This awesome interview with Erykah Badu sheds some light on her vegan lifestyle, her 3 home-births and her choice to homeschool her children.
Erykah Badu, thirty-eight, is the queen of hip-hop soul. But more than that, she's an innovator. Take the birth of her third child, Mars Merkaba: In February, when the little girl was born in Badu's Dallas home, she Tweeted between contractions. Her son and daughter were also in the room. Now little Mars is the first Twitter baby, Badu says, growing strong and healthy on "Twitty milk." Babble checked in with Badu in August while she was on a tour bus bound for Brooklyn (little Mars, who comes with Badu on all her tours, gurgled in the background throughout). — Tammy La Gorce
Erykah, you have a ton going on with your tour and a new album coming up (New Amerykah Part II comes out later this year), but first things first: You just home-delivered a daughter and Tweeted about it! Tell us about that.
Well, the home birth and the tweeting are two separate things. I had all my children at home, naturally. First my son [Seven Sirius] was born at home in 1997, because that's the natural environment, the old way. There's not a lot of fuss and moving around. I had a very wise doula and midwives giving me the freedom to continue living my life. I didn't have to uproot myself.
You had no fear, though? You weren't scared you'd need medical attention?
No. Maybe to some it's scary, but preparation is the whole key. When a mother has found out she's going to have a baby, her whole life — her diet, her mood, her energy — should kind of prepare her. After she prepares herself, fear is never a part of it. I expected success and health, so I made sure I surrounded myself with it. By the time I had my third baby, childbirth seemed a very natural part of life to me. And it's always been a part of my life since I've been in music — my first album [Baduizm] came out Feb. 11, 1997, right when I got pregnant. Then I had my first baby Nov. 19, 1997, the same day my live album came out. So I've never known a life in music outside of being a mom.
Got it. But what about the tweeting? What made you want to tweet while giving birth?
"Questlove said, 'I bet you won't Twitter while you're in labor.'"
I was dared to do it. Actually, Questlove of The Roots — he said, "I bet you won't Twitter while you're in labor." I said, "I bet I will." So I did. I tweeted about what was happening with the birth between contractions.
Wow. And your kids were in the room, too?
Yeah. They were a big part of it. A very big part, because it was very sacred. They helped me welcome this baby into the world.
In addition to your incredible baby deliveries, you are also an incredibly hands-on parent. For example, you home-school.
Yes. I wanted to give Seven Sirius [who is entering sixth grade in the fall] special attention academically, to give him an advantage. So by being home-schooled he learned how to learn — he learned how to solve problems in a nontraditional way. In doing that he developed an edge in his schoolwork. He enjoys challenges. He pushes himself. He does his homework voluntarily. He does not want to miss school or be late or be untidy or not have his things in order because that was a big part of how he was brought up [Seven was home-schooled until he entered second grade]. I don't have any idea what Seven is going to choose to do, but he knows how to be disciplined and how to learn, and because of that he's one of the top students in his school, and one of the top students in Dallas.
Did you home-school him yourself, or was there a teacher you hired? And what about the other kids?
I home-schooled him myself. And my daughter, Puma Sabti, she's five — she's home-schooled. And the new baby just started school this week, now that she's six months.
All with you?
Yes, all with me. Of course.
You're also vegan. Are the kids vegan too?
Of course they are. When Seven was born I was a vegetarian and his father [Andre 3000, of Outkast] was too, so it was a natural progression for him in life to eat the things we eat. Puma [whose father is the rapper The D.O.C; Mars' father is longtime boyfriend Jay Electronica] is the same way. It's just what's in the house. They also now have an understanding of how to read ingredients — it's Mommy's lifestyle so it's their lifestyle.
But don't they ever get curious about hot dogs? Or beef jerky? What do you do about that?
I don't in any way force them to have the same lifestyle, but I think they should know the benefits of having a healthy body. If they were to choose to do anything else after they become high school students, I would have full confidence that they know how to take care of their bodies and themselves. By making sure they use preventive medicine — getting plenty of water, plenty of chlorophyll and vegetable juices and good, healthy rest and activity — I know they'll be able to take good care of themselves.
But what about the hot dogs? They never ask?
They joke about it. And I'm sure as children they feel left out sometimes. But that's why we provide them with alternatives. We make sure we keep a school menu on hand, and we prepare the same foods the kids at school are eating but in a healthier manner. That's what this lifestyle provides us with. I work really hard the way I do so I can give them all the things they need without them feeling like they're being punished. So they can have a good understanding of what it means to be healthy.
"The more children you have, the more you get into health."
What do you think is the worst parenting practice going on in America today?
Parents not participating in kids' schooling. I don't think it matters what school you go to, but I think it's important for parents to be involved. And to know that when school stops, learning continues, and to continue teaching at home.
Back to Mars for a minute — how did the people who were reading about her birth react on Twitter? Did you get any criticism about tweeting while birthing?
I have no idea, actually. But the Twitter community was happy to welcome her into the world. They ask about her every month. She just turned six months, and I got a lot of "happy six months." She's the first Twitter baby, and she's breastfed on Twitty milk.
Ha! Is that vegan?
Actually, we're applying a macrobiotic diet with her — it's different from being a vegan, in that it goes a little bit deeper into the yin and yang of what a human being needs. I always wanted to do it, but I didn't really understand the dynamics. Then, the more children you have, the more you get into health and holistic living. Which goes so far beyond being a vegan.
With macrobiotics, each person is different. So it's critical what you give each individual. People have so many food allergies — Seven, when he was tested, he was allergic to some nuts, legumes, melons, and apples. And we would have never known that unless he was tested. So the macrobiotic diet affords us the chance to avoid some of those allergies.
You take this very seriously.
I do. I'm totally into my health — I've been a vegetarian for ten years and vegan for eleven. I'm also a holistic health practitioner. I see patients. And that helps my family in a lot of ways.
You see patients? In addition to your music and home-schooling? That's incredible. Are you exhausted?
I feel great. And I think I'm real smart.