Cochise on the ‘Blessing’ of ‘Tell Em’ Success, Being Inspired by Tyler, The Creator and More
Show & Prove: Cochise
Interview: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
The pool of talent in Florida is overflowing, but Cochise, a native of Palm Bay, is floating on a wave of his own. The 23-year-old rapper’s song “Hatchback” made splashes on TikTok in 2020, with millions of users shimmying and twisting to the first few lines of his verse. Cochise’s trademark high-pitched delivery carries the track, reflective of how one would sound if they inhaled a balloon of helium.
The rising artist soared higher in 2021, with the $not-assisted “Tell Em,” a flossy record perfect for the soundtrack of a post-pandemic summer for those who were back outside. The smash peaked at No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart—the first entry for both artists—and racked up over 128 million streams on Spotify. “I’m definitely thankful and blessed for the area that we covered with that song,” says Cochise, born Terrell Cox, over Zoom this past October. He’s plotting on securing his next banger, and it feels as if it likely won’t take long to get. Cochise has been prepping for this moment since he was a toddler.
The rap newcomer began feeding his appetite to create at the age of 4. Pots and pans doubled as his first drum set to bang on. His upbringing in the Christian church is where he would put his drum practice on display after Sunday service. “I started really being decent at like, 6 or 7,” he remembers.
Outside of his creative stretches in elementary school, Cochise, the seed of a Barbadian father and Jamaican mother, came up bumping reggae greats Buju Banton, Barrington Levy and Beenie Man. Hip-hop wasn’t too distant, as Cochise’s dad was into “real rap” and gave his son an MP3 player filled with trailblazers like Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang and Afrika Bambaataa.
After his parents divorced and dad wasn’t in the house, Cochise was no longer shielded from hip-hop’s rawest and newest talents. He soon discovered Tyler, The Creator’s music as a pre-teen and gained some internal reassurance. “Listening to Tyler made me make sure that I could be myself rather than trying to be somebody else,” Cochise shares. As he grew older, the rhymer applied his experienced ear for percussion by producing jerk beats until “it eventually turned lame.”
A 12-year-old Cochise later recorded for the first time over Meek Mill’s “House Party” beat, but it never surfaced outside of being sent to his friends. Instead of music, video games absorbed much of his time at that age—and they still do. “I play games for like, 18 hours a day,” Cochise admits. One of his childhood favorites is The Warriors, based on the 1979 movie. A character actually inspired his rap name. “The first nigga I liked was Cleon, but Cleon died,” he explains. “So, I was like, I’ll just use Cochise because he’s the other nigga that looks cool.”
Soccer, a sport he’d played since age 2, also took up room on Cochise’s schedule over the next few years. After training with his cousin and go-to producer Lousho, Cochise became a legitimate college prospect. “I probably turned down more if I counted, but off rip, I turned down 15 scholarships by the end of senior year,” he says. However, money and a lack of time shattered his dreams of going professional.
By the time he was a senior in 2016, Cochise released his first official song, “Red Volvo,” on SoundCloud and an additional YouTube video that garnered 5,000 views. But his feature on DBangz’s viral song “Let A Nigga Smash” in 2017, gave him an even bigger burst of juice. Although, he didn’t want to be associated with being a meme rapper. “I wanted to make sure that people always took me seriously when it came to my music,” Cochise expresses.
His next elevation was lifted by 50,000 Spotify streams of “Ohayou,” housed on his 2018 project, Pulp. However, after the song’s early growth, Cochise worked on finding his sound. “I learned what dancehall artists did with their voices and how niggas used their voices as instruments,” he tells. Busta Rhymes, a fellow Jamaican-bred artist, was a prime example of how Cochise could bring his Caribbean heritage into the booth.
That new formula of vocal inflections was heard on the 2019 EP HiJack and two loosies that caught fire on TikTok: “Red Head” and “Hatchback.” Those records landed Cochise on the radar of Solomon Sounds, SVP of A&R at Capitol Records and founder of Sounds Music Group, the company Cochise is managed by. SMG A&R Nasruden Mohamed plugged Sounds into Cochise’s movement. Upon hearing the music, Sounds envisioned Cochise on the future rap Mount Rushmore for young folk.
“Just because of the energy that his music brought to the table, the way he would play with his voices, the fact that he was just so into every part of it, the way he would kind of like, you know, collab with anime and just deliver things in a really creative space,” says Sounds, whose eye for talent brought fellow Florida rapper XXXTentacion to the masses. “[Cochise is] a funny, really cool guy.”
Sounds helped a then-21-year-old Cochise ink a pro-artist record deal with Columbia Records in 2020, due to the extended legs of “Hatchback,” which is now at over 90 million streams on Spotify. The track sits on the 2021 release of Cochise’s Benbow Crescent project, an explosion of ethereal sonics, electric flow and lyrical dedications to God in almost every song. “Because [God] gave me birth to even talk, to speak, to learn English, to rhyme on a beat,” the rapper explains.
“I’m in the goal like a header/I thank God, he made me better,” Cochise delivers on “Tell Em” with $not, which followed after Benbow Crescent. The track that earned Cochise wide-spread acclaim received the Lyrical Lemonade video treatment last year thanks to director Cole Bennett. The visual has since eclipsed over 21 million YouTube views.
Cochise walks on the grounds of his faith at all times. Now, with two gold plaques for “Hatchback” and “Tell Em,” plus “Pocket Rocket” closing in on that milestone, he’s preparing his as-yet-untitled 2022 project. Until that arrives, Cochise will practice his usual method, leaving his career up to God before his fans, also known as The Republic of Cochise, get the music. “As long as God is going to bless me with it, I’m going to keep going,” he affirms.
Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2021 issue including our cover story featuring the XXL awards board members, Juice Wrld's mother reflects on her son, Big30 gears up for his debut album, a look back at the history of remixing hip-hop songs, Latin trap star Eladio Carrion talks about working with Bobby Shmurda, Tobe Nwigwe's viral movement with a purpose, KenTheMan gets cosigns from 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg, Young Nudy discusses his stress-free outlook on life, Bfb Da Packman reflects on six songs in his career, 10 moments rappers lost valuable possessions and more.