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Coco & Breezy: trust the process

In just a few short years, twin sisters Coco & Breezy have found their sound and hit their stride as DJs and producers, spinning sets that appeal to lovers of pure house while producing the kind of pop-kissed tunes that rack up millions of streams. Getting to where they are has been a winding progression that’s taken them from middle school dance groups to MySpace minifame, and from eyewear design to the doorstep of dance music superstardom — and they’re not done yet

Most DJs and musicians, at least those who hope to make any semblance of a living off of their art, are in a sense entrepreneurs. Like any entrepreneur, they start with an idea (i.e., their music or their mixes); they devise a way to bring that idea to the market (people who might enjoy that music or those mixes); and they figure out how to get paid for that idea. It’s unlikely, of course, that most of them would think of themselves as entrepreneurs — spinning tunes or playing your music in front of a crowd is just too damn fun to define it in those terms.

It’s fun as well for twin sisters Corianna and Brianna Dotson, better known as Coco & Breezy, as anyone who’s caught one of their true-house-flavoured DJ sets can attest — they’re constantly in motion and never not smiling, dressed for a party and having a blast. Their own tracks and remixes (for the likes of Janelle Monáe, Channel Tres, MK, and Shontelle) are a joy as well — they’re blissful pop-tinged affairs, with a wistful sweetness that is hard to resist.

Both their sets and their releases feel like the work of seasoned pros, but though Coco & Breezy have been spinning since the mid-’00s, the pair are relatively new to production. Their debut track came in 2018, but it wasn’t until their second release, ‘Convo’, that the sisters truly found their sound — and that didn’t hit the shops until several months into the pandemic, in June of 2020.

As entrepreneurs, though — in the truest sense of that word — Coco & Breezy are deep-rooted pros. While growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, they fell into the eyewear-design trade, a hobby they turned into a thriving business, Coco and Breezy Eyewear, with their edgy work gracing the faces of Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Prince, and a slew of other A-listers from the music world and beyond. But how they got from point A to point B, from creative schoolkids to eyewear moguls to ascendant dance music stars, has been a process — one that required a bit of luck and good timing, along with a lot of ambition, confidence, and grit.

Photo of Breezy looking directly at the camera with her braids across her face

Coco & Breezy’s early childhood years were spent in Indiana and Memphis, in what Breezy describes as underserved communities. They were preternaturally creative from an early age. Breezy remembers their aunt, Titi Veronica, babysitting for them when they were two years old.

“She couldn’t just put the TV on for me and Coco — she would have to give us an arts and crafts project,” Breezy says, sitting at home in LA with Coco on her left and a ShitzuPekingese mix named Isis on her right. “She thought that it would take us a long time to finish something, but every time, we’d make something really fast and come back to her, like, ‘Hey, we’re done!’ We’d always want something new and creative to do. I think that’s how we first knew we had something different in regards to using our imaginations.”

Their dad, hailing from the South, was into the blues, as well as gospel; their mom, on the other hand, played a lot of Latin music. (“The best of both worlds,” Breezy says.) Old-school R&B played a role in their music upbringing as well. “We were always dancing,” Coco says. “When family came over to the house, they’d be like, ‘Go make up a dance’, I think so we’d be out of their business.” “And whenever we would go to the grocery store or be in the elevator, and we would hear any type of sound that had rhythm, we’d be dancing,” Breezy says. “Our mom would be like, ‘You’re not at a party right now!’” “Or sometimes we’d be dancing to sounds in our heads,” Coco adds, “and she’d be like, ‘Why? What are you doing? I don’t hear any music!’”

When Coco & Breezy were seven, their parents moved them to Minnesota, where it was “a lot safer and had more opportunity,” according to Breezy. The pair stood out among their suburban schoolmates. “We’re half Puerto Rican, half African American — and we were the only Puerto Ricans and one out of just a few African Americans that were in our school,” she explains. “And on top of that, our parents really allowed us to be ourselves, so we were those girls in middle school with bright-coloured hair.” Standing out at a young age is both a blessing and a curse — individuality is great, but your fellow kids can be cruel, and the sisters suffered from a degree of ostracism.

Photo of Coco smiling with her hair in braids in front of a blue background

"Since we were kids, we always knew we were special. We always used to tell people that we were going to do something, even though we didn’t know what it was going to be. We just knew that we were going to be public figures, that we were going to help shift the world.” – Coco

“We always felt like we were left out,” Coco says. “There was one point in middle school when we would walk into rooms, and everyone would be staring at us, and we'd be so insecure with lots of social anxiety. At one point, this kid wanted to jump us! Those experiences stayed with us into our adulthood until a few years ago, when we finally let go of it.” The world of dance was one of the few places where Coco & Breezy felt accepted. While still in middle school, they were members of a dance team, The Tapaires; a talent show performance got them noticed, and they soon found themselves in a hip-hop dance team called Immortal.

“We lived in the suburbs, but the dance group was based in Minneapolis, so our parents would drive us 40 minutes to go to dance rehearsal,” Coco says. “It was so dope — it was like when you watch movies with street hip-hop dance scenes, and they battle people. That was us. We’d go to parties and battle people, we’d perform at the Juneteenth, we’d perform at all the community gatherings.”

Their early dancing careers, in a sense, led to their first experiments in the art of sequencing songs. “When we were doing shows, we didn’t want to do a talent show dance to just a song — we wanted to have a mix,” Coco explains. “But we didn’t know any DJs or producers in high school, so at this time — showing my age here — we’d record songs on tapes. We’d record a part of a song, and then rewind it a little bit, and then record another part, and then rewind it. Like, ‘Alright, it sounds like a clean mix!’”

Still in their teens, Coco & Breezy set up a MySpace page. “We’d hold signs saying something like, ‘Hey, I’m the real Breezy’ and ‘Hey I’m the real Coco,’” Breezy says. “And we developed this fanbase, like 50,000 friends. We really appreciated that, because we finally didn’t feel like weirdos. The narrative that we had for ourselves is that people were staring at us laughing and making fun of us — we looked so confident, but we were so insecure, and had the biggest social anxiety — but I remember feeling this level of confidence I didn’t know I had.”

“But you know what’s crazy? Even before all of that, since we were kids, we always knew we were special,” Coco adds. “We always used to tell people that we were going to do something, even though we didn’t know what it was going to be. We just knew that we were going to be public figures, that we were going to help shift the world.” Coco & Breezy’s own world would soon be shifting as well.

When Coco & Breezy were 17 years old, one of their friends was organizing a fashion show and asked Coco & Breezy to contribute a design. They jumped at the chance, even though they both were already putting in serious work hours at three separate jobs to help their family’s financial situation. “One of our jobs was at a Chinese American fast food spot, kind of like the Minnesota version of Panda Express,” Breezy says. “The second job was at a clothing store at the Mall of America, a kids’ clothing store called Justice.”

Black and white photo of Coco & Breezy smiling together

“And the third one was at Metro Park, it was streetwear,” Coco continues. “But I was ambitious, so I was like, ‘Breezy, we’re doing this, we're gonna do the fashion show’. This is kind of the pattern for us — when we see a sign that we should do something, an intuitive sign, we act on it. So we were like, ‘Okay, we can create a whole collection in a few days. Let’s do it.’” But they needed accessories. “So Breezy got some safety goggles, and she glued spikes and stuff on them. We were taking studs off of belts and putting them on the glasses.”

“Then we posted those pictures on our MySpace page, and we were wearing the glasses out everywhere,” Breezy says. “They were so big, they gave us this level of confidence that we never felt before — and everyone was asking about them. So Coco coded PayPal on our page, and people started buying these glasses. And we’re like, ‘Oh my god, we can make this into a business!’”

By this time, the sisters had been accepted into the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But they were noticing that it was mostly people from the East Coast, notably New York, that were picking up on their glasses. They came up with a new plan. “I remember calling our parents, saying, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, we’re not gonna go to college anymore. We’re gonna move to New York. We have $1,000 saved up. I think we can do this,’” Breezy says, laughing. “And you know what our parents said? ‘Go for it. If things don’t work, you can always come back.’”

Two broke girls moving to New York — what could go wrong? A first place to stay, promised by a friend, fell through; a tweeted plea led to another friend letting them stay with him in a studio apartment in the Bronx. But the sisters, already fiercely independent, wanted something of their own — and a combination of kismet and confidence took care of the rest.

“Let me tell you, this sounds unreal, but it’s so real — our lives are so magical,” Breezy says, recounting the experience of what would happen when the sisters would wander the streets sporting their creations. “We were just these punk downtown New York kids. Black lipstick, blue hair, just being ourselves, kicking it in Soho or wherever. And naturally, we looked like walking advertisements. We had guardian angels come up to us, random people on the streets, coming up and saying, ‘I support art. Can I have your glasses? Here’s 200 dollars cash.’ On the train: ‘Here’s 400 dollars, I support art.’ They’d grab the glasses. At the club: ‘Here’s 300 dollars!’”

They didn’t get quite enough money to get their own place — New York is a brutally expensive town to rent in — but it was enough to get a room in someone else’s apartment. “I think it was an illegal room, because the room did not have any windows,” Coco explains, “so I’m assuming it was a closet. We had this queen-size air mattress that was the size of our room, so you couldn’t even walk. But we loved it. We were like, ‘We are in New York!’ No parents to answer to, you could come home whatever time you wanted to — it was lit.”

Photo of Coco & Breezy DJing behind the decks with orange and red lights

They officially formed Coco and Breezy Eyewear in 2010, and the celebrity clientele quickly followed. “We’d walk out the house,” Coco says, “and someone would come up to us and say, ‘Who are you? What are those glasses?’” “People were just like, ‘I’m this person’s stylist,’ ‘I’m that person’s stylist,’ ‘I’m Kelly Osbourne’s stylist.’ ‘We need glasses by tomorrow — here’s my email,’” Breezy adds.

One of their most notable clients was Prince; they designed his infamous third-eye glasses, which he wore during a revelatory performance on Saturday Night Live in the autumn of 2014. “That was his first TV appearance in 10 years or something, and everyone was talking about these glasses,” Coco says. “It was wild. We did a limited edition of 200 frames and tweeted the link to our website, and it broke because we didn’t have infrastructure for all the traffic at the time!”

Sadly, Prince passed away in 2016, but Coco & Breezy cherish the time they got to spend with him. “He felt like a real friend,” Breezy says. “Like, he wanted to meet our family, so we brought our mom to Paisley Park. I think he thought that we had an ear, before we even knew we had an ear, because he brought us into the studio and he said, ‘I want you guys to listen to my album and tell me what you think.’”

Coco and Breezy Eyewear was growing exponentially, but the sisters had a feeling that there was more to come. “The brand was being tied into music, so we always knew that we were going to grow into music and use that platform,” Coco says. The siblings had taken a DJ class at Scratch Academy in 2014, but had yet to go any further than that. The following year, that would change, thanks to another bit of magic. Out of the blue, they received an email: “I want to book Coco & Breezy to DJ a rooftop party.”

“We hadn’t told anybody that we even want to DJ,” Breezy says. “But that was another time an intuitive clue came into our life — so we were like, ‘this is the time to do it.’ It was 24 hours before this gig, and we asked our home girl, ‘Hey, can you teach us how to DJ? Can you show us a couple of things?’” “And then we had another friend who had Serato on his laptop,” Coco says. “He let us use his laptop, because we didn’t even have time to download music.” “I’m pretty sure our mixes sound like pots and pans,” Breezy adds. “Oh my gosh, when I listened to our old blends… We thought we were doing it, and we were not,” Coco laughs. “But our song selection was crazy.”

Following that semi-successful gig, the sisters buckled down to learn the technical side of spinning. At first, they would hit up the DJ friends they had made since living in New York, asking them if they could jump on the decks for a short mini-set at their parties. They soon started playing their own gigs as well, utilising their connections in brands and music. They had fallen in love with electronic music a few years earlier — Skrillex, Tokimonsta, and Lapalux were their gateway drugs — but they found that they had to ease their crowds into their preferred sound.

Photo of Coco & Breezy sitting on the floor next to each other in black and white

"At that time, it felt like there wasn’t a lot of diversity [in dance music]. All you saw were white men on almost every playlist, so we thought that we were at a disadvantage if we showed our faces. But finally, we were like, ‘You know what? Forget that. Let’s just be us and see what happens’." – Breezy

“We got placed in a position of playing things that all the other DJs were playing, like hip-hop music,” Coco recalls. “But this was our trick. We’d play a couple of hip-hop songs that everyone knew, we’d build the trust, and then we’d start playing dance music, and they’d be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ and start grooving. We’d be playing hip-hop parties and then throw on some Skrillex. People would like it, though, and they ended up always sticking with us.” The gigs, local at first, were coming fast and furious, building the sisters’ confidence. They soon were ready to take the next step.

"Around 2018,” Coco says, “we realised that it was time to start finding our sound. It was time to position ourselves to be touring DJs. It was time to start putting music out.” Coco had gotten her hands on Logic Pro, and they were occasionally traveling down the New Jersey Turnpike, where a friend had a home studio. “But we were playing around with producing, just dabbling,” Coco says, “just making beats, not songs.” “I actually don’t take credit,” Breezy adds. “Coco started producing before me. She would be at home, locked in her room, just touching stuff.”

By now, they were feeling dancefloor sounds like Jersey club, thanks to a bonanza of Jersey tunes that a friend had given them when they first started spinning; they think of DJ Sliink, one of the pioneers of the sound, as a mentor and friend. But it was an earlier influence, R&B, that informs their first tune — released in March of 2018, they debuted with ‘Differences’, a cover of a track by ’00s premiere loverman Ginuwine, with Sliink himself providing a remix.

“We love R&B music, and we love Ginuwine — we call him Ginu-fine,” Coco laughs. “But I always forget about that one. I mean, I don’t really forget about it, but after a couple of years, and you’ve put out music that was actually your full sound, you do kind of forget about the first one. But you have to appreciate where you started, and there was something there.” It would be another two years before their next number, 2020’s ‘Convo’, would come out. The tune, a poppy house charmer boasting bittersweet lyrics of fading love — “good conversation doesn’t go like it used to, babe” — marks the true beginning of the Coco & Breezy sound.

“It was during the pandemic,” Breezy recalls, “and there were a lot of gigs that got canceled, and we had a choice — like, do we have a rebrand to actually show people who we are? Because before the pandemic, we’re kind of being placed in spaces where we had to DJ music that we didn’t want to DJ.” “Or someone would know that we were producing,” Coco continues, “and because we’re Black girls, they’d say, ‘I need you to make me a hip-hop beat.’ We were like, 'So what is the real Coco & Breezy?' Now we actually had time to sit and really figure it out — and we knew we wanted to make dance music. We had spent a lot of time developing our sound before the pandemic, but especially during the pandemic.”

They thought long and hard about putting their faces on the cover, afraid that potential listeners would guess that it was another R&B track before they even gave it a spin. “Or even they’re not going to take us seriously because we’re Black women,” Breezy says, “and that’s so sad that we had to feel that way. At that time, it felt like there wasn’t a lot of diversity [in dance music]. All you saw were white men on almost every playlist, so we thought that we were at a disadvantage if we showed our faces. But finally, we were like, ‘You know what? Forget that. Let’s just be us and see what happens’. So we put our faces on the cover for the artwork and ended up getting playlisted a lot, and the song got really amazing streams.”

DJ Mag north america cover shot of Coco & Breezy grinning while holding their hands together in front of their faces

The hits kept coming. Among others, there was late 2020’s ‘U.’, featuring onetime Danity Kane / Diddy – Dirty Money vocalist Dawn Richard; 2022’s ‘Just Say’ which reached the Billboard dance chart’s Top 20 and sits at over 14 million streams; and the just-released ‘Off My Mind’, an uplifting piano-led thumper, featuring the UK vocalist Sam White, dedicated to Coco & Breezy’s late father. “He passed away around two years ago,” Coco explains. “He’s literally the reason why we’ve been growing, because his spirit has been with us — we can feel him with us right now.

“There’s an area of LA called Leimert Park,” Breezy says, “one of the city’s last Black neighbourhoods with all Black-owned businesses. There’s a store called Motherland, and we took some drum lessons there, and when we were thinking about wanting to get some drums on ‘Off My Mind’, the first person we thought to call was that teacher who was there, because he had told us, ‘One of my dreams is I want to be on someone’s song one day’. And he killed it. African drums, when they’re played live, it just hits your soul so much. It’s very spiritual, and they help give the song a soulful, spiritual feel.”

The success of their productions has paid off in gigs. In late summer of 2021, the duo finally landed their first festival slot — albeit an opening set, for [Los Angeles-based events company] Brownies & Lemonade’s stage at New York’s Electric Zoo. “It was still during the pandemic,” Breezy recalls, “and this was like the first festival to open, and it took a long time to get people into the festival because they had to take a test and all these things. So during our set, there was almost nobody in the audience — but it was our first festival, so we were freaking stoked! And we played like there was a thousand people in the crowd dancing with us.”

“We wanted to show them that we could actually play, and we crushed it,” Coco proudly proclaims. “One of my friends told me that the reason why we got booked for Coachella last year was that her friend, who was there at Electric Zoo, heard us and told somebody, ‘You should book these girls for Coachella,’” Breezy says. “So from performing for no one, we got that Coachella date last year. And now we’ve gone from doing zero festivals, and zero ticketed events that weren't some kind of private brand event, to something like 80 shows. We got one of the most amazing agents, we got an incredible team, we played in support of some of the biggest people in dance music, and we played some of the most epic festivals. It’s been life-changing.”

Coco & Breezy have had a few breaks along the way — but it’s doubtful their careers, either in eyewear or music, would be anything like they are today without them knowing when to act, and on knowing how to take advantage of those breaks. “It’s so beautiful to be able to trust the process,” Breezy says. “We want to do things that are authentic to ourselves, and then grow slowly but surely. When it comes to music, or when it comes to starting a new craft and wanting to be great, it’s never just going to go from zero to 100.”

Like anything, the process involves a lot of grind — they take the DJing arts seriously — and a bit of self-examination as well. “We study all of our performances,” Coco claims. “Whenever we get done with a show, we look at video footage, and we’ll study it. We listen to every mix, we look at every body language movement, we look at every facial expression, because even if someone’s all the way in the back, they’ll zoom in on their camera and they can see your face. If you don’t look like you’re into it, that might mess their mood up. It’s a performance.” “We love it so much,” Breezy chimes in, “but we also super nerd out on the technical side of DJing. We’re not just pressplay kind of DJs.”

Photo of Coco & Breezy dancing with their hands in the air in front of a blue background

"It’s so beautiful to be able to trust the process. We want to do things that are authentic to ourselves, and then grow slowly but surely." – Breezy

The sisters have a busy summer ahead of them. They made their Ibiza debut on 9th with a date at the Glitterbox party at Hï Ibiza, and they joined the Martinez Brothers at the same venue two days later. They’re also playing several dates on the upcoming Chromeo tour. “We are so excited about that,” Coco exclaims, “because we used to listen to Chromeo when we worked at the Mall of America!”

“We’ve been having a lot of those full-circle moments,” Breezy says. “I think when you can be present in the moment, you begin to realise that you have a lot of those moments.” Add to that the fact that Coco and Breezy Eyewear is still in full gear — “Something that we're really excited about is that we're gonna launch a pair of glasses that are more affordable as merch, for when people come to our shows,” Coco says — and one begins to wonder how they have the energy to do what they do.

“We’ve always just had a really good work ethic, but also we value balance in life,” Breezy says. “Like, if we’re on tour, we don’t drink and we don’t go to the afterparty, because we need to wake up at eight o’clock in the morning for a Zoom call for our company or something. We try to live a lifestyle that’s sustainable to our bodies and that will allow us to run this massive machine — multiple machines, really — that takes a lot of energy.”

“Everyone thinks we’re boring,” Coco admits. “They’re always like, ‘Yeah, you guys coming to the party afterward?’ We’re like, ‘Nope! We’ve got to go to sleep!’” They’ll likely be needing even more sleep in the future, assuming they can even find the time. They have long-term plans to expand their Free Your Soul imprint, where they’ve been dropping their own music, into a label for other artists as well.

“And then a big goal is to have our own Free Your Soul festival,” Coco says, “our own Coco & Breezy festival.” “And our biggest goal is to help people heal through music,” Breezy asserts. “When we’re performing, and when you’re raving, we’re all also getting energy work without even knowing it, and you’re also creating community. A lot of our fans are starting to be friends with each other, and it feels like we’re building a community where people can share positivity and love in our space.”

Photo of Coco & Breezy behind decks with orange lights in the background

A week after sitting down with DJ Mag, Coco & Breezy were the featured DJs at the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan, at one of its occasional Party in the Garden gatherings. It was hardly your average club gig — these are fundraising events, and admission would set you back more than most of us pay for a month’s rent — nor was it your average club demographic, with a few tuxedos and more than a few Louboutins scattered among the well-heeled attendees.

In short, it was a tough crowd, and though a few outliers were dancing to the duo’s selections, more were seemingly concerned with seeing and being seen; others were lined up for the open bar. Many DJs would have been frustrated — but Coco & Breezy were giving their all, working their way through a precision-tooled set that would have felt at home at one of the city’s underground house clubs.

Over the course of an hour and a half, they riffed through tunes like Dennis Ferrer’s ‘Hey Hey’, the Marco Lys remix of Cajmere’s ‘Brighter Days’ with lyrics spliced from 'Convo', Floorplan’s ‘We Give Thee Honor’ edited together with the Marvin Sapp gospel classic 'Never Would Have Made It', and the new "Off My Mind" — laughing and grooving from their first track to their last. They were playing as though there were a thousand people in the crowd dancing along with them. They were crushing it. And they were having a blast.

Bruce Tantum is DJ Mag’s North America editor. Follow him on Twitter @BruceTantum

Photographer: Christelle De Castro
Photo assistant: Duck Feeney
Style Direction: Ugo Mozie
Styling Assistant: Fitz Fitzgerald
Makeup: Tomoyo Shionome 
Hair: Erinn Courtney 
Studio: Ground Work