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Former SWV Singer Cheryl “Coko” Clemons

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ESSENCE: The songs you’ve played from the new album sound like contemporary gospel. Will you have anything traditional?                              Cheryl “Coko” Clemons: Yes. I'm doing a song called “Hymns for the Soul,” and I have a duet with my mom. She actually wrote the song. She sings high like me. Well, I sing high like her.

ESSENCE: What’s your favorite song on the album?
Coko: “Grateful.” The words are just amazing. A lot of times I would say to myself, I have all the money, the cars, but I’m still not grateful. Something was missing. I wanted so much more. But then I would remember, there’s always somebody worse off than you. They don't have anything. They're not complaining, why are you?

ESSENCE:  Why did you leave R&B to pursue gospel?
Coko: Well, really, I left church to sing R&B. When I was a member of Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, I got my deal with SWV. Taj {Tamara Johnson} and Lelee {Leanne Lyons} weren't in the choir, only me, but we were friends. Leelee told me to audition for this group, and we just took off. At that time, things were going on in the church that I didn't agree with; I was young and so I left. Now I’ve come into myself, and I’ve gone back to the church. That's home for me. That's who I am.

ESSENCE: How do you feel when you see old SWV videos being played on cable shows like BETJ’s Soul Sessions and Video Soul Gold?
Coko: It's so funny because when we came out, people said, “They’re messing up music.” Now that we've moved on, we're saying these new artists are messing up R&B music. But I love that channel. I watch it all the time. I love it; nineties music is good. And I'm just happy I was a part of that.

ESSENCE: How do you feel when you see yourself on the screen?
Coko: It's funny, because, you know I had those nails, and I'm like, ohhh, that is so ugly, why didn't you say something.

ESSENCE: But everybody was rockin' the nails back then.
Coko: We all have our moments.

Cheryl “Coko” Clemons debut gospel album arrives on Artemis Gospel Records in September.

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