Cookiee Kawaii brings Jersey Club Music to the arena
With her hit Vibe circulating around Tik Tok and a signing to EMPIRE records, it is clear to see why Cookiee Kawaii is the hottest talent to emerge from the New Jersey
Born Vanice Palmer and the child of 2 DJ’s Cookiee became viral following the release of the short yet catchy song Vibe and now returns with her debut album Vanice. Vibe garnered attention with over 150 million streams, a collaboration with Tyga and was certified gold.
Track Relax Your Mind followed Vibe with a music video celebrating all things women in Cookiee’s hometown and her newly released debut album continues to tantalise the ears with playful yet catchy melodies and hard-hitting club beats.
We sat down with Cookiee to talk about being an overnight success, how to stay relevant after going viral and why Jersey Club music needs to be heard globally.
Hi, Cookiee. Your single Vibe literally broke the internet! Tell me how the song came about and what was it like seeing the world's reaction to your music?
I didn't really have any inspo when I wrote Vibe, I just heard the beat, and the instrumental inspired me to write the song.
With that said, I didn't plan for the song to go viral. Once I saw the world dancing to my song, I knew I had to take full advantage of the opportunities that could come from going viral, so I instantly jumped into the promo... I was happy, but I knew I had to promote
Where did the name for the song come from?
When you hear that beat, it instantly gives you a vibe, so I named it that; I added the 'if I back it up' so people could find the song when they search on streaming platforms.
You signed to EMPIRE, home of notable rappers such as Iggy Azaelea, Jim Jones, Tinks and TYGA. Tell me how that came about and how you feel?
Before I signed with Empire, my previous team instantly switched when I started going viral, and I could tell I was missing out on opportunities. I basically made a post that I was looking for management, and trust me, that’s when the sharks came out, lol, but I was fortunate enough to weed through all of that and find my managers & a brand new team that have helped me immensely with branding the Cookiee Kawaii sound.
The visuals to your videos always seem to represent the female protagonist as a boss! In a world where women are objectified, how important is it to get that right?
In any situation, having a female lead be a boss, superhero, or just the main character is very important! I feel all representation is key... so for me, seeing a black girl who loves anime, loves video games, and isn’t your typical cookie-cutter image that people expect, makes me proud to represent that constantly.
If you could bring back one TV show from childhood now, what would it be and why?
If I could bring back one TV show, it would definitely be Hey Arnold; Hey Arnold was a very dope cartoon that not only showcased jazz music but had a lot of life lessons and different things incorporated in the episodes. It wasn't just comedy or had random things going on like the cartoons today. Hey Arnold, was that show!
How would you best describe your sound?
My sound is futuristic, new, fresh, unexpected; Jersey club music is the sound of the future.
You're a firm advocate for LGBTQIA rights. Is there anything you would like to see change in 2021?
Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, being pansexual, and even having my mother being a lesbian, I feel the one main thing we still need to see is acceptance and understanding. I think people have a habit of bashing things they don’t understand, so with more acceptance and understanding, I feel many people could have more respect for the LGBTQIA + community. We are here and we’re not going anywhere; we need to learn how to love one another and respect one another.
You identify as bisexual/pansexual when did you realise this, and what advice would you give to your younger self about identity and sexuality?
I honestly knew that I liked girls wayyyy earlier on... even since preschool ... lol I was always friends with the boys, and we (the boys) would have crushes on the same girls!
I would honestly tell my younger self to embrace every part about you; there was a time when I thought liking girls wasn’t something that I was supposed to do, and I do feel I had moments where I suppressed those feelings to fit in with the norm. In any case, it’s always best to be yourself and not hold that back for anybody else’s comfort.
Do you think your upbringing has something to do with you being so open about LGBTQIA+ rights?
To be honest, growing up, my mom did bring me around her female friends, but she'd never really introduced them as girlfriends until I got a bit older. I had my suspicions but couldn’t really assume. I don’t remember the exact age when my mother told me that she was a lesbian, but when she did tell me, I remember telling her I would love her no matter what. I think that’s why I’m open about LGBTQIA+ rights because if my mom's gay and I know she went through a lot to find self-love, I would only want to support others in our community the same way.
Tell me about the underground music scene in your native New Jersey?
JERSEY CLUB MUSIC IS THE FUTURE! I love talking about this because so many people think that jersey club songs are just these viral moments on social media. Still, there’s a whole culture behind what we do... from the dancers, DJs and producers, jersey club is almost 20 years old now & we stem from the Baltimore club music scene. We all live in this club realm with other underground genres like Chicago House, Philly Club music and even ballroom!
So in my case, I always feel it’s extremely important to let people know what jersey club music is & where it came from, that it’s so much more than the surface layer that people believe it to be. Just go on YouTube, search for Jersey club videos, or go on Tik Tok and Instagram and look at the Jersey club hashtag! Club music definitely needs more flowers :)
If there is one item in your wardrobe you cannot live without, please let us know!
One item in my wardrobe that I always keep with me no matter what fit I have on is a Bic Lighter lol; if I don’t have my lighter, it’s gonna be a long night!
You just dropped your first full-length album (on the 30th of July). What can we expect to hear?
Vanice is my debut Jersey Club album. My goal with this album was to incorporate jersey club music with the multiple genres that exist like rock, EDM, ballroom, and house. The purpose is to give the music industry a sample of what jersey club could be if people invested more in it. I feel jersey club music can feature on movie soundtracks, video games, television series, & more, so I wanted to create an almost new sound that makes club music more marketable to people who don’t know about it, but still keep those roots we know and love.
I am loving Downtown 25 and 1 minute man from the new album; tell me about what inspired these tunes?
Downtown was basically inspired by downtown Newark. The 25 bus is what you catch to go downtown, so I wanted to pay homage to a place that I travelled to & just pay tribute to Jersey...
1 minute man was literally a quick freestyle moment. Me and this amazing writer Jovohn kind of ping-ponged the lyrics for that one ... I also had Junior Sanchez add his classic house spin to it, so it was the perfect little interlude for the album.
What advice would you give to other musicians about maintaining a career after going viral?
My advice to any musician going viral is to promote, promote, promote! In my case, if I didn’t take full advantage of constantly promoting and staying on top of the momentum of my song (especially since I was barely getting credit or recognition), we probably wouldn’t be here having this interview. It's as simple as it sounds... if you go viral, don’t assume you’re going to be famous instantly, that you’re going to make it out of the hood just like that because the world is dancing to your songs. I’ll tell you; there’s a lot more work to be done, so promote yourself get a strong team behind you and get a good lawyer.
Set goals and know exactly what you want to do, and stay on top of everything. Don’t let anyone tell you that promoting yourself is a bad thing or spam because it will never be bad to promote yourself and let people know that you’re serious about your craft.
Vanice is out now
Photographer Pierre York
Interview and Editor Jheanelle Feanny