Cookiee Kawaii is here to spread all the good vibrations, from her home in New Jersey to the rest of the world. Arriving on the scene with her own unique style, distinct sound, and an out-of-this-world personality, the rising star holds nothing back when it comes to her music, with direct influences from the Jersey club scene.
Being the daughter of two DJ parents, Cookiee has been enthralled in Jersey club music since she started recording over a decade ago, with her name inspired by her love of cookies as well as infatuation with anime (Kawaii translates to “cute” in Japanese). Experiencing her first viral moment with the release of her breakout single “Vibe” back in 2020, which later saw a standout remix from Tyga, Cookiee has been continuously putting in the work necessary to not only make it in the big leagues, but put Jersey club music on the map.
Now, she has finally released her highly-anticipated debut album titled Vanice, which is her birth name. The 16-track project is spearheaded by lead singles “Press Play (Gamer Girl)” and “Relax Your Mind,” both of which became immediate fan favorites.
Flaunt caught up with Cookiee via Instagram Live to discuss the meaning behind Vanice, the creative process, roots in Jersey, her viral moment with “Vibe,” how Tyga reached out to her team, shooting the visual for “Relax Your Mind,“ her favorite songs, love for gamer girls, her fashion sense, and more!
You just released your Vanice album, how do you feel?
The promo’s crazy right now, I’m just excited. I’m happy to finally get the album out. It’s been a long journey from going viral until this point. It’s amazing seeing everybody react to it. I’ve been sitting with it for so long, I’m excited. It’s great.
What made you name the project your real name, Vanice?
A lot of people didn’t know who I was as an artist going viral. Even now, my song’s still more famous than I am. People will know “if I back it up” before they even know it’s me, they know that song before me. I wanted to self-title the album, introduce people to not only who Cookiee Kawaii is, but who Vanice is. The real me. What better way to do that than self-title the album your government name? [laughs] I’m sure everyone will be trying to call me Vanice from now on.
How long has the album been in the works?
Right after I dropped my last project CLUB SODA vol. 2, I said “okay it’s time.” I knew I needed to be working on a body of work at that point. My CLUB SODA volumes are mixtapes, they’re not really what an album could do. It’s been at least a whole year of me getting production together, figuring out the features, the concept, the name. I didn’t automatically think I’d title it Vanice, so it’s a lot of thinking and planning.
Were there other contenders on the table?
Of course, I didn’t have any real set direction. I just went into the studio and recorded tons of songs, tons and tons of music. At the end once I had a certain amount, I said “okay, I’m going to process and eliminate the ones I feel I could mold together and make the strongest body of work.”
What does the cover art represent? Is that you in avatar form?
[laughs] I never thought of it like that, there’s multiple influences. I was thinking cosplay or even drag, I was thinking so many different things on what to focus on. One, I wanted to stand out. When people see the cover whether they’re scrolling on iTunes or Spotify, I want them to say “what the fuck is that?!” I thought of so many different ways to pull that off.
Blue is a strong color, you see that and it automatically pulls you in. You could think it’s avatar references, Guardians of the Galaxy or Mystique. You could go on and on where you could pull from. I’m a Jersey club artist doing music different from everyone else, why not be a blue creature for my debut? Just being different, being something out of this world. All of that sums up the inspiration for the cover.
How does Jersey play into your music, your art?
It’s everything. When I went viral, I could’ve chosen to do R&B. I could’ve done country, anything I wanted to do. Being from Jersey, Jersey club music is a culture. Not only Jersey: you have Baltimore club, you have Philly club. You even have ballroom, it’s a whole club culture. I’ve grown up with it, it’s a part of my artistry. I went viral on TikTok, TikTok has more users than Spotify right now. It’s very impactful so why not use this moment to put a spotlight on club music? It was second nature for me to do.
Did you anticipate the viral moment? Did it happen out of nowhere?
It was definitely out of nowhere. When I made “Vibe,” I didn’t say “yup this is going viral.” l made the song and moved on, had no idea it’d go viral. When it did, everyone asked me how I felt. Of course I was happy, but I knew instantly I had to get a hold of the momentum. “Wait a minute, that’s a Jersey club song!” The focus was on getting my recognition and telling the story of my song being a Jersey club song, creating the narrative of all the other Jersey club songs constantly going viral.
Even Baltimore club records, you need to let people know what it is so they can understand it’s more than a TikTok song. It’s not even a TikTok song, nobody made it for TikTok. The way the platform works is different, you could use the sounds. It’s very important to make sure people know there’s a culture behind it. It’s not just me, I’m not the only vocalist. There’s DJs, dancers, producers, a whole culture. It’s telling that story and making sure people know that’s how we get more exposure on Jersey, club music, Baltimore club music, all those underground sounds with full cultures behind them that people don’t know about.
How’d It feel getting Tyga on the “Vibe” remix?
That was unexpected. My team said “hey, how would you feel about getting Tyga on the record?” It was out of the blue, why would I say no? At the end of the day it’s all about momentum, I know how that works. When you have a song, you want to push it and keep it going as long as you can. Even if people are tired of it, they don’t understand the business part: when you have a song and it’s going, you want to keep the momentum going. When he reached out to my camp, he said it reminded him of D.C. go-go. He was familiar with the sound and was all for doing it. It’s a blessing, shout out to Tyga for even hopping on the record.
Best memory from that video shoot? It looked like a party.
It was, I flew out some of my friends who are super dope Jersey club dancers. They’re dancers in general, but they definitely do Jersey club style dancing. I wanted to make sure it was represented in the video. Flying out my friends, having them be a part of the video, paying them in that matter. Because that’s always a debate: “could club dancing get you paid?” To be able to bring my friends out, not only put them in my video but have them be paid to Jersey Club dance in the video is all full-circle. Doing that in itself outside of being in Cali, shooting a big video to my hit song, having my friends out there being able to represent Jersey club was the best part honestly.
I love your song “Relax Your Mind.” You have all the baddies in the video!
It’s the only way to live life. After that, I have to get a mansion. It’s mandatory to have a mansion to have parties and get-togethers. That’s good.
What were you on recording that record?
When I usually get an instrumental or beat, sometimes there’s specific songs I want to write. Sometimes I hear the beat, it randomly comes out that way. “Relax Your Mind” was one of those songs. I get real lit when I go to the studio. We got wine, blunts, everything is going. What I specifically remember, I wanted to channel Janet Jackson’s soft, whispering voice. That’s what I went for. That’s the only thing I remember, I was lit. I heard the beat and said “let’s get high tonight.” [sings] I freestyled a lot of moments of the album, freestyling drunk and it was great. [laughs] Janet Jackson whispers and sexiness, that’s what “Relax Your Mind” was about.
The video was an all-girl dance party, where was that shot?
I literally came up with the concept for “Relax Your Mind” on a livestream like this. We’re talking about it, what could we do? My original concept was having a guy with his friends smoking, maybe the weed was spiked. It transported them into a realm and I’d be the head fairy. It’d be me and a bunch of other women, we were fairies. I thought about it, why make the guy have the best time of his life? Why should he be the one relaxing his mind? No, how can I relax my mind? That’s the name of the song!
Instantly, I thought “alright, I’ma be the Hugh Hef. Have all the jawns there for myself and enjoy that.” That’s how I would relax my mind. That’s when the concept was born. I wanted women that genuinely wanted to be there. I didn’t want to force the vibes or for it to look weird. I put out a post and did process of elimination in selecting girls. I didn’t even know that many girls wanted to be in the video. It was like being at the Chocolate Factory, it was great.
What do you look for in girls?
Honestly, the soul and personality is way more than looks. I know that sounds really corny, but it’s true. We’re getting old one day. I know people have surgeries, but we’re going to get old. Once that happens, the personality and the character, all that matters so much more than the outside. It’s your soul, how you move, how you carry yourself, how you care for others. That’s more of my type. I’m pansexual as well. Bisexual for the close-minded people, pansexual for the people that get it. You don’t want to put any type of superficial look on who you could be with or date, you never know. For me, it’s mainly about your soul, your personality, what you bring to the table in that aspect.
What songs mean the most to you and why?
I won’t say that it’s easy, but it is even though I was just bumping the project. I’m listening to the album way more than everyone else, even though I was literally there making it. It’s still a journey to listen to it either which way. One of my favorite songs is “Cookiee & The Monsters”: the whole story behind that record, how it came to be. I was constantly on Live during my whole viral journey, engaging with my Cookiee Monsters, which is what I call my fans and supporters. We’re always on Live making songs. I find beats on YouTube, doing funny stuff. We have a good time.
C4 who’s a producer, he sent me the “Cookiee & The Monsters” beat. We’re gelling on Live, I was doing a rock voice. That’s what it gave me, a rock vibe. We ended up coming up with the whole concept. I went and literally recorded the next day: “Hmm, it sounds pretty great. It’s dope.” It’s a guitar solo on there, it’s a lot going on. Once I got the final master version back and listened to the whole project, this is the one song that made me stand up out my seat. “This track right here, I can’t!” It literally blew me away like I didn’t already hear it or record it. I knew that had to be the first song on the album, that was the song. It’s one I could play over and over again, I don’t get tired of it. It’s great.
You mentioned features earlier, are they mostly Jersey locals?
Yes, some are like Bleszt. There’s a lot of production on the album as far as Jersey natives, it’s 4B. As far as the whole collective, Junior Sanchez was the executive producer on the album. Has definitely played a major part in giving it that little zing that it needs. There’s a lot of Jersey vibes in the whole album, outside of the features and production. I wanted to make sure it stayed close to home, but still made it different.
“Press Play (Gamer Girl)” is an ode to your love for gamer girls. You’re a gamer girl yourself, right?
Yeah, of course. That song came from when I started streaming on Twitch 6 months ago. I’ve been a gamer since Nintendo but when people were telling me to get on Twitch, I thought it was more so for competitive gamers. I didn’t know you’d be chillin’ and relaxing, you could suck and still have a great time. [laughs] Now, I’m really active on Twitch. When I was introduced to the community and I seen all the gamer girls, I was in awe. They had setups, lights, stream decks, all kinds of stuff.
At least from my era of gaming what you’d consider a gamer girl is, to now where it stands where you have women who game who are nice. I mean nice! They’re talk streamers, I was in awe. I didn’t know what to do when I originally heard the “Press Play” beat. It was different, I didn’t know what direction to take it. Being inspired by the gamer girls, I instantly knew they needed an anthem because gamer girls rule. Period. They needed something to represent that community. Gamer girls, that whole world is their esthetic. There’s some girls who really game and are really nice, why not give them a highlighted anthem to show there’s people that love them too?
Someone mentioned you’re wearing a Hunter X Hunter hat?
Yes, this was a gift. We love gifts! If you want my PO Box, you can definitely send me things. I love stones, crystals, anime merch, I love it all.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
Graphic tees that are extremely large, sweatpants, mainly anything that’s comfy. I like to be chill. I don’t like to dress up. For me, I went to Catholic school so we wore uniforms. Then church or Easter Sunday, those were the times. Those aren’t enjoyable moments, you didn’t really want to wear your uniform or dress up for Easter Sunday. I don’t really like fitted clothes, that vibe’s more so for special occasions. I’d rather be chill, comfortable, mad relaxed. I don’t need all that. Very comfy, that’s the swag.
One thing you want fans to take away from the project?
Jersey club music is the future. I know there’s someone from Baltimore or Philly who wants to make sure they’re mentioned. In my case, I’ll always mention them. Even when it comes down to Chicago house music because my parents being DJs, that’s something I grew up with. I want people to understand club music isn’t some novelty thing that randomly goes viral every year. Jersey club music or club music in general, whether it’s Baltimore, Chicago, Philly, house music, ballroom, it has the potential to stand with the EDM and dubstep. It has the same power to sell out festivals and do those numbers.
If people gave more opportunities producers, dancers, artists who make club music, put them on the right stages or whatever needs to be done, we’d really be able to show “okay, it’s a diamond in the rough.” It only takes someone to say “Hey, I believe in you. Let me put some little extra funding behind you and make something happen.” For me incorporating so many genres in the album, from adding rock and doing pop, I did it all. You know how DJs will give you samples? I wanted people in the industry who don’t understand club, or may not even be fans of it, to get a sample of what it’d be like if club would be incorporated in these multiple different genres and sounds. How would a Jersey club rock song sound? Giving them that sample because they may not even know what it could sound like.
We have our club remixes that really are just remixed versions of songs. Let me give you an original club record, then put it in a genre that you could understand and relate to — but still club it and forcefully make you fall in love with it. It’s very experimental things going on here. I want people to know it’s more than the music, we have dancers, producers, DJs. It’s different states involved. All people have to do is do their research or ask me, I’ll point you in the right direction of what you need to look up so you can see how vast it is.
Anything else you want to let the people know?
Shout out to everyone that’s been a part of the project, my features and everyone that’s helped me. My Cookiee Monsters and everyone that’s been a part of this journey and continues to support me. It’s more to come, CLUB SODA vol. 3 loading. The deluxe is definitely coming as well, it’s really only up from here. I know the project just dropped, but I’m already on what’s next. Okay I know I have to promote it, but I’m excited for more people to hear it. I want people to really listen to it.
You can’t say “I don’t like Cookiee because she cursed me out on Live so I’m not listening.” Maybe you could say that, but go listen to it anyway because you might like at least one song. That’s all I want, I don’t care if you like me. It want people to recognize what club music is and know that it’s not just me, tons of other dope artists make club music. You should check them out because we’re a whole club family. There’s so many of us. If we were roaches in the kitchen and you only knew of the one Cookiee roach, when you turn on the lights it’s a lot of us. It’s a lot going on, just look for It. It’s not the best reference to use, but you get the point.