It's been a minute, but time doesn't effect true
talent when it's genuine and well-preserved. Both
are factors where New York City-bred Coko Gamble is
concerned. You know her when you hear her. Almost
as soon as we started thinking, "Where's Coko?," her
hazy and lush single, "Sunshine," hit the airwaves.
After confirming well-circulated rumors, it came as
no surprise that it was a solo single, making way for
her current debut LP, Hot Coko. With six gold
and platinum singles, multiple awards and nine Top 10
singles behind her, sweet-voiced Coko commenced to
working on her exciting LP, with the likes of
hit-making producer Rodney Jerkins, labelmate Tyrese,
long-time collaborator Brian Morgan and red-hot
raptress Eve contributing to Hot Coko, it was
clear to all involved that she was well on her way to
the next level of her career.
Without making a splashy or over-documented departure
from the hit-making trio, Coko went low-profile and
commenced to working on the project she'd waited
years to embark on. But we wanted to backtrack, and
hear how everything, from the silent break-up to the
new music, went down. Coko proved to be quite
BLACK BEAT: So, tell me what the best part of
embarking on solo project was. Then I wanna hear
what the unnerving part was too, the part that didn't
COKO: The best part was freedom. I had a lot of
freedom on this album; I was able to just do what I
wanted to. That's the best part, just being able to
do whatever it is that you want to do without hearing
who doesn't want to do this or that. But I was
nervous because I didn't know how everybody was going
to receive it. And then I was hearing, "She went
solo? She can't do it all by herself." I heard
little stuff like that. That made me very nervous,
so I went into the studio like, "Okay, I gotta do
So you just went in there and knocked it out.
Right (she chuckles).
Most singers who leave a group and go solo usually
make a clean break from the sound, management,
producers, and everythig having to do with the group.
What made you bring Brain Morgan (producer of a
handful of SWV hits) along for your solo project?
Brian and I just have that special chemistry. And, I
don't care, he always seems to come through with
those ballads. Nobody else can give me ballads like
him. He was going to be down anyway. He did "Rain"
for us. So he's always going to be there.
What was the deciding factor in dissolving
I just couldn't take it anymore. We weren't getting
along, and it was just really crazy. The situation
was an unhappy situation that I didn't want to be in
anymore. RCA had already given me a solo deal. So,
originally, I was going to do the solo project, and
then come back to SWV and do my thing, But things
blew up. So I left, and that was it for me.
Groups do break up, so I guess we all get used to
Yeah, it's not something new to everybody.
In my opinion, Hot Coko is definitely
different, but not a drastic break from the SWV
sound. had you planned things that way?
Well, I mean, you have to understand that I was the
lead vocalist, which I performned a lot of the
backgrounds. So the sound can't be that much
different, you know. My voice is still the same.
That's why the core of the sound is still there.
How long had you been working on Hot
It took me six months to record this project. That's
not bad, considering the fact that we stopped
recording for a little while, and then started again.
So it wasn't like six months straight.
Did you have to wait for Rodney Jerkins'
availability? I know he's the most in-demand
producer right now.
At first we did. But once we got him, it was cool.
We just went straight into getting these songs done.
Did you do it all here, at home, on the east
No, actually I did some here, and then I was in Los
Angeles for like a month. Rodney had me come out
there, even though he originally wanted me to go out
to Florida. But then the location switched to L.A.
Was there anything different, as far as
inspiration, about recording out there for you?
I think he was working with Michael Jackson, so he
needed both of us out there, so he could go from one
studio to the next. If I really wanted to go do it
in New York, things would have been to hard for him.
But it was cool; I wasn't complaining (she laughs).
Did you take your son with you?
No, because they told me I was only going to be out
there for like two weeks, and it ended up being a
month. I was like, "I gotta go home." We were
supposed to do one more song with Rodney, but I was
like, "I gotta go."
Tell me about the songwriting process for Hot
Coko. Were you ever preoccupied with not letting
too much of yourself into a song, or was it steady
Well, with me, Rodney just has those tracks that make
you feel a certain way. Like with "Sunshine," when
he played te track for me, sunshine is what popped
into my head. I just started singing the hook. So
we wrote the chorus down, and we sat down with his
brother Fred and partner LaShawn, and just started
vibing. All of the songs he produced, we wrote
pretty quickly because, to me, when I listened to the
track that he gave me, I just felt them. "All My
Lovin'" made me feel like "ahhh" when I first heard
the music. It was cool, even though sometimes it can
be hard, and you're like, "What am I going to write
about?" But that doesn't happen with Rodney. When
he was like 15 or 16, he did some stuff for the
second SWV album that wasn't included on the album.
It was a thing about "nobody knows who he is," and I
kept telling them that he was going to be hot. And
he has just blown up. Now everybody's trying to get
What was it like recording "If This World Were
Mine" with Tyrese?
That was really cool. I've done duets with Aaron
hall, Johnny Gill, Jon B, Tyrese, and Tevin Campbell.
The one with Johnny Gill was recorded without us
being in the studio together. Same thing with the
Aaron Hall duet. That way makes things kinda hard.
So with Tyrese, I was like, "He just has to be
there." I wanted us in the booth together, with his
mic over there, and my mic over here. The vibe was
awesome, with us feeling it and bouncing off of each
other. A lot of stuff didn't even make the final
cut. We were just jammin' (she laughs). He was
nervous at first, but I said, "C'mon, let's do this."
Working with Tevin was a nice experience, becuase
I've been watching him ever since he was a kid. He
was funny, and still has an amazing voice. He just
stands there and sings.
So what's the plan as far as establishing Coko,
the solo artist?
Right now, we're just promoting the album. I want to
do a nice tour; I want to go all over. I'd
eventually like to get into some acting. It' not
really important to me yet, but I wouldn't mind
trying. My thing is starting my gospel label.
That's what I really want to do, because I sing with
these two girls. But we do gospel, though. And they
only sing gospel. So that's what I'm trying to get
into. So I don't know is I'm going to keep singing
R&B, or if I'm going to go straight into gospel.
So wait a minute. You left a group, and joined
Well, the thing with a group is that we all have to
be on one accord. Nobody can think they're better
than the other, or get attitudes because this or that
one is singing leads. In the end, we all have to
step up and play our part. I feel like as long as we
can understand that, and the unity is there, we can
succeed and do it. The girls that I sing with, I've
been firends with them for years. They sing just as
well as I do, so it's not like I'll be the only lead
singer. They all sing.
What brings you to the point of R&B, though?
'Cause I miss singing gospel. I grew up in church,
and lately, I've been back in the church. I try to
go on Sundays, and sometimes on Tuesday nights. I
wanna be saved.
Well, the gospel industry is steadily growing.
It's not like the old days, when R&B listeners never
really had exposure to R&B acts.
That's right. You can just make that transition and
maintain, while reaching the people with more
Ever since the last SWV project died down, you got
yourself involved in a couple of projects, guest
appearances and the play, Mr. Do Right.
Oh yeah. That was just a guest appearance.
I certainly didn't see you around a lot while you
were working on this album. You keep a pretty low
profile when you're not working. Are you able to
blend in and walk the streets without being followed
I don't go out that much. I stayed in the house.
When I was working on the album in the studio, I'd
finish my work and go home. I didn't do any of the
Do you have that regular life thing going on?
Would I ring your door bell and catch Coko with her
cleaning gloves on?
Nah, I just stayed in Jersey, and didn't come across
the bridge unless I had to. My label would call me,
telling me that such and sich is going on, and I just
wouldn't go out.
Well, it's a good thing that you're no hooked on
all of this. Some people get carried away with it
That's right. I still don't go out, even though I
finished the album. People here at my record company
know that Coko likes to go to bed early. Most times
I have to see how I feel before I even think about
going out to parties.