CocoAvenue are on their way to becoming a new address in the Hallyu world. Band members Jenna and Jenny are two African-American hop-hop and R&B singers who found Hallyu sounds artistically irresistible. The two members of the first all-black South Korean pop group met after Jenny posted a Facebook status announcing “I want to start a K-pop group.
According to society, Black people and K-Pop are polar opposites. They’re like two conflicting entities that were never meant to meet. Kind of like roasted peanuts and collard greens. You just don’t do that. Right? (EDIT: More than one person has brought up this line, so I will clarify although my meaning is obvious. Although Black people influence K-Pop, they are not visible in K-Pop. Nor are they expected to be fans of K-Pop. Let’s be real.)
Well, I say wrong. With some K-Pop stars donning clothing and accessories made popular by Black people while singing R&B, why is it so farfetched that melanated individuals may actually enjoy it? And, why is it so strange to think that Black people may want to ride the Hallyu wave as well?
That’s where Jenna and Jenny come along. Two beautiful and talented Black women who have made a name for themselves singing K-Pop covers under the name “CocoAvenue”. When I came across their amazing cover of Jay Park’s ‘You Know’ I knew I needed to know more about the girls making history as the first all Black K-Pop group!
How Social Media Brought Them Together
Jenny, hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, originally found Jenna, a Jacksonville native, through Youtube. Because both girls sang R&B K-Pop covers, are Black, and have similar names viewers often got them confused. “People thought we were the same person” Jenny amusedly explained. This Parent Trap type situation led Jenny to message Jenna and they began singing K-Pop covers together. But it wasn’t until Jenny posted a status update on Facebook saying “I want to start a K-Pop group”, that CocoAvenue was born. Six members later, the group started to record videos together. “In the beginning we had to ‘green screen’ each other together” explained Jenna, as she detailed how each girl lived in a different state, making rehearsing and recording extremely difficult.
After time the six member group evolved into a duo but, unlike a few ex-members of Destiny’s Child, there’s no bad blood between the girls. “We all still support each other” the girls said of the past members of the group, “And we’re very passionate about what we do.” That passion is what led them to relocate together to the land of opportunity: Los Angeles.
Being Black and doing anything other than what’s expected of you will always raise eyebrows, and being in the K-Pop world invites a whole new wave of criticism. “Race is a double edged sword” Jenna explained, “It can help us because we stand out, but it hurts us because we can be seen as a gimmick. But that’s not the case”, she continued, “We’re serious about this.”
The girls went on to tell a story of a promotional company that only wanted to book attractive Asian males and the frustration that experience caused. They realized, as most Black people eventually do, that they have to be a million times better than their peers to even be considered as an option. But even with that standing in their way they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re so proud of being Black” declared Jenna.
It’s no secret that negative stereotypes affect how the world sees Black people, and in South Korea that is no different. Blackface is common comedic practice and Black people are seen as aggressive, poor and more. Jenna and Jenny hope to break those stereotypes through their music. “K-Pop fans aren’t all the same color” explained Jenna.
And to people who may say they can’t be a K-Pop group because they aren’t Korean, the girls had this to say: “A lot of what K-Pop is comes from what R&B and Hip Hop used to be”. They also described how K-Pop takes from Black culture, then shuts out the creators of the culture, a sentiment I myself have shared here on the blog.
What’s In Store For CocoAvenue in the Future?
While the group doesn’t have any original music available for purchase yet, they’re on a mission to record their first EP this year. Instead of giving their fans, deemed “Coco Puffs”, low quality music, Jenny created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so they can deliver a top notch album.
“The campaign goes towards studio-time, expenses, renting rehearsal spots and purchasing music rights” said Jenna as she explained just how expensive being a recording artist can be, “Sometimes we get requested to perform at a location, but can’t afford to make the trip”.
One trip they are making? South Korea. The duo will be traveling to the ROK in May to make major moves and catapult their careers!
As a Black K-Pop fan myself let me tell you, what these girls are doing is brave, it’s bold, and it’s important. Representation matters in all arenas, and I’m personally a bit over watching performers use up our culture and spit us out. CocoAvenue is a refreshing change in the world of K-Pop and let’s do what we can to support them.