Hi Cocoa, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been doing better every day. COVID pulled up on the earth and added to 2020 being a movie of a year so far lol. But thank you for having me.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Strange Fame”?
Well, “Strange Fame” is more of a call to action than an angry protest song. I believe that there is space for that, but that’s just not what this one is. I’ve gone through so many emotions. I’ve felt helpless, angry, hopeful, emotionally exhausted, scared, and then some. It’s strange to be famous for being murdered.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I don’t know if “inspire” is the word that I would use, but George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and every other name that makes the list of black and brown people who have been assaulted or killed at the hands of law enforcement. The emotions surrounding all of these stories will pull the words out of you — drag them right out of your soul.
Was this song always meant to deal with police brutality or it rather evolve into this?
This song evolved into this. I didn’t decide to write a song about police brutality. This has always been a part of my life, unfortunately. I’m from Brooklyn, NY and where I grew up in Bed-Stuy and Brownsville, we saw this daily. It was frowned upon to call the cops unless someone died because you knew that if they came, they might kill you. Calling the cops growing up was equivalent to a possible death sentence or being beat up.
Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?
The music video is out righttttt nowww J It drops on Friday at noon PST/3pm EST. I co-directed it with Kai Martinez and Q The Rebel. It was emotional to come up with that concept and even more so to execute because my brother was locked up at the time. Those are real tears in the video.
How was the recording and writing process?
I hate that I had to write this song. I didn’t want to write this song. I engineer myself so I technically didn’t write this song. The song wrote itself. The words and the tears just poured out of me. I was feeling angry for a week. I spoke often on my socials, in my stories, about feeling lost and hopeless during that time. The day I recorded “Strange Fame,” I originally sat down to write a hook for someone else, but the entire song just poured out. I wrote the hook last. The verses came first. It’s strange to be famous for dying. After I recorded the song — and I mean as soon as I closed my laptop and sent it off to the producers — I opened Facebook on my phone and saw that someone had gone live an hour earlier. It was a video of my little brother handcuffed on the ground, face bloody, with about seven officers on him and everyone screaming. I watched that video for over three minutes, terrified, just praying to God he was alive at the end. I couldn’t breathe. My friend HitmakerChinx was at the house when this happened. He helped with one of the lines in the song. He didn’t understand what was happening. He thought I was just watching another video of the cops killing someone, so he tried to snatch the phone away. I couldn’t even get out of my mouth that the person I was watching was my little brother until the end.
Was it easy for you to become this personal and touch upon some of these themes?
Yeah, my little brother was harassed by the cops on many occasions. His friends were as well. Thank God he’s alive and well today. Thank God he isn’t a hashtag, thank God he can walk. I’m still angry thinking about it. I feel triggered talking about. It only happened two months ago. He’s still healing. It’s still an issue that Breonna Taylor’s killers are free, but what’s worse is that this is nothing new. So we have to keep fighting.
What role does NYC play in your music?
A huge role. Growing up in NY gives you tough skin. I’m Jamaican, so between the different cultures, the people, the art, and the not-so-good things, it kind of does mold you a bit. It added to the way that I do music. I used to be the only singer in the cypher but started rapping more once I started working with Dr. Dre. I grew up in church, so singing gospel started for me at two years old. I started singing in the jazz ensemble in 9th grade and R&B, soul music, and reggae were constant in my household growing up. Gotta love NY.
Do you tend to take a different approach when collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?
Yes, it depends on the energy of the room. When I’m working with someone else, my only mission is to add to the record in a positive way. NO EGO. Ego kills creativity. Dre says that all the time and it’s true. Sometimes the artist, writer, or producer has ideas and it’s about going with the best one for the song. When I’m working on my own, if I’m alone, I’ll just get on the mic and see where my heart wants to go. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea of what I want to talk about or a melody. I just allow myself to flow. That’s where the best music comes from.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?
Yes, tons of new stuff. I have a reggae EP dropping in a few weeks and another single later this year. I’m excited to share all of these different sides of my creativity and personality.
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
Hmm, well, I can say September and November will be busy months lol.
Any plans to hit the road?
I wish! Lol COVID-19 stole the crowd. It’s the star of the show for now, but digital performances will be happening in the meantime.
What else is happening next in Cocoa Sarai’s world?
More honesty, more music, more visuals, and more love. That’s what we need more than anything right now. All of us!