DJ Cocoa Chanelle is the humble legend we need.
DJ Cocoa Chanelle is a legend. Having started at the young age of thirteen, she went on to work alongside countless top artists over the years, become BET’s first ever DJ, and a star radio personality/DJ on New York’s famed radio station, Hot97. She has also received awards and honors from BET and Black Girls Rock! to name a few. Her career success and achievements are proof of her undeniable talent, and if you have any doubts, just check her out in action on YouTube.
We caught up with DJ Cocoa Chanelle at the Westchester Black Girls Rock event featuring friend and fellow DJ, Beverly Bond. She kept everyone rocking in their seats but it was her sweet and humble spirit that really had us in admiration.
What is your advice or secret to longevity in this game?
I have a love for it and a passion. When I first got into it I never got into it for a career or to make money, I just had love for music. When you do something that you’re passionate about, that you have love for, you’re gonna stick with it, you know? More so than someone who’s just doing it to get a check.
Being one of the few women among an elite group of DJs; DJ Beverly Bond, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Spinderella, did you find you had to surround yourself with those women? Was it difficult being in a male-dominated arena?
Well, when I first came in the industry there were two other female DJs, so there weren’t a lot of women doing it. A lot of times people wouldn’t take you seriously out the gate. You really had to prove yourself. Whereas today, I feel like people are more receptive to it and more open but back then people used to think, well, maybe I’m the dancer or maybe they just have me standing behind the turntables as a prop. Once they saw that I really scratch and do turntable tricks, they started taking me seriously.
I saw one of your videos; that’s real talent and skill! Chris Rock called you “Radio Royalty,” How do take that title, being a legend? What does that mean to you?
Sometimes it doesn’t feel real. People say that and I have to stop and think “wow, okay.” I never take it for granted. It means a lot to me because like I said I never got into it for fame or anything like that. So when people say I’m a legend or they give me love, it means a lot to me.
That’s beautiful. You have that humble spirit. How did you carve out space for your success, you said there were only two other women, and become one of the top DJs?
What really helped me to standout was the fact that I was doing turntable tricks and that was something that they weren’t really used to seeing girls do. So it was like “Oh wow, ok”, and it caught the attention of a lot of people. And I started working on BET, I was BET’s first DJ, and on that show is where I was really exposed, in terms of doing the turntable tricks and that actually helped people take me seriously.
Is there anything on the horizon that we can look forward to? Are you traveling?
Yeah, I actually came back from Africa not too long ago. I had the opportunity to go there and it was really life changing for me because you realize we take so much for granted here in the United States.
*A gentleman interrupts us, speaking to Cocoa, “You’re such a legend. Much respect. I grew up listening to Hot97. I remember you being on there. You had some dope jams going.” *
See things like that mean a lot to me.
You deserve it. So you said you went to Africa?
Yeah, I went to Africa. There are two sides to it. One, there’s a side to Africa that I’ve never heard about; I always thought it was really bad all over Africa. And then I see all these black people over there who are excelling and doing really well, the technology was more advanced than America, there’s a lot of great things over there. There’s also a lot of poverty. So I had a chance to see both. I had a chance to go into the villages, you might have a family of six in a one-room tent shack with no electricity, and it just reminded me of how blessed I am. My true passion has always been philanthropy. So just going out there and being able to be with the people in the village and whatever I could do to help the system, that’s something that I plan to continue doing. That’s my true passion.
Featured Image: Discogs