Fresh off the release of her new single, “No Apologies”, we had a chance to catch up with singer-songwriter, Cocoa Sarai. Brooklyn-born, Cocoa Sarai was raised in a musical family and has been performing since just two years old. Recently, she has worked with an impressive slew of artists, including Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, and Anderson.Paak, with whom she contributed to eight songs on his album, Oxnard. Her new single, “No Apologies”, features Sarai’s soaring vocals accompanied with a funky, upbeat dance instrumental. Check out what Cocoa Sarai had to say below:
BTS: Your music cascades between the sounds of old school R&B, funk, hip-hop and jazz. How did that unique blend of sound come about and how do you see it evolving in your future work?
Cocoa Sarai: Well, I grew up singing in church. My whole family can sing or play an instrument. I’m also from Brooklyn, New York, where hip-hop is a very big part of our culture. I was the vocalist for the jazz ensemble in high school for a little while also. So, what I listened to and what I sang kind of morphed into who I am today. I am still evolving and there are so many other sides of me that I can’t wait to share in the near future.
BTS: What excites you most about making music?
Cocoa Sarai: The ability to make people feel something. Understanding the power of art and how important it is to the lives of human beings is understanding alchemy at its finest. I make music that heals me when I don’t feel well or music that pours out of me because I don’t feel well. It reminds me that I’m not alone when other people can relate, and it makes me feel really good when people tell me that my music has helped them in some way. The most exciting part for me, though, is the stage. Nothing can compare to the energy that comes from a crowd — the synergy of the band and the people vibrating on the same wavelength. It’s magical! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that it all started from a thought. One singular thought that turned into a music video or a live show, or someone you’ve never met being inspired or affected by your feelings. I’m grateful for this gift and even more grateful that it resonates with people.
BTS: You’ve been involved in some really incredible work, do you have a project or track that you are most proud of?
Cocoa Sarai: This is so hard to answer lol. I’m proud of all of it. Big moment for me was of course being on a record with Dr. Dre and Anderson .Paak. But there is a song of mine called “Raining in My Room” — my mother picked that song before she passed away. It became my most requested song for years! That song just means so much to me. I don’t think I could get people to stop asking about it until I put out “Big Dummy” lol I feel like I’m only growing and I’m only getting better. The worst thing a person can feel is that their best days are behind them because then they have nothing to look forward to. My songs are babies. I love all of my children, even the ones people never get to meet! Ok, that last analogy sounded a little creepy lol but you get my point.
BTS: How has the response been for your new single, “No Apologies”?
Cocoa Sarai: It’s been amazing. I love funk music. Focus… and Dem Jointz are geniuses. But you never know how people are going to respond to the music that you put out. You have to decide that you like it and hope that they do too. I have gotten so many direct messages and reposts from people letting me know that they love this song, that they want more music like this from me. A lot of my music has been really heavy so far. It feels good to have some balance. I just want people to feel good and it seems like they do.
BTS:In addition to writing and performing your music, you also direct your music videos. Is this something that comes naturally?
Cocoa Sarai: It was a necessity. I have a vision and I usually know what I want. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that my ideas were too big or that it would be impossible to execute them without a million dollars. Ok, I’m exaggerating the price, but definitely more than I as an independent artist would have laying around! I made a lot of music videos over the years that I never put out because I hated them once they were finished. I think seeing a lot of what I didn’t want gave me the skills to be able to understand how to get what I do want. And that means having amazing friends that are willing to experiment with you and also to be told over and over and over again that it’s not right or that we could do even better. My co-director Kai Martinez and I have been friends for 12 years. She started off as my choreographer and as picky as I am, she understands me and she understands and respects the process. So did it come naturally? I’m not sure, but I do know that I strongly believe in getting what I want. It’s important that I control my own narrative so that the world doesn’t tell my story for me.
BTS: Any artists or songs you’ve been digging lately?
Cocoa Sarai: Lucky Daye, H.E.R., Tobe Nwigwe, Gallant, Smino. I know there are a ton more. I’m in album mode at the moment, so I don’t really listen to other people as much when I’m finishing up my projects. But there are so many amazing artists out there right now.
BTS: What’s next for Cocoa Sarai?
Cocoa Sarai: I’m going to be releasing an album soon. Collaborating with a bunch of friends. I just wrapped a reggae project. Some more visuals. I started a clothing line called “Strange Fame” — it’s up and running at strangefame.com right now. Live performances. I’m really just looking forward to getting to know my fanbase better and really looking forward to touring. At this point we understand that COVID is here to stay for a while. It’s unfortunate, but I’m gonna do my best to connect to the people right in their living rooms.
Stay up to date with Cocoa!