Sherrie Mitchell from our sister site Elev8 had the pleasure of doing an exclusive interview with Cheryl “Coko” Clemons fromerly of the group SWV.
She is now releasing her Gospel album “The Winner In Me”. The lead single, “Wait,” which is in rotation at radio stations across the nation, beautifully showcases Coko’s signature soprano voice, and artfully encourages the faithful to trust in the Lord’s timing. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the song was written by Coko’s own pastor. Largely a collaborative effort, “The Winner In Me” conveys the down to earth, soulful style for which Coko has come to be known. I can attest that the lady reflects the artist. In the few moments we had, Coko patiently and candidly answered my questions, revealing the heart of a woman who has her priorities firmly in order. Below are her thoughts on marriage, motherhood, career, and the Church in her own words.
Elev8: It was reported in XXL magazine that you decided that SWV would no longer sing sexually explicit songs such as Downtown and Can We? What prompted that change?
Coko: Well, I’m a wife and a mother now. I’m all grown up – not a teenager anymore. I have to be more conservative. I want to be my children’s role model. I want them to be able to look up to me. Back then we were just singing nonsense. We didn’t really think about it. Now, I want to think about what I’m singing. I want to mean it.
Elev8: How was your decision received?
Coko: Oh, very well! We were all in agreement. Sometimes when we’re singing [on stage], somebody will yell out “Downtown!” But we just explain that we don’t sing that anymore. Once people hear more songs they’re usually O.K. As long as they hear “Weak,” they’re alright. SWV back in the day
Elev8: Just as your sophomore project as a secular solo artist was about to launch in 2001, RCA closed its black music division. How did that affect you spiritually? How did you rebound?
Coko: Well at first they wanted to assign me to another label, but I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to be sent somewhere. So I just stopped for a minute. I just took some time and got to spend time with myself and to know me and got deeply involved in my church. And I think that was the best thing for me because I’ve arrived at the place that I am now. I’m much better spiritually and I’m a much better person.
Elev8: So overall it was a good thing?
Coko: Yes, very much so.
Elev8: You began your career in Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir, then formed SWV, Solo secular artist, and now a gospel artist – is that a path you would recommend for someone starting out in Gospel Music?
Coko: I don’t recommend anything for anybody. I want you to do what your heart tells you to do. I don’t like to tell people what they should do. I think you should follow your heart.
Elev8: What are your immediate music career goals in the next one to three years?
Coko: I plan to continue…to keep singing. But I would love to get my own label. There [are] a lot of great talents out here that I would like to…put out. So that’s really what my focus is. My mom she wants to record, so I’m trying to record her as well.
Elev8: Does that play into your long term career goals?
Coko: Yeah. I would like to be…maybe like a female “Diddy” but…more positive.
Elev8: You’ve mentioned that you are wife, mother, and obviously you have a career. How do you manage to successfully combine those roles?
Coko: It could be hard. But I make sure everybody knows that my family comes first. I will work, but I have to set time aside for my children so I can do my mommy-thing with them, make sure I’m there for…their ball games or whatever, just so that we get to spend time. My husband also travels. He plays with Israel and New Breed. So we have to make sure that we have time when we all come together as a family because I need my children to know family.