February 2023 | Volume 25

1.Hi Cocoa! Please introduce yourself to those who might not know you.
My name is Cocoa Sarai. I’m a Singer, Songwriter, Owner of Strange Fame Brand (Clothing brand) Recording engineer, Director and anything else that is required of me to bring my dreams into fruition especially being an indie artist. I’m a Brooklyn, New York, native living in LA and I love what I do. 

2. How did you get involved with Gritty In Pink? What does it feel like being part of building a community for women in music? 
I met Shira and the Gritty In Pink community at an event surrounding women’s reproductive rights. I performed there. My set was really intentional about the cause we were speaking on and I believe that intention impacted the audience in the way that it was meant to. Most of my music is catered towards women owning our bodies, owning our voices and my personal experiences as a black woman navigating the world. Once Shira and I connected, she explained what Gritty In Pink is about and it was history from there. This is a male dominated industry so It’s beautiful to see a space in music FOR women BY women! 

3.We always hear about the horror stories within the industry, when it comes to writing credits and writers not getting the credits they deserve. What advice do you have for up-coming songwriters who are trying to navigate through the industry? 
This is a layered question because there are so many ways to answer this, not enoughs laws in place to support the songwriters and an over all toxic climate that makes demanding change hard. Credit is one thing and being paid fairly is another. There are so many things that we all need to know, and I’m still learning about so much of it, even now. Sometimes writers have representation that can go in and be the bad guy for them.”Bad Guy” meaning the person that is going to go in and ruffle feathers by asking for what you deserve. Sometimes, the only person that can advocate for your contribution is you. So I would say I have receipts. Meaning, write down the dates you were at a session, write down the name of everybody in the room and keep it in a note. That information comes in handy later. Make the music that you love. Understand that every artist is different and approach it like that. You are an extremely important piece of the puzzle no matter how much the label and The Producer may want you to feel like you aren’t. Learn as much as you can about the business and ask as many questions as you can. There is plenty more, but we’d be here all day. Lol. Credit is important. If you did the work, then you deserve the credit. The credit may be the thing that gets you into other rooms so don't take it lightly. I still have situations where people haven’t credited me properly and I’m on top of fixing it. The project won an award. I can’t claim my own, without the proper accreditation. 

4. Who are songwriters you look up to? Is there a dream artist or writer you would like to work with?
James FauntLeroy,  Frank Ocean, Labrynth, Sza, Smino, Steve Lacy, Dua Selah, Doja Cat, Kendrick Lamar, Yebba Smith. There are more but I can’t think of them at the moment. This weeks playlist is vast lol 

5. Is there a song out there that you’ve heard and thought “I wish I wrote that song” and if so, which one(s)?  
Laura Mvula- “Show me love” it’s ART! 
Frank Ocean-“Bad Religion” It’s Angst 
Daniel Caesar - “We Find Love” It's Honest
There are way more, but again I can’t remember at the moment. I’m answering these questions on set.

6. You did for Authority Magazine back in 2018, where you spoke up on the challenges you’ve faced within the music industry due to colorism, especially as a dark skin black woman. Do you think the industry is taking necessary steps to address this issue? 
Speaking on this topic is uncomfortable for me. At this point, it feels like being who I am, doing what I’m doing, accomplishing the things that I’m accomplishing and living completely in my absolute truth is a testament in itself. I don’t really want the fight that comes along with this conversation anymore and although it is a privilege to stand as representation, it has also been exhausting!  I would tell people to go and watch “Coffee In The Morning” and if they like it, to tell 20 people they know to watch it also. That Music Video was intentional. I asked my beautiful BIPOC friends of every shade to be a part of it. My intention was for representation of every shade of us to be normalized!  Once it is normal for EVERYONE to see it in media and advertisement, then maybe just maybe colorism will no longer exist! I am recognizing more visibility for dark skin women in this industry and I LOVE THAT, but it is still very few. The Internet is starting to make it so that the gatekeepers at the labels are not making all of the decisions, more so than the consumers who now have direct access to their favorite artist. Which means if they know I exist, and they like it, they’ll come back. As long as I keep making the art, then we have a great relationship with each other. There are some changes though and I love that.

7. With all the strides you’ve made in the industry so far, what would you tell your 15-year-old self? 
I love you, thank you, you were always enough. You were always overqualified to be your best self. The same way that your relationship with pain will mold you, so will your relationship with progress. Imposter syndrome is a trap! Yes, you are aware of the areas you need to grow in, but also be aware of the areas that you are thriving in. Do your best not to make decisions on your worst days and remember that this is supposed to be fun. 

8. You’ve got the Grammy and the Emmy, you’re 2/4 of an EGOT. Can you see yourself writing songs for Broadway and the silver screen? 
I have actually written songs for the Silver screen and I would loveeee to do more. I am a humongous fan of Disney, so that would be one of my dream jobs lol or even to hear a voice like mine as a character. I would love to do Broadway as well. I’m looking forward to the rest of my life because I get to design it the way that I want. 

9.Have you written a song for another artist that you wish you would've kept for yourself? 
I used to feel that way about songs but not anymore. They are all a part of me, and they all get to live in different places. The songs I write for myself are personal and truthful. And I am happy with the ones that I’ve chosen to keep. I also just keep keep making more. 

10. You gave a taste of your new music at Gritty’s Holiday ALL GRL JAM back in December, when can we expect a new release from you?  
This year! 2023 I’m excited! I have some things coming and I’ll be announcing them in the spring!  I also have been collaborating a ton, so those will be coming out this year as well. One of those records is called “Only Me” with the band/group Undecided Future 2/10

11. Your song “Bigger Person” was a total banger at our Holiday Jam. What inspired you to write that?
It’s funny, because I actually was being the bigger person. A guy that I was dating lied to me about something and I found out on social media. I was so grateful that I’m not the type to be so public with my love life because the people that knew about it definitely hit me to let me know what was going on. I was hurt and a little embarrassed. He didn’t pick up the phone and I wanted to pull up on him but instead I wrote the song and cut him off for good anyway. So now the guy is gone, the hurt is gone, and the song lives on as an anthem for everyone that wishes they chose the petty Road even though choosing the highroad is the best thing to do. Sometimes you gotta curse a Mofo out lol

12. You are a very dynamic performer, who knows how to break the fourth wall and work a room! Who are your inspirations when it comes to performance style?
Thank you, Tina Turner is one of my absolute favorite performers of all time. Beyonce is incredible. Doja Cat is pretty dope also as well as Bruno Mars and Erykah Badu. This is another list that grows and changes as I evolve . I love Tyler The Creator’s live show. He’s incredible. It’s my intention to make sure that the audience is having an experience! Its just an honor to be the conduit for that while using my music as the soundtrack.

13. You’re clearly a fashionista, who are your biggest influences when it comes to your unique fashion styles?
I grew up, not really having money for the type of clothing that I wanted. So I learned how to do my hair, makeup and clothes in a way that people wouldn’t tease me for. It became more important once I started hitting the stage. When I look good, I feel good. When I feel good, it feels like no one can harm me. That feeling translates into me being able to come into the room and tell the audience what to do. I don't mean that in a pushy way. I mean that in a confident, “this is my living room and we're going to have a good time kinda way” People sing along and shift with me as they move from the stage to the bar or a chair in the middle of the audience. They are a part of the show. We’re in this together. I don’t know if I have an influence for my fashion style. I just wear what I like, I wear what makes me feel good. I dress according to my mood. Its like another form of expression. An extension of my art. I am just happy that it also resonates with the people listening to my music or seeing me perform on stage. That's a plus!

14. You were recently in Korea for a writing camp, what was it like going there and writing music? How different was it to write music there vs in the states, and did you find yourself pulling inspiration from the environment?
One of the main things I noticed working in Korea is that they treat the songwriters better than they do in the United States. They just make the environment a welcoming place to be as creative as you need to be. They do split sheets right at the end of each day so there’s no mixup with the percentages. Everyone has a warm spirit and it’s really fun music to make. The people I collaborated with were incredible. I pull inspiration from every environment, but what makes it into the records is the way that the environment made me feel. Korea was a little cold and damp when I went but the people were warm and loving so the music followed the latter. 

15. Outside of music, do you have any other industries you want to venture off into?
I actually have a clothing line “Strange Fame” . It started off as a Merch line to support the record once it dropped. “Strange Fame” is a song about police brutality. My little brother was also assaulted by the cops. A few days after George Floy. The video went viral, which was very triggering, but he’s fine now thank God. The merch that came with that release started doing well. I expanded to a store and now it’s a thriving business. I had no idea this would happen but I went with it and now I’m excited about expanding even more. I also love love love acting and I’m learning to play guitar. So we'll see where cultivating those skills take me.

16. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I'd love to be in movies and television. I’d prolly have a little one running around and I'd be working with children in some capacity. I was a teacher for 10 years and it was one of the highlights of life. Seeing a child go from too shy to speak to singing on a stage in 6 weeks just  reminds me of how and why I got started. I want to continue to pay that forward in some way. Cultivating a talent builds self esteem in children and I really like that because that is what it did for me.

17. What’s one thing you want people to remember you for? 
The way that I or my music made them feel. Art is supposed to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable so I just want people to feel things. I want them to feel like they aren’t alone and to feel like they can achieve the things they want for themselves as well. I want them to remember the hard days that I speak about. I don’t want the work to be all fluff. The human experience binds us if nothing else. 

18. Any final thoughts?
Thank you for having me. 2023 can be what you make it so make it the type of year you want to look back on and smile. 

Musically Yours, 
Cocoa Sarai
For More Cocoa Sarai