Even in the darkest of places your light will shine. It will emerge from the depth of your soul and slowly illuminate every corner, every room, and every empty space. That light is the artist, the songwriter, the teacher; an amazingly talented young woman. She has taken some of life’s most painful blows and used them as inspiration to become who she is today.
Have you heard of her? Do you know her story? Sit back, take a ride with us as we introduce and share with you the journey of the one and only Miss Cocoa Sarai.
Tell me about your most recent album? What was the inspiration behind it?
‘I went through a really traumatic breakup, 5 1/2-year relationship. It was really hard. I had a studio in my house, I found myself waking up finishing other records to write and sell to other artists. And then I realized I had a lot of them! My best friend said I should put them on an album and put it out. So, in 3 weeks, I recorded Wait A Minute, I recorded Broken Hearts and I recorded another one. But the rest of them were pretty much done. The WTF record? I was crying. I could hear when I listen to it I was crying when I was singing. I remember it. It was just a really hard time. Like, we were really young when we were together and we grew up together. My mother died while I was with him. I went through my vocal surgery while I was with him. So, he’s all I knew. So, it was just really hard.
I really like the concept of the Raining in my Room video. How did you come up with it?
Raining In My Room is one of the singles off of my last album. Originally, I wanted to be in a room full of water. But I’m an independent artist with an independent budget! The song is about a relationship where you feel like “I am drowning in my sorrows”. And even though you’re the cause of my sorrows, you’re the only one that can help me but you’re not there. So, it’s like a replacement. Things you do to replace the pain. But the problem is when it catches up to you and you can’t escape it. That’s really what that was about. No matter what I did or where I went, I couldn’t escape thinking about that person. That’s why the mannequin was so important.
Who are some of the artists you’ve written music for?
I’ll name the ones that I can! Adina Howard’s new single. Chanel ‘It’s Happening Again’. I cowrote on Amerie’s new album, ‘Take the Blame’. I did a single for Royals. There’s so many, I’m trying to remember them all! And then I have a lot coming out this year for people I’ve written for.
From SOBs to Madison Square, you’ve performed all over NYC. What was your favorite performance?
Aww man that’s hard! Wow! Hold on… ok I have two. One was my album release part for Black & White album. It was one of my favorites like ever. Like ever ever. We had the band and it was just crazy. It was so packed. But the performance that changed my life was performing at Madison Square Garden. I just remember hearing when I hit that high note, ‘And the land of the free…’ and the way that the crowd sounded? That many people when they scream… It was insane. And I remember thinking I have to do this for the rest of my life.
You and Grey Matter have a really great dynamic together. Who is your favorite artist you’ve done collaboration with?
Aww man… One of them is actually Theophilus London. That was fun because it was one of my earlier collaborations. That’s one of my favorites but only because it was one of the first. Uh, Fred the Godson. Whenever we do something together its really really cool. Chris Faust is my boy. We have an extensive catalog together. Oh! And Rich Lowe! We have so many records together and I love every time we collaborate.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
Hmm… As an artist, I find myself having to operate as 2 or 3 people. There’s Cocoa Sarai The Artist and half the time there’s Ms. Cocoa the teacher, you know? But the biggest challenge I’ve had to face was having surgery on my vocal cords and not being able to sing for 4 years. Not knowing if I’d ever be able to sing again. That was the biggest challenge because if it were not for [people] like my best friends pushing me, I don’t know if I would be doing this. I had to learn to talk again. Like you know how to walk all your life but you have to learn again. And you can’t when you used to run. It’s been a process. It’s still a process. But I’m so happy that I’m getting through it because I believe it’s made me a better artist, a better person and a better teacher.
So, during that time did you consider doing something else besides singing? Like if you couldn’t sing again, what were your thoughts on what you would do?
I don’t know if I ever got to a complete point of ‘that’, but I was very depressed. I wasn’t in a good mental space so I couldn’t think of anything else I would be happy doing. I know that I’m a teacher but it wouldn’t fulfill me 100%. It’s a weird feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever thought ‘Oh, I’ll just go do that.’. If anything, I was thinking about being a wife, a step mother and trying to make that work. I still wasn’t happy doing that.
A lot of your music is about break ups. Where else do you pull inspiration from?
Everything around me. Everything that happens. From this conversation, you know? I talked to this little girl last year, a dark skinned little girl. And she came to me and told me that she told one of the other kids that it didn’t matter what they said about her because Ms. Cocoa’s pretty and she’s the same complexion as me. It broke my heart that she even had to give an explanation or have a conversation like that. It broke my heart because I remember being that little girl. It broke my heart because I still hear shit like that. For this little girl to come to me, I’m just glad that I’m in a place where I’m strong and I stand firm in the beauty in all of our blackness so that way I could have that conversation. Something in that conversation inspired me to record that blackness in that Nina Simone song.
I’m inspired by everything I see and hear. I’m inspired by anything that makes me feel something, bad or good. I’m inspired especially now by what’s going on in the world. The strength of my mother’s memory, every ounce of pain I’ve ever felt and overcome. I’m inspired by women that are doing their shit! That’s why I love AVision. Every time I see you guys, its inspiring to me because this was an idea and you made it something.
What can you tell me about your upcoming music? Are you working on anything right now?
I am! I’m working on a new album! I’m working on like 2 new albums actually. Its crazy. For the next couple of months, I’m not gonna be doing any shows really because I’m working on my albums and song writing. The name of one of the projects is called Vogue. The other one, I haven’t decided to name yet but I’m working on it. I’m really excited about it.
Yay! Definitely looking forward to that!
I’m nervous! But I’m excited!
Ha! You have nothing to be nervous about!
I think that no matter how many times you do it, you always think that someone’s gonna hate it. But you just gotta accept that. You put it out when you love it, you know? Its one of those things.
Who are you currently listening to?
Oh! Lemme check right now. Kate Bus is in there. I’m feeling Solange’s new album. Bonnie Rait and even some Nas.
Check out Cocoa Sarai new video “Wait a minute” this song is currently on AVisionMag’s playlist. Make sure you follow @cocoasarai on Instagram/ Twitter.