Erykah Badu: "The urban legend is that my p***y makes people change jobs and Gods"

 (Erykah Badu)
(Erykah Badu)

Erykah Badu sees five doctors a day. Sort of. There’s Dr Exercise, Dr Nutrition, Dr Meditation, Dr Sleep and Dr Sun, she tells me from New York, where she has already had a busy morning seeing each of them in turn.

‘I didn’t feel like getting up at 5am,’ she admits. ‘The first thing I wanted to do was go to Instagram and see what the people said about what I posted yesterday. But instead of that I stay true to the discipline.’ Barefaced and framed by a simple T-shirt, she sits but never slouches; as poised as she is relaxed, her every sentence is like a bedtime story: ‘Now I’m ready for you.’

Born Erica Wright in Dallas, Texas, and known globally as the godmother of neo-soul, the 53-year-old first embarked on her wellness journey as a dance student, aged 19. Since then, her path has led her to mindfulness, spirituality, veganism, midwifery and her own line of cannabis, tailored specifically to women. Even ‘wokeness’ as it is defined today can be traced back to Badu.

The day we meet also happens to be a Friday, her weekly day of fasting. ‘It was maybe 1994 when I started it, I think they call it intermittent fasting — I did it because I wanted to show nature, the universe and God that I was grateful. Because I knew that I was going to get a record deal, I knew that my success was on the horizon.’

Whether it was the fasting or a genre-awakening debut album that would shape music history, Badu’s success is unquestionable. Since the release of Baduizm in 1997, her path has taken her from music and film to fashion and, now it would seem, to Bali, where she will be co-curating wellness festival Merasa, a seven-day regeneration experience held at Desa Potato Head, next month.

Erykah Badu will co-curate Merasa at Desa Potato Head (Merasa festival at Potato Head)
Erykah Badu will co-curate Merasa at Desa Potato Head (Merasa festival at Potato Head)

Badu is bringing her whole self to Bali: mind, body, spirit, even her, er, scent. ‘The urban legend is that my pussy makes people change jobs and Gods. Well, now you can smell it. Everybody can have it,’ she says, referencing ‘Badu Pussy’, the vagina-scented incense she launched in lockdown, made using the ashes of her underwear.

‘People deserve it. And it smells great. Every time I drop it, it sells out in one day.’ She also has plans for a new fragrance: ‘It’s called Morning Wood. It is as beautiful as Badu Pussy but after Badu Pussy, Morning Wood comes,’ she giggles.

The womb in particular has been a key focus for her since 2003, when she first received her doulaship certification: ‘I could deliver anybody’s baby. But to be certified is an honour’.

In the past two decades, Badu has helped bring countless babies into the world, including the children of famous friends, musicians Teyana Taylor and Summer Walker.

“The urban legend is that my pussy makes people change jobs and Gods. Well, now you can smell it”

‘Moms reach out to me. I don’t charge anything for it, it’s a service, much like the fasting, it’s a way to say that I am grateful and I am here. I don’t know what the f*** is going on, but I am here and I am going to be useful.’ Is she working with any mothers right now?

‘I have no mothers this year. This is my first year I’ve taken off from touring and mentoring and being a doula. Right now I’m available for nutritional counselling. I’ve taken [time] off because I’m giving birth this year, to something. I can feel the labour pains, anxiousness, there’s something birthing, so it’s my time to be still.’

It’s been 14 years since Badu released an album and nine since her most recent mixtape, so what, crucially, will she be birthing this year?

‘My best work. My best work is still in me, as an artist.’ I clarify, as a musician? ‘As a musician…yeah.’ She’s deliberately elusive on the topic. Could 2024 be the year of Badu’s sixth studio album? ‘Possibly. But I’m so excited about the possibilities, and even more excited that I cared enough about myself to give it room. Give it room to be born and form.’

Two artists wasting no time in dropping tracks right now are Drake and Kendrick Lamar. As someone who knows them both, how does Badu feel about the rappers’ ongoing feud?

‘Beefs in hip-hop have existed since hip hop has existed. It’s part of the sport, hip-hop is a sport. But you gon’ be disrespected in this sport, that’s just the way it is. When you step into that arena, you gotta be strong. You gotta be quick and clever. And I enjoy watching it, personally. But what’s different today is that it used to be about skill, now the focus is more on slander, it’s political.

“Most of the things we see are just kind of made up. The press runs with it and now it becomes the narrative.”

Erykah Badu

‘As a crowd you’re supposed to pick a side. I haven’t picked my side yet though. But I watch, I pay attention and they getting real mud-slingy right now. But hey, it’s hip hop. Suck it up. Ain’t no crying. You get back in the booth and you write.’

Though her pregnancy period for new music is long, she’s much quicker to express her opinions on social media — or allude to them at least. In March this year, Badu shared a photo of Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter vinyl cover with the caption ‘Hmmm’.

And during last year’s Renaissance World Tour, Badu posted a picture of herself next to an image of Beyoncé, both wearing similar wide-brimmed hats, and writing: ‘I guess I’m everybody stylist.’

‘I said “Hmmm” in a post and people assumed that means a certain thing because they think that. I didn’t say that,’ she says, about accusing Beyoncé of copying her. ‘I didn’t say I thought that. Only thing I said was, “Jay Z, get these people off me.” I didn’t explain my post or anything, I didn’t have an opportunity to. I was guilty before it started.’

Did she think Beyoncé was copying her? ‘I don’t care. It doesn’t matter, I’m so proud of her. I’m a Texas woman, she’s a Texas woman. It’s beautiful. [Beyoncé] works super hard. [The] Knowles family is friends of mine, I love them very much. Most of the things we see are just kind of made up. The press runs with it and now it becomes the narrative. I never correct it, I don’t have to, it’s none of my business.’

‘It does help me sell things though. It goes straight to my store and starts selling product when I’m trending. That’s what I use social media for, to sell my things.’

A few days before we meet, Badu was using social media to post selfies of her with Little Simz and Willow Smith from the Met Gala bathroom. ‘They are my girls!’ she gushes. ‘At the Met Ball in past years, in the bathroom is where everything goes down. But security is higher now.’

The idea of an Erykah Badu, Little Simz, Willow Smith collab is enough to blow the mind of any neo-soul fan. But of everyone, who would she most like to collaborate with? ‘Stevie Wonder. I have imposter syndrome around Stevie Wonder. Because he’s the real deal. He’s reached out to me many times to work with me, but I am petrified every time. So I think I’m moving into a place where I can accept that I may be good enough to work with Stevie.’

Between nurturing her committee of ‘Queenagers’ (women entering their prime over the age of 45) in Bali and making a pit-stop in London to headline Cross the Tracks festival this weekend, Badu’s focus is on herself and on listening to her body as she goes into labour.

And though we don’t know exactly what she’s birthing, at least she’s got five doctors by her side.

Erykah Badu and Desa Potato Head, Bali have co-curated Merasa wellness festival, that will take place in Seminyak from 1st – 8th June 2024. The festival will kick off with a special performance by Erykah, followed by 7 days of wellness programming. Book a place via the Potato Head website here.