‘Earn yo sleep’: How Cocoa Sarai is living up to her motto

July 20, 2023 | By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

Growing up in Brooklyn, Cocoa Sarai split her time between her mother’s and grandmother’s homes. Both were filled with music, she says, and from an early age, writing poetry was her chosen outlet.

At 11, an uncle who worked for a record company gave Sarai a CD, encouraging her to write words to accompany the beats. She was hooked. “I didn’t have the best childhood, but I had music, I had words, and everywhere was a stage,” Sarai says.

Today the singer-songwriter makes music that meshes R&B, hip-hop, reggae, jazz, funk and soul. She’s collaborated with the likes of Dr. Dre, Nas and Anderson .Paak. (She performed on .Paak’s album “Ventura,” which won the 2020 Grammy for Best R&B Album.)

With fans from the U.S. to Brazil to South Africa, Sarai is now eager to tap into new technologies to deepen connections with her listeners who span the globe. She’s part of the Mastercard Artist Accelerator, a program that teaches independent artists to use the community-building power of blockchain, Web3 and the metaverse.

One of five emerging artists sharing their musical journey with their fans, Sarai is learning to use blockchain and digital assets to build her brand while experimenting with generative AI-powered music-making through tools such as a WarpSound.

In fact, she used the tool when she collaborated with longtime friend and legendary producer Dem Jointz to work on her new single, “Concrete Rose,” which will be released as an NFT exclusively through the Artist Accelerator program and as part of a livestreamed showcase  next week. “I was able to pick the BPM [beats per minute] and style that I wanted in the WarpSound AI tool,” she recalls, “and then we took a few pieces from it and created something of our own.”

“Music doesn’t come from me. It flows through me. So I’d like to think that I show up and it shows up.”
Cocoa Sarai

The landscape is changing, Sarai says, “and the Mastercard program is in favor of the artist, giving us the tools and access to the knowledge we need in order to navigate this new world.”

Technological tools have helped Sarai throughout her endeavors. She uses her phone to keep a running list of song ideas on her phone, noting concepts she’s interested in, words, a poem, dreams she’s had. She also explores her voice and plays with sound using her home music studio equipment. “Music doesn’t come from me,” she says. “It flows through me. So I’d like to think that I show up and it shows up.”

Sarai is also on a mission to inspire others to empower themselves. Her motto, “Earn Yo Sleep” — meaning do something every day to get closer to accomplishing your goal — is what helped her bounce back from vocal cord surgery. It’s the attitude she emphasizes when teaching children musical theater and voice.

And the concept of personal empowerment is woven into her clothing line, Strange Fame, named for the 2020 single she wrote in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and an attack by police on her brother during the protests that followed. The brand includes tops emblazoned with the words “A Billion Black Billionaires,” from a line in the song: “A billion Black billionaires is how you make amends.”

Going forward, she expects Web3 and blockchain to spread her message even further. “I love the sense of community I get from [Web3 and blockchain],” she says. “It seems like a beautiful way to have your supporters be a part of your art. Guidance in this new tech-driven world is not only necessary,” she adds, “but vital to every artist’s longevity.”

Deborah Lynn Blumberg, contributor