough for me, so I introduced myself to nylon strings. When Ernie Ball came out with neon strings, I started using them because they make me happy, and they also make me remember my notes. I use all of the chakra colors. Each note is associated in the theory of music with a color, so I use the closest color — they go from the spectrum, red to white — and they’re also labeled that way. For example, C is the color red. Orange is for D, and etc. The strings help me remember the notes.

I went to South Africa one year and I got sick — my tummy was upset because it wasn’t used to this water. I called my mentor Dr. Sebi, and he said “You need some charcoal.” I didn’t have any, and he said, “Go outside, break a bark off of a tree and burn it, scrape the black into a little jar, and there’s your charcoal.” I put it in water, and every time I don’t feel good, that’s what I use, because charcoal acts like a magnet to unfriendly bacteria in the body. As it pulls out these toxins inside the body, I use it inside my mouth too. As above, so below.

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I see these mostly in the culture of African tribes, but they use them in Indian culture too. They’re used as a sign of beauty: It’s a beautiful adornment or talisman that your mate can make for you so nobody touches anything below those beads; it all belongs to the mate. They can also be used to teach your children about their feminine cycles. You make a string of 28 beads (because there are 28 days in the cycle), and you group them in four differently colored groups of seven beads. You’re counting the days in each cycle by pulling them to the side, like an abacus. And they’re also used in Yoruba religion ceremonially for dance, or for coming of age and rite of passage. I started wearing them as a young woman when I became aware of my cycles and realized I wasn’t crazy. I could keep up with it with 28 beads around the waist, and I would know where I was in my cycle and eat the nutrients that I needed to eat at that part of the cycle. It’s a compass for my mood and my energy.

I love Cottonelle toilet wipes. I can’t take my bidet toilet with me, and I have to have a fresh bum after I use the bathroom. They’re just so handy, they fit right in my bag, and they’re very good for wiping the toilet before you sit down if you have to, and also freshening up after you poop or use the bedroom. My bowels move a lot because I eat a lot of juices and stuff, so after just about everything I eat I’m running to the bathroom — and if you’re dragging toilet paper across your bum all of the time, it’s raw and it doesn’t feel good. So I like these Cottonelle wipes: They’re really fresh and clean.


Liquid chlorophyll has been in my life since the beginning of my journey — from being a junior in high school. I went to a school of arts — I was a dancer — and was lucky enough to have a teacher who was really into taking care of the body and wellness. This was just one of the things that she recommended for energy, because chlorophyll is pure oxygen. It’s plant blood, and we are also plants. It does wonders for our bloodstream and our energy, and it’s a body deodorizer. It’s like liquid Drano to the cells, pushing all the mucus and stuff through so we can feel happy.

When I wanted to join the cannabis conversation finally, I wanted to have a place and I wanted to have a modality, if you will. Mine was women’s studies. Women from the 1970s have been activists for the taboo breaking of marijuana. In joining that conversation, I wanted all of my items to relate to who we are as females on the planet. So I went with a beautiful white-porcelain background with blue flowers. The person I thought of to help me create products was Roberto Lugo. I told Roberto about the vessels I wanted to make, and we went back and forth with different patterns and included ideas of things we wanted to include, like marijuana leaves, mushrooms, lots of hidden things. And we chose the shape of the bong vase to mimic the body of a woman. It’s very hippy — the vessel has child-bearing hips. And in order to round that gift out, the bong is also a vase.

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What Erykah Badu Can’t Live Without