Already in the top 20 on the Hot R&B Singles & Tracks chart with the noncommercial cut "Sunshine", Cheryl "Coko" Gamble former member of popular trio SWV - sounds like she’ll have no problem becoming a formidable talent in her own right. The artist stretches her wings on her first solo effort, co-writing several tracks and working with a host of producers, including the ubiquitous Rodney Jerkins (who produced "Sunshine"). The self-proclaimed R&B singer stays true to her roots. [3/4]
By: Jessica Marshall
The woman whose voice carried the R&B trio SWV to the heights of success has released her first solo album, "Hot Coko." Her real name, Cheryl Gamble, may lack the sassiness of her stage name, but Coko lacks nothing in stage presence or personal style.
It's her vocal strength that gave her the extra lift she needed to embark on the journey tobecome a solo artist (she sang in a church choir as a child), not to mention collaborating with Rodney Jerkins (Whitney Houston, Brandy), the producer who's destined to become the next Babyface. From the beginning to the end of this disc, Coko's focus is to express that she can hold her own.
The first single, "Sunshine," is a happy, upbeat song that represents where Coko is in her life and career. Most of the songs (she co-wrote seven of them) offer an emotional element that's sometimes void in popular mainstream music.
From slower tracks such as "All My Lovin'" and "If This World Were Mine" (a duet with Tyrese) to club-ready hits such as "Don't Take Your Love Away" and "I Ain't Feelin' You," Coko's debut album is proof that she has moved on and is ready for what the future has in store. And with a great disc like this under her belt, she shouldn't have any problems. [3.5/5]
In spite of the remission of those animated Spice chicks from the U.K., Girl Power hasn't totally faded. Thanks to TLC's war on scrubs, Whitney Houston's reminder that what's not right can still be okay, Cher's revolutionarily brilliant life after love concept and Missy Elliott's bold embrace of the "B" word, the power of the femme fatale lives on. Now former SWV siren Coko adds her two-cents with her solo release Hot Coko. (MCA).
Sisters in name only, Lelee (Leanne Lyons), Taj (Tamara Johnson) and Coko (Cheryl Gamble) just couldn't get along. While Coko's back-ups opted for other financial avenues, Coko remained in the comfort of the studio. Sticking to the recipe that fostered repeat success for the group in the past, Hot Coko is packed with stellar tracks and love-laced lyrics that will make listeners reflect on their own personal situations.
Coko delivers dance inspirations like "Don't Take Your Love Away"--a conceptually self-explanatory joint spiced up with an ill guitar loop--and "Triflin,'" another potential soul sistah anthem (reminiscent of Destiny Child's "Bills...") dissin' those brothers who just won't act right. Eve of the Ruff Ryders Camp lends her raw Philly-vocal stylings, adding that hip hop edge to the potential club favorite. Rodney Jerkins meshes jazz with hip hop and forms "Sunshine," a sweet dedication to Coko's son Jazz. She also enlists the skills of producer Brian Alexander Morgan (SWV's "Weak" and "Rain") for "Bigger Than We," a groovy string-laden ballad reminding couples of what's really important when you're in love.
Proving that she can do it all by herself, Coko provides all lead and background vocals, co-wrote much of the album and in the process created a product very much in line with her past efforts. Sunshine indeed.
The Source (9/99, p.324)
"...decidedly less hip-hop but no less intense....[shows] off Coko's full vocal range....HOT COKO offers steamy cups of sexy theme music for those romantic ghetto nights."
Vibe (10/99, pp.177-8)
"...Coko's multidimensional performance is the element that ties the album's varied selections together....A voice that not only transcends its group-member roots...but one that sets an impressive new standard for all young women in R&B to meet."
Rap Pages (12/99, p.154)
"...offers several irresistibly banging tracks courtesy of some of the very same hit-making producers that helped SWV create so many of our favorites years ago....the collection is strong...[proving] that she can do it all by herself." - [Rating: C+]