"Let me hit this joint right here." Lizzy Jeff paused, gazing out over the second-floor balcony inside an Arts District loft that smelled of palo santo and sage. The sequins weaved into her open blue and gold cloak glittered with the fairy lights around the room, her metallic bikini shimmering with each graceful, slinky gesture.
Rapping about love, sex, healing, art, heck, even the solar eclipse, Jeff took a toke break between songs, reminding her audience to grab some vegan goodies or some of the unlimited ganja circulating at the party "to elevate higher and tune in."
With her soft honey voice, her sensuous, commanding presence, her chill, grounded energy, Jeff embodies regal femininity. She's all woman, all sex, all creativity, all ganja goddess, a "queen of the new renaissance," as she puts it, "redefining culture and rebuilding community."
The artist/budtender/medicine woman's baby is a monthly, booze-free curation called Zen & Kush. "It was a dope-ass party, but I don't even like to call it a party," Jeff told L.A. Weekly after the last one, held March 3. "It's more like an experience, an experiential art show. All you had to do was come and be yourself."
Featuring a lineup of musicians and dancers, astrologers and masseurs, a sound bath and cacao ceremony, and artisan edibles alongside actual art, Zen & Kush has all the trappings of L.A. 2018 — a cultural revival, fueled by cannabis and a lust for wellness, healing and human connection.
Rather than some flashy bow to the Green Rush — everyone pushing product in your face in what's become a commonplace parade of brands championing wellness inasmuch as it's good for the brand — at Zen & Kush, guests came to party for the sake of partying itself. "There's no lines, no classism, no bottle popping, waking up with a hangover — that shit's played out," Jeff says. "It's a vibe. It's not even about the cannabis, it's about people coming together, finding themselves and each other."
Although words like "love" and "healing" populate Jeff's vocabulary, she does in fact practice what she preaches. Her lifestyle is a reflection of the journey it took to embody love and, as she describes, to see herself and the Creator in others. Ganja helps with that, as does her connection to the earth and other herbs, her favorite being damiana.
She's been vegan since she was 6, though she wasn't raised among the sort of privileged hippie backdrop you might expect from a child who shuns chicken and McDonald's. She's been through it, and came out the other side empowered as a healer, connector and medicine woman.
At parties, not only her own, Jeff (wo)mans a medicine bar, where guests learn about different herbs for different types of healing. You'll rarely see Jeff use a grinder. When she rolls a joint, she likes to break up the bud with her fingers, touch the plant, appreciate the growers, the process, the budtenders, where it comes from. Cannabis for her is a vehicle rather than a destination, a means of self-connection.
"There's an element of ritual. I think about my grandmother, her great-grandmother who was a slave. I think about my mom and the stories she told me about her father, who was from a Native American tribe," she says. "It's a thank you, a symbol of gratitude for life experience." She takes the time to feel the plant material, smell it, sprinkle in some lavender or rose. Cannabis is integral to her lifestyle, a ritual before yoga or even a meal, when she drops some (non-psychoactive) CBD tincture into her tea.
"Existing in this space, the cannabis space, as an African-American woman and what that represents is very powerful, very inspiring," Jeff says. "I think about when I was just a little 'hood kid, and nobody gave a fuck about a 'hood kid. If you think about communities highly affected by the War on Drugs, I'm putting myself in a position to make an impact, provide education and awareness. I think about the opportunity that I love to get my groceries at Erewhon. You go to South L.A. where I grew up, people don't even have the option to be healthy."
Jeff wasn't always living her "best life," as she puts it now. After a decade, she had quit her job working as a manager at Victoria's Secret, and found herself in a dark place. "I looked around and was like, 'fuck this.' I knew I didn't like that, so I was able to call in more light," she says. "I've survived some intense things in my life, I know what it's like to really be resilient."
She started being more intentional with her words, "calling in abundance," reciting poetry and spoken word. Since Jeff was a kid, she'd always wanted to be a rapper. She went on to study music engineering, even after she graduated college. A few years ago around when she began working at a cannabis collective, Jeff started making music with her brother Slim Jeff, then did her own solo show on 4/20; released her first mixtape, Zen & Kush, the following 4/20; and is now dropping her next mixtape, West Coast Enchanted, this 4/20.
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"I literally created my own fucking lane. It's my lifestyle that I turned into a movement," she says.
And people want to be part of it. "Zen & Kush is an example and pioneer of what's more to come. The whole idea is to give people power to step into their influence, which goes hand in hand with their healing," says Felicia Burkley, aka Goddess Adorned, who practices reiki and Chinese medicine. "When you can move and shake and groove because nothing is holding you, that's what the healing is all about."
With themes like Queens, Kings, Sacred Sensuality or the next one, Tease: A Topless CBD-Infused Yoga Experience, Zen & Kush invites guests to reconsider their relationship to taboo or toxic aspects of society: sex, gender dynamics, relationships, masculinity, moon cycles — things that people are afraid to talk about, have traumatic experiences with, and otherwise need healing from. In contrast to the troubling political landscape, Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein, at least California's got legal weed, and Angelenos are using it as a tool for bonding, spirituality and overall well-being.
"We are all projecting reflections of each other and we're here to help each other heal, grow and create high vibrational art," Jeff says. "For me, I like to put my shades on [rose-colored shades, these days], put on my kimono, adorn myself — it feels so royal — and float through life, take it all in, be here now and be present."