Photography and interview by Christopher Brown
We had a talk with with Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Cocoa Sarai about her latest single “Strange Fame”, how do you stay positive during the ups and downs of 2020 and showing another side of her.
Who is Cocoa Sarai?
Cocoa Sarai is art reflecting life. I am a singer, a storyteller, an alchemist, a bleeding heart – some days I’m a superhero and other days I’m a child. Every day I’m honest. I create art that inspires people to empower themselves… Boom! And add some glitter (laughs)
Your latest single “Strange Fame” deals with a very sensitive, important topic. How did you prepare yourself to dive into such an emotionally-taxing project?
I don’t think that there is a way to be prepared. I literally didn’t wanna write this song. The words poured out of me from a place that exists inside myself by no fault of my own. What I did was be honest, what I did was use my heart. I don’t think any of us – cast or crew – were prepared for it emotionally. We just knew it had to be done and that it had to be done in a way that gave some hope. My little brother was assaulted by the cops the day that I wrote this song. It was a few days after George Floyd’s murder. The people in my video were friends who had already been out protesting. Turning pain into power still hurts. So, it’s not something I wanted to do, but definitely something I felt like I had to do. That’s the reason I started StrangeFame.com. I am in no position to tell anyone what they should do. Everyone’s personal activism looks different. The site offers the opportunity to sign petitions, donate, or write to your local government about issues that concern you. You can also grab some merch while you’re there.
“My motto? “Earn Yo Sleep.” It just means to make the most of each day, to go for what you want in life, and knock out your goals by working toward them every day.”
Your next single is “No Apologies.” What excites you about this track? How do you hope your fans feel when they hear it?
It’s fun! My last two singles were very serious and highlighted important topics that need to be discussed. It is emotionally taxing to have to tap into both of those places so often. I understand that this is the job of an artist, but “No Apologies” allows me to show another side: a sexy side, a sassy side, a fun side. It’s in the tempo – a funky dance track. Women don’t have to be one thing. Men are never asked to be one thing. It makes no sense that a creature that is designed to carry one or more lives inside of it is asked to be one thing. Women are not just one thing and we’re not apologizing for it. Own your power, own your voice, own your sexuality, own your business. This is not a war against men! It’s just a voice for women.
What inspired you to make the move to LA?
I was on a TV show called The Four on Fox. It was hosted by Meghan Trainor, Fergie, Diddy, DJ Khaled, and Charlie Walk. When I got off the show, I decided to stay in LA for a weekend and ended up in the studio with Dr. Dre. Thanks to Focus… – who is also the producer of my new single “No Apologies” – we ended up working for two weeks. Then I went back home, packed my things, and moved to LA. I’ve always wanted to live here. New York City raised me. The culture in Brooklyn is like no other! I was able to shape my sound in Brooklyn and I’ve been blessed to be able to sharpen it over at Aftermath, working with Dr Dre, and it has taken me around the world. Who would’ve thought that a little black girl from Brooklyn would win a Grammy? Shoutout to Anderson Paak. There’s a motto that I created 10 years ago: “Earn Yo Sleep.” It just means to make the most of each day, to go for what you want in life, and knock out your goals by working toward them every day. And I still use that motto in every part of my life.
How do you stay positive during the ups and downs of 2020?
Prayer, working out, crying, making music at home, performing online, talking about things that bother me. Mourning the people I’ve lost to COVID-19. Laughing really hard and smiling when it feels good. Planning for 2021 – hope is a healer. Building my team and focusing on the things that I can change.
And how you plan to make the most of the remainder of this crazy year?
Well, I started a clothing line and I’m really excited about diving into that. Diving back into acting! The album is almost finished and will release at the top of next year. Collaborating with a bunch of dope creatives, releasing some more music. There is a reggae album in the works. Telling the people closest to me that I love them as often as I can. And getting to know my supporters a little better. There are a few other great things that I can’t talk about just yet, but that I’m looking forward to sharing very soon.