Coco Jenkins and Nat the Lioness – Las Vegas, NV
As soon as rapper Nat the Lioness and bassist CoCo Jenkins began creating music together, Nat found herself asking the question: “In our music, why don’t we not cater to just one audience—why don’t we expand? We can do whatever we feel, but with that hip-hop base.”
As Nat & CoCo, the duo has been creating a buzz around Las Vegas with their unique, stripped-down style. Essentially, it’s Nat’s free-flying rhymes and Coco’s cello accompaniment. With verbal acuity and a dark, semi-acoustic sound, it’s a giant step away from the current trends of simple couplet rhymes and elaborate, computer-generated production. Their sound is more likely to evoke comparisons to the RZA or Portishead than Lil Yachty.
The project’s fluid nature isn’t a temporary state, but part of an overall plan. “We’re doing this together, with us as the foundation, but the idea is to incorporate different homies across the spectrum of musicianship,” emphasizes CoCo. The pair have invited rappers, beatboxers, producers and even santoor players to add flavor to their sound.
Nat feels that Las Vegas offers something to this kind of collaboration that her former home didn’t. “Being from L.A.,” she observes, “people will cut you off, just be into their own clique and not really expand. But out here, people are just more accepting . . . It’s just a different kind of emotional connection.”
With CoCo based in Las Vegas and Nat in Los Angeles, the two musicians made their connection via the Internet. “I saw Nat on Cypher Effect,” CoCo recalls. “It was like, ‘Wow, she is fire! Who is that? I don’t know who she is, but her flow is so dope! What she’s rhyming about is dope!’” The pair missed meeting up during a Las Vegas Warped Tour stop—Nat had been on the tour, but didn’t play Vegas; Jenkins had played it a few years earlier—so CoCo looked her up on a later trip to Los Angeles. “I went to L.A. and I thought, ‘Let me hit her up and see if she’s down to link,’” CoCo recalls, “‘and we can chop it up and see if we can work on stuff.’ We kicked it, we vibed, it was good energy and I was like, ‘Yo, come out to Vegas!’”
So Nat did. “That first weekend that I came out here was our first time ever practicing, rehearsing, doing anything together—and we did a show,” laughs CoCo. “We literally stayed up all night, rehearsed until 3AM” Their one-off was enthusiastically received and turned into an ongoing project, and Nat relocated to Las Vegas. “I knew she was going to be taken care of, the way the community reacted to her,” insists CoCo.
While the two grew up far apart, they both came to their love of music early. “All I heard growing up was jazz,” remarks CoCo. “I didn’t hear Earth, Wind & Fire, I didn’t hear Al Green, I didn’t hear any of the standard black music repertoire. But I heard Miles [Davis] and [John] Coltrane and Herbie [Hancock].” She began playing cello at age 11, when her mother accidentally signed her up for orchestra instead of band. She later picked up the conventional six-string bass during high school.
“I’ve always loved music since I was a small child,” shares Nat, recalling how she and her brother used to record raps in the closet as kids (they were Kriss Kross fans). “I’ve been writing raps for eight years—poetry since I was, like, 13. I’ve been in the church choirs, I was in drama.”
But now the duo is looking toward the future. “I feel like we’re just bringing out new things in one another,” notes Nat. “I’m starting to sing and she’s starting to rap, and I don’t really do that.” CoCo agrees: “We’re pushing each other creatively.” They’re also debating whether to come up with a new handle that will be more all-inclusive than just “Nat & CoCo,” and reflect the collaborations they hope to create. “I’m excited and looking forward to playing with everybody,” declares CoCo. “It’s going to be dope.”
Twitter: @MCaxxel_foley | @Nat_the_lioness | Facebook: @cocojenkinsbass | @natthelioness