Vixen Chat: Cocoa Sarai Talks "Raining In My Room," Pop-Soul + Beauty Regimen
Faced with caring for a terminally ill mother and being the caregiver of three young siblings, Cocoa Sarai still has no choice but to continue chasing her dream to be center stage. The Bed-Stuy born pop-soul singer/songwriter has the drive of a luxury car and shows no sign of slowing up, but instead flips life's adversity the bird. And as for that blossoming career? She's ready for whatever's in store. With several accomplishments under her belt, including touring with the renowned Harlem Gospel Choir and penning tracks for industry peeps, this soulful songstress is on the brink of releasing a new EP. First up? A new single titled "Raining In My Room." Over heavy beats and a soft melody, she touches on a topic all Vixens can relate to: Love and devastating heartbreak. More importantly, we tapped this cocoa miss about her affinity for heels and dramatic makeup.
Check out the interview and the exclusive download below...
How did you come up with your stage name?
My family in my neighborhood in Bed-Sty called me Chocolate because of my mom; she used to call me Chocolate. When I turned 16 years old, I got the name Cocoa Sarai. My real name is Teamarie but Terria Marie came out, and it’s too close to my name. My middle name is Sarai which is Hebrew, so I called my mom like 'What about Sarai,' and she goes 'How about Cocoa Sarai?' I’m like 'No,' but the people from the label put my name as Cocoa Sarai without my consent and that’s been my name ever since. Now I love it [because] it’s a representation of my heritage.
Which love came first for you: The singing or the songwriting?
Definitely the singing I started singing at three years old. I come from a family of musicians, singers and songwriters. My family came together as a band and a choir, and we use to travel and sing.
So it’s literally in your blood?
My aunt Lucy would tell me, 'Sing this' and play different notes on the piano for me to sing it. She would try different types of scales and if I couldn’t sing it back to her, she would say, 'You’re going to need a little more work.' From a really young age I was able to hear the note and sing it back. I always had a good ear for pitch.
If you had to pick between singing and songwriting, which would you choose?
That’s like asking do you want your legs or your arms. It’s a huge part of me. I started singing at three years old and started writing poetry at 11. I wrote my first songs at 13. My uncle Garvey use to work at Rocafella Records in the promotional department, and he would say to me: 'The road is no place for a girl.' I didn’t get what he meant, but there was a lot of wild and crazy things that goes on tour. He gave me a CD and said, 'Write a song,” and when he came back, I had two full songs, a hook, chorus, bridge and everything. At the time I didn’t know singers didn’t write their own songs. I thought that if you wanted to sing it, you had to write it. I didn’t know until a few years ago that singers didn’t write their own songs, when I was writing songs for other artists in the industry that’s when I found out.
So you could never split them up?
I split it up now when I’m in a writing session. I’ll probably have to reference the song, I still have to sing it and write the melody. The biggest thing about songwriters is there’s a million people who can write words but can’t write a melody and when you can’t write a melody it’s not as strong as the words because anybody can write words to a melody. It’s actually a big big thing. You can have great words, but if the melody sucks, it’s not going to work.
Who in the business would you love to write a song for you?
Quite a few. James Fauntleroy, Bryan Michael Cox, Tank, and I’m actually a T-Pain fan. I love his melodies; that man is a genius writer. I think he would be fun to work with. I would want to write with Ne-Yo, too. I want to watch him write and see what he does. I want to understand him and same things with The Dream. Also Ester Dean. She seems like she would be fun, and she’s as edgy as I am. I feel she pushes the limits a bit.
Tell me about the "Raining In My Room" record?
Last year my old manager got a beat CD from somebody, and he was playing it in the car. And when he played that beat, it was raining coming from a meeting in Jersey, and I was going through a really bad break up. I was just really messed up, and I was in a really bad state but I was still working. We’re on my way to my house, and I’m telling [my manager] about my ex-boyfriend. The beat comes on and I just went crazy and kept getting lost in the music. By the third time, I had a hook. I started freestyling and words came out and that was it. I thought about my ex-boyfriend at the time and just wrote. At that time, I wanted us to get back together and I was in this big ass loft by myself and it was just a really easy process.
That track seems very raw, girls can relate to that. Now, explain the pop soul sound to me.
Pop music is simply popular music, they consider Alicia Keys a pop singer not a soul singer, so because of that that’s important me. Why ask for peanuts when I can have steak? I want it all, I can still do what I love and be one of the biggest artists in the world, and that’s what I want. I don’t want to be stuck in the underground. I don’t want to be anyone’s Girl Next Door and never gets past the next door. All she gets is performing at the local community centers. I do that and I will always do that, but I want to be at the community center in Madrid, I want to be at the community center in Guam. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it everywhere. And people don’t speak English everywhere but they can feel my music and that’s where the soul comes in, the soul is where you can feel it. The pop is only because I want to be popular and that’s pop soul. Black and White people both love it and I want everybody to love it.
What's your beauty and style regimen?
I am a dark-skinned woman, and I love every ounce of my skin. I very understand that this industry is not very accepting of this kind of woman. I’ve been told, 'Cocoa, you need to be barefoot with a frock,' but that’s not me. I love my pumps like Beyoncé, I love my big hair just like Diana Ross and you’re going to let me do what I do because I can sing. And as long as it looks good, you can’t be mad at me. I love the glam, I love everything that is shiny, I love rhinestone, I love eyelashes and I love colorful makeup.
I love being feminine and still being strong; I love being sexy and not necessarily having all my boobs and butt hanging out. My legs are almost always being shown at my shows because I love having my legs being out. Which is opposite of how I felt as a little girl. I hated how big my thighs were, but now I love them. I embrace them it’s apart of my culture.
I have to have Ambi Skin Care & Even daily moisturizer, I freaking love it because I wear makeup regularly for shows, and I want my skin to be clear. My other beauty regiment is my Hot Six Oil. It’s good for your cuticles, it’s good for your skin, it’s good to put in your bath water and good for your hair. What it also does is it keeps my skin moisturized in the winter so I don’t have eczema breakouts. Oh, and Aveda Control Paste. It’s an all-natural product, and it does really great with my hair. And my Vida Glam lipgloss from MAC. It’s a neutral color, and I just love nude lips.
Do you think you're the fine line between what Rihanna and Beyoncé are portraying? Classy, yet sexy and uninhibited?
I feel I’m going to be in a completely different lane on my own. I’m not nearly as scantily clad as Rihanna who is very open about her sexuality which I love about her. Beyonce on the other hand is very sexy but in another way and her classiness. I will have a little from everybody. I hear it all the time that I remind people of Mary J. Blige because I talk about real topics and burning people’s houses down. That’s how I felt, but it isn’t who I am. It’s a balance of everyday women. I’m going to talk about having to wear all the hats and still be able to act sexy and still get up on stage and act like nothing is wrong. I’m going to talk about the days I feel weak. I could talk about how I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel pretty, and that’s just how I felt and sometimes we just feel that way. Real women can affiliate with that feeling. Everybody feels Beyoncé doesn’t have a bad day, but she will be the first to admit that she does. Everybody feels that Rihanna doesn’t have bad days, but I’m sure there’s a point where she wakes up like, 'I would love if someone would love me and not want something from me.' Everybody has their thing and mine is just being honest and being myself