Sheree Grant    |           October 1, 2018         |     www.thejamericanvegan.com


How does a song reveal another part of you to yourself that you never knew before?

Photo: Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley
Music is the song of our frequencies, pulsating through time, etching and carving away at every dimension life has ever emerged from. Even in the darkness of the universe, the collision that created the beginning of our existence was a symphony. The world still waits to learn who the original composer is...

I was just about to give up hope on music, after I noticed the shift in hip-hop. I stopped listening to a lot of mainstream music because it started feeling like a waste of space. I was tired of the new temporary artists who said a lot of nothing. I never got the hype. Then I found Quantrelle Cokley's album "Nobody's Looking". I don't believe in coincidences. If there's one thing I know that my spiritual awakening has taught me, it's that we are all pieces from a great collective unit-- meant to touch, grasp and feel our way through to the next dimension We are all meant to connect, express, and eventually, understand that we all genuinely want the same things.

"I wanted to dive into the darkness".

The first time I listened to Nobody's Looking, I was sitting in my car, late night, in front of the park I always go to. You know... the one with the lake and the woods. (Pause-- I know the sistas reading this will wonder what the hell I was doing because we don't do lakes and woods at night- or ever. Just keep reading girl). I just moved back upstate from NYC only two weeks prior and I went to the park to be in nature. I needed to ground myself after a highly emotional day of teaching. Night had already fallen and the sky had an eerie midnight blue tint to it. My car was pitch black on the interior and exterior, and the light fog and soft layer of snow on the ground was the only thing saving me from the invisible shield I felt enveloping me. I wanted to dive into the darkness. It was such a rough day being around students and questioning how to work around the system that was set up to fail children born into a low socio-economic status. I was drained and needed to be somewhere where I could find my solace.  That park has always been my getaway.

After a while, newer teachers that know too much and care too much get jaded.  I don't recall the statistical numbers, but there are a lot of people who teach for a year and then quit. I held out for three years, but I was so unhappy with the system that it was making me question if I had made the biggest mistake by investing thousands of dollars into degrees that I'd never use again. It's not easy watching young people perpetuate the very behaviors expected of them to enable them a position in the pipeline. It's a sad feeling when you see the disparity everyday, and the way children are taught differently and treated terribly based on discriminating factors such as race, education and class. I wanted to give far more than I could ever afford, and teach way more than would be allowed by the State. I knew I couldn't be a teacher anymore, but I was trying to come to grips with the impending shift in my career, and how I'd still be able to factor in my dreams. Would I ever be able to have time to write with a career? Was I abandoning all the children in the public school district that deserved a teacher that cared? Would my family think I was insane for leaving my academic career behind, as I squashed goals of attaining a PhD in English Education? Why was this such a conflicting moment in my life?

Photo: Above.
Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley

The moon tried to creep through the clouds, but the glow made me wonder if it was too late to be out in the woods, as a woman. The intro began playing to Quantrelle's album, randomly sitting in the queue. I felt like he was speaking directly to me in that moment, encouraging me to keep pushing. I had thought to play the album at some point, even though I downloaded it with the promise that I'd listen to it when I was in the mood for a "vegan rapper". I wasn't sure what to expect, especially in the light of me meeting some less desirable vegans (I'm being nice with that loose description). I wanted to see if there were many conscious rappers and I had been searching, but I hadn't found one with that thing. You know... that thing that makes you feel the vibe, like Biggie, Pac, Jay and Kanye before the red hat (I love Ye though).

Hiding behind the passing grey-blue clouds, I was mesmerized and hypnotized simultaneously by the moon, but I knew I was pushing the limits of safety. Why was I out in the dark in the dead of winter in WNY? What had me so wound up on that night, more than any other? I was on the brink of something heavy that I couldn't explain, but I was used to that feeling because communicating my exact emotions has always been a struggle for me. I just remember feeling lost and forgotten by friends and family. I felt so powerless in the moment. I didn't realize that I was responsible for my personal happiness. As my overactive mind played my mistakes on repeat, "Godspeed" came on, and the first lines were "I ain't been the same since my brother Nate died/ and my ex cheated on me at the same time/ I was heartbroken that's why I'm so vulnerable/  Man you never know what somebody be going through/" and I broke down. Little did I know that those first few bars from Cokely would help me begin the journey to believing in myself again, taking me back to my first loves writing and music.

I almost gave up on music... and then I found Quantrelle Cokley's album "Nobody's Looking". 

Photo: "Shawty fell in love with the melanin."
Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley
I've left that lake so many times believing I'd move back to NYC to the family that so desperately wants to see me come home.  That night at the park, I sat there in the car thinking about my decision to leave teaching behind. I felt a significant pain from moving back upstate and leaving my family and all I really knew and loved behind. And there was the loss of my dreams in a city that I've successfully managed to blend into. Listening to Quantrelle say "everything that happens be at Godspeed" was like a gentle reassuring pat on the back that said "you're going to be fine". The reminder served as a way to dig myself out of the trenches of negativity where I was a prisoner to the information I knew about educational institutions in America.
Music is tied to writing and writing is a way to use language to communicate emotions, experiences and thoughts. Music carries the sound of our heartbeat, and it is art that allows us to change a person's mood and disposition. It's powerful. I went home that night with a deeper understanding of what my strategy would be as a writer, and what I needed to do to get to my happy space. Since making the decision to switch careers, it hasn't been easy, but I'm appreciative of that night parked in front of the lake. I wonder how different my decision would have been, had I not gone to my favorite park that evening and heard words that happened to correlate with how I had been feeling.

Quantrelle's music is clever, lyrically genius and compelling. It reminds us all that we may have different stories and period's of our lives, but "we all go through the same things". I had the honor of interviewing him and really getting to know him as the artist and the man. The ability to come full circle- from a moment where I sat in my misery to sitting in a coffee shop and comfortably typing my way into my dream is exactly why I believe that the greatest gifts we all have is very breath in our nostrils, the will to live and the desire to accept and become the authentic version of ourselves.


What is your real name, hometown and  profession?

Photo: Dreams.
Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley
Quantrelle is my real name and stage name, and I am a recording artist. I was born in Whiteville, NC

but I moved to Charlotte NC when I was 9. They both played a pivotal role in me becoming who I am today.

When did you realize it was time to become vegan? (How long have you been vegan)?

I have been vegan/plant-based for almost 3 years. I have hypothyroidism and I wasn’t getting any better by taking the medication, so I began doing research knowing that there had to be better way... And I found this lady who cured her hypothyroidism with herbs, juicing, and a vegan diet. I followed her footsteps and two weeks later when my doctor told me my thyroid levels were normal, I knew I wasn’t going back.

As an artist, your schedule must be hectic and time consuming. How do you keep a healthy balance between eating nutritious meals and working?

I was just having this conversation with my manager who also eats vegan. Depending on where we’re at determines how hard it is to eat healthy vegan meals. Right now I’m in Seattle, so there’s vegan food everywhere, but back home in Charlotte there’s not many options, so we stop at Whole Foods a lot.

I put myself on fasts too, so sometimes I’m not even worried about food when things are hectic. For some reason, fasting sometimes enhances my creativity.

Photo: Happy vegan.
Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley
Have you found that some non-vegan foods are more difficult to resist than others? Any foods that feel like kryptonite?

This is a good question. At first I think it was soy, because so many good dishes are made from it... and tempeh- especially vegan burgers (which I love). Knowing that soy isn’t good for you (and is GMO) makes it easier to stay away. I recently found these burgers made from peas and they’re delicious when cooked on the grill. 

As you travel on tour or for shows, have you come across great Vegan restaurants or foods?

Yes! All the time! Currently I’m in Seattle, and I just had vegan Thai food. The place is called Araya’s. It was amazing.

I love your song “Pure Soul”. It’s rare that artists will promote positive aspects of their lives in their music. You’re clearly unapologetically Quantrelle. When you write music, do you have an audience in mind? 

Honestly, no. I make music for everyone. My intention is always to inspire and educate, for those who don’t know what I rap about. Whether you’re vegan, plant-based or not, I want you to be able to love the music.

Photo: Recording during studio time.
Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley
What is music to you, and has veganism changed anything about you in a way that has affected your music?

Music is the most powerful tool in the world. Veganism gave me a platform to talk about how the food is killing us. It also gave me the ability to become an example of how positive the effects have had on me. I’ve had so many people tell me that they’ve heard one of my songs and have been inspired to change their diet. That’s what it’s all about. Helping to make the world a better place.

That's awesome and powerful, to be able to use your voice in your music to help other people. You’re influencing and inspiring others through music. What, or who influences you on a day-to-day basis?

I’m literally a sponge and I’m always looking for inspiration. Whether that’s through music, podcasts, books, interviews, etc. there are so many people and things that influence me- But on a day-to- day, God, for sure.

How has becoming vegan changed the way you respond to animals/animal activism? Do you agree with vegans who actively fight against animal cruelty, like Singer/songwriter Mya?

This is the one major issue I have with the vegan community. and sometimes I don’t even like to consider myself vegan. I’m all for the fight against animal cruelty and I support this cause 100%... but don’t support animals and not support cruelty of human beings being killed and mistreated in this world on the daily. 
It doesn’t make sense. You should have that same passion and enthusiasm for people. It’s sickening, and cult-like and it needs to change.

My problem with this way of thinking is that they don’t care about eating healthy; they just care about not eating animals. i agree with the animal part but a lot of these vegan foods aren’t healthy.
That is another conversation lol [sic].

Photo: Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley

Has your plant-based lifestyle benefited you in any way? How so?

My energy levels, my thoughts, my actions, my weight-- it has benefited me in many ways.

You’re very close to your mother. How does she feel about your vegan lifestyle? Is it difficult to explain to family/friends?

At first I think she thought it was a phase (insert laughing), but now that I’ve stayed with it, she has a lot of respect for it and I see the way that it has influenced her to change certain things that she cooks. She’s not plant-based by any means, but she stays away from pork and beef. Now she eats a lot more veggies and drinks smoothies. It’s not difficult to explain. You just can’t argue with family and friends about it. Show them through action. Once you tell them, the seed is planted in their subconscious. Just be patient and see how it manifests.

What inspires you when you’re making music? What’s a typical studio session like for you?

I have so many different processes. I never know how to answer this question.

As an artist in the spotlight, what advice would you give someone who is afraid to change their eating because they’re worried about what others will think if they slip?

Another thing i dislike about the vegan community. They’re so judgmental! We have to look beyond this lifetime. Everyone in the world becoming plant-based is not realistic, but let’s lay a solid foundation so the next generation is even better than us.

I would tell them not to live their life by what other people think in their head. Perfectionism doesn’t exist.

Photo: That west coast life.
(Courtesy of IG @quantrellecokley)
What upcoming shows do you have? How can people connect with you or follow you on social media?

I will be putting out a tour list soon!

my social media
IG: @quantrellecokley
twitter @quancokley


Wishing Quantrelle all the best in his career. This is a name you're going to continue to hear a lot more.

Find Quantrelle on mainstream platforms like iTunes, SoundCloud and Youtube.

"I assumed that I wanted to be felt by the people, through my writing. Never did I think that the true lesson was to first allow myself to feel..." Sheree G.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. I realized that eating Vegan Food as well as using science made things can be very beneficial.


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