Most recognize Cheryl “Coko” Clemons as the elegant statuesque beauty of the R&B group...
Most recognize Cheryl “Coko” Clemons as the elegant statuesque beauty of the R&B group Sisters With Voices, better known as SWV. As she takes the gospel music industry by storm, the world will be anointed by the smooth velvety vocals of this powerful songstress.
Though widely known for her accomplishments in the R&B world, Coko has always maintained a connection to the church. “I’ve always been active in my church despite my profession in R&B music. Many R&B singers say, ‘I was reared in the church,’ but they’re no longer active. Church was more than a breeding ground for me to sing, it’s where I nurture my soul.” She proclaims, “It’s a lifestyle for me.”
Coko’s debut gospel album “Grateful,” mixes gospel with an upbeat R&B flavor. Through her music, she anticipates drawing fans and listeners closer to God. “I just want to inspire people to live a better life and get to know the Jesus that I sing about,” says Coko.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Coko recalls always being very active in her church community. As a child, she performed with the church choir and assisted the church’s nurse unit. A former member of The Lord’s Church in Bronx, N.Y., Coko recorded the song “Some How, Some Way” on a live recording for The Lord’s Church Cathedral Choir’s “We Are Healed” release. She also recorded the breakout gospel song “Midnight” on EMI Gospel group Brent Jones & T.P. Mobb’s 2002 release “Beautiful.” Additionally, she is featured on “Up There,” a track by Evidence Gospel/Light Records artist Youthful Praise.
Raised by her mother Clyde “Lady Tibba” Gamble, Coko’s singing career began at the tender age of 12, when she performed as a member of the New York Community Choir. She later joined Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Crusade Choir.
While singing with Walker’s award-winning choir, Coko teamed up with two childhood friends – Leanne “Lelee” Lyons and Tamara “Taj” Johnson – to form the sensational R&B group SWV. Once the group landed a deal with RCA records, their music career took off. Among the group’s many mega-hits are “I’m So Into You,” “You’re The One,” “Right Here,” “Weak,” and “Rain” – just to name a few.
With their New Jill Swing style, SWV conquered the urban music scene with many chart top-chart topping hits. During their reign in the 1990’s, the platinum selling group recorded five albums: 1992 - “It’s About Time;” 1994 - “Remixes;” 1996 – “New Beginning;” and in 1997 – “Release Some Tension” and “A Special Christmas.” Following the group’s breakup, their “Greatest Hits” album was released in 1999; “The Best of SWV” in 2001; the “Platinum and Gold Collection” in 2003; and the “Encore Collection” in 2004. Additionally, SWV recorded songs featured on various motion picture soundtracks including “Above the Rim,” “Babe,” and “Waiting to Exhale.” The groups single, “Right Here,” for the movie “Free Willy” was among their most memorable motion picture soundtrack singles. The group was also featured on Quincy Jones’ acclaimed “Q’s Jook Joint.” What’s more, SWV’s music has even influenced this millennium’s hip-hop world as evidenced by the Chingy song “Pullin’ Me Back,” which samples their single “Rain.”
In addition to the success she attained with the Grammy nominated SWV, Coko also appeared on a variety of motion picture projects. For the blockbuster movie, “Men in Black,” she sang the hook on Will Smith’s award-winning single “Men in Black.” She recorded “Keep It Real,” a duet with Jon B. on the “HavPlenty” soundtrack. She and Johnny Gill also remade the Rick James and Teena Marie classic “Fire & Desire for the “Booty Call” soundtrack. Moreover, she sang “He Be Back” with Missy Elliott on the soundtrack for “Why Do Fools Fall In Love; sang alongside Faith Evans and Missy Elliott on “All The Times,” a track featured on R&B trio LSG’s self-titled album; and recorded a duet with Tevin Campbell called “Everything You Are” on his self-titled album.
After SWV disbanded, COKO recorded her solo debut “Hot Coko,” which featured the notable single “Sunshine” that was later featured on the compilation “Street Vibes, Vol. 4. The song’s dance remix appeared on the ever popular 2000 import compilation “Ayia Napa.”
Coko, who states that she was most inspired by Tremaine Hawkins, recorded a remake of the gospel legend’s “Holy One.” Initially, she hoped to use the remake as her introduction into the gospel genre.
Like Coko, her mother Clyde “Lady Tibba” Gamble also sang with the New York Community Choir, and ironically recorded with Light Records, Coko’s current label. In 2001, the two sang a duet on the remake of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” that was featured on the “Rhythm & Spirit: Love Can Build a Bridge” compilation.
“While I am very happy with all of my accomplishments and accolades up to this point, there is still so much I want to do. I still would like to start my own gospel record label and help develop some new acts. I would also like to do some acting and maybe even Broadway at some point,” shares Coko. A true artist indeed, Coko exhibited her acting talent while touring with the David E. Talbert play, “Love Makes Things Happen,” starring After 7 singer Kevin Edmonds, comedian Joe Torrey, and former En Vogue member Dawn Robinson.
While it is widely known that Coko has a passion for singing, many are unaware of her other passion. In her spare time, she enjoys designing and creating candles. In addition to her future aspirations in the entertainment industry, one day she hopes to illuminate lives and homes everywhere when she presents her creations to the public.
With her solo projects and the SWV reunion, Coko is showing no immediate signs of slowing down. However, she does admit that she would one day like to retire and enjoy life with her family. Although singing is her passion, she is most passionate about her relationship with God, her sons Jazz and Jalen, her mother, and her husband Mike Clemmons, drummer for the gospel group Israel and New Breed.
Essentially, Coko hopes to touch the lives of many through her songs of inspiration. Years from now, she says she would like to be remembered as “a talented, gifted, well-respected singer,” and for her genuine spirit and “good heart.”