You may have seen Coco Jones on the big screen—she’s been in film and on TV since she was a tween and if not, you will soon, since she’s the new Hilary Banks in Peacock’s Fresh Prince reboot, Bel-Air. You also may have seen her on the tiny screen—with nearly 2 million TikTok followers, dedicated to upping representation for proud, talented, dark-skinned Black women. But in 2022, you should also plan to hear her, as the multi-faceted Ms. Jones at last launches her music career with a brand of R&B as soulful as it is relatable, as diary-honest as it is marked by powerful storytelling. And though she’s young, it’s been a long time coming.

Raised in Nashville, TN, by a mother who was also a singer, and a father who played in the NFL, Jones learned ambition early on. “My dad got to wake up and live his dream his whole life,” she says. “That was kind of the upbringing that our parents wanted us to have: ‘Whatever you’re passionate about, as long as you work for it, we’ll support you. We’ll help cultivate that.’”

In fact, music came first, and Jones began recording at the age of 9 with just that sort of help. Her mom set up shop on a Windows PC and helped her record an album’s worth of demos that they would then burn onto CDs to share. “Auditions, talent shows, cattle calls…” Jones jokes, “I’d just be out there handing out these little albums that my momma made on her computer.”

It makes sense that Jones found her way into acting through song—first as a recurring guest on Disney’s musical sketch comedy, So Random!, and, in 2012, as the golden-voiced love interest in the network’s TV movie, Let It Shine. She’s stayed busy since, flexing her range across titles that span adventure romps, intense dramas, holiday fare, and comedy horror (Netflix’s Vampires vs. the Bronx). But singing has remained close to her heart since those early years. Her music feels like it was a lifetime in the making and, in fact, acting may have something to do with that.

“It definitely informs my music because I like to tell stories in my songs,” says Jones. “I think being an actress helps me tap into what somebody else was feeling. Even if that specific thing didn’t happen to me, I can sing like it literally did because my actor mind will put me right there.”

All of which helps Jones in her mission to be intimate and direct with listeners. Her confessional style began turning ears with 2018 single “Just My Luck,” a clapback against the entertainment industry: “Does my confidence offend you?” she wonders. “Cookie-cutter enough for you? Is my melanin offensive?” The video has resonated, amassing over 3 million views on YouTube. And these days, newer songs like “Love Is War” brim with vulnerability and intensity as she sings about the challenges of a fractured relationship: “I know you’ve got scars, I’ve got ‘em too.” 

While Jones released music in her younger years, she’s now stepping into the rich R&B career she deserves, signing with High Standardz / Def Jam and hitting the studio with Grammy-stacking heavy-hitters like Bryan-Michael Cox, Darkchild, Eric Hudson, Bongo, Camper, Lil Eddie Serrano, Full Circle, and Rockette—folks whose credits span the panoply of modern R&B, from Whitney to Mariah to Beyoncé to Summer. To put it bluntly: these are people who place their chips on winners.

Of course, for Jones, it’s not about success so much as connection. Ultimately, she wants to use her voice as an instrument for change on a broad scale, a tool for growth on a personal level, and as a method to bring her fans closer to her—and, in turn, inspire growth in them.

“I’ve learned that the more I open up to them, the more I discover that I’m heard and supported,” says Jones. “I want to bring transparency to my music so my music can be relatable. You can fit yourself into this song. My journey and your journey are the same. You get me; I get you.”