Cheryl Clemmons, better known as Coko from famed 90’s group Sisters With Voices (SWV), didn’t grow up wanting to be a singer. Sure she was more than gifted when it came to the vocals, but that wasn’t her desire. No Coko had other plans for her life.
[quote]“I wanted to be a hair stylist,” she shared with a broad smile. “That’s what I wanted to do. I did love to sing, but I never thought I would be famous because of it. Even when we started going into the studio I didn’t think we were going to do as well as we did. I just didn’t expect for that to happen.”[/quote]
But it did happen. Their 1992 RCA debut, “It’s About Time” scored the trio a string of top ten R&B hits such as “I’m So Into You,” “Right Here,” “Downtown,” “Weak,” and “Your Always On My Mind”; establishing the singers as musical powerhouses. Teddy Riley helped the group further craft their sound with the remix to the hit “Right Here” that featured samples of Michael Jackson’s hit “Human Nature”, which went #1 on the R&B charts and #2 on the POP charts.
“I remember the first time we heard our song on the radio,” recalls Clemmons. “We were in L.A. in a limo and it came on and we went crazy, screaming and carrying on. We were so excited.”
SWV earned 11 Billboard Music Award nominations for their debut album. “It’s About Time” was followed up with “New Beginning” which reached platinum status and in 1997 their third album “Release Some Tension” spawned several top ten hits.
Then like so many groups before and after them, relationships went sour and SWV disbanded.
Savvy: SWV was one of the best R&B groups of all time. What happen?
Coko: We didn’t like each other anymore. I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me. We just kind of grew apart. We didn’t maintain our friendship when we broke up. It had actually been eight years since we had spoken with one another when we decided to come back together and re-unit. So when I say we didn’t like each, we really didn’t like each other.
Savvy: With so much talk about reality shows, a reunion album, and we even seen you guys perform together, do you ladies like each other now?
Coko: Yeah, we like each other now. I guess everyone has grown up. We were only 19 when we started recording and traveling. We were young…fresh from the hood. We didn’t have a lot of experience nor the proper guidance around us either. We had a manager that would play us against each other rather than try and keep us together. She was tearing us apart, so that played a big role in us not getting along.
Savvy: Did you all not get along because you lead all the songs?
Coko: We did face those issues, but the label knew from the start who they wanted to be the lead singer. I was the strongest vocalist out of the group, but that did play an issue because people started getting in our ear.
Savvy: After the group disbanded, you released a solo R&B project entitled “Hot Coko” and then two Gospel albums—“Grateful” and “The Winner In Me”. You are currently touring and performing with SWV, as well as still singing Gospel. Have you gotten any backlash from the Gospel industry about doing both?
Coko: Yeah, a lot of people were talking and had a lot to say, but I’m the type of person who is always going to do what I want to do and what they were saying didn’t really matter to me.
Savvy: A lot of artists have turned to reality shows to revive or boost their careers and there’s been talk about a SWV reality show. Would you ever do a reality show?
Coko: I would do a reality show, but I wouldn’t want it to be ghetto, with all that fighting and carrying on. I’m a mother and I have school age children, so I have to keep things proper.
Savvy: Why do you think that people still love SWV and your music?
Coko: People love the music that SWV made because our music is timeless. We did our music back in the 90’s but you can listen to it now and it still sounds current and it’s feel good music. When you hear it you just think about where you were when that song came out. When we go out now and do shows it’s a packed house and people are loving it like it just came out yesterday.
Savvy: Have you seen a change in your fan base? Are they getting younger?
Coko: Yes and it’s weird. We just did a show and I looked into the audience and I saw these babies, and I was thinking to myself “what are they doing here?”. But they were signing the songs and dance, so I was like ok! That surprises us all the time. They come up to us and say they are our biggest fans and I’m just wondering how they even know about SWV.
Savvy: You have two boys, what do they think about their mom being a celebrity?
Coko: My 15 year old is a typical teen so he’s like “whatever.” But my youngest is seven and he loves it.
Savvy: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into the music industry?
Coko: Times have changed. It’s not as easy to get into the industry, as it was when SWV started. You have to stay focused and make sure this is really what you want to do.