Where to start with the phenomenon that is Coco Solid.

A rapper, artist, musician, writer, and most recently Director, Jessica Hansell AKA Coco Solid is a huge advocate for promoting visibility of Mãori and Pacific Island culture and sub cultures.

Over the years I have known her, first as rapper Coco Solid, Jess has gone onto create house duo Parallel Dance Ensemble; grunge band Badd Energy; direct a documentary about the legendary Fafswag Ball, a South Auckland scene that celebrates Polynesian fa-afaine (transgender) culture; create Aroha Bridge, a series following the life and dreams of wannabe rock stars Kowhai and Monty Hook growing up in rural New Zealand; and collab with heaps of ace artists including one of my fave dance acts Disasteradio.

And that's only the projects I can remember off the top of my head.

When you're the sole person responsible for your creative output; it can get pretty challenging at times. It can get lonely relying on yourself to back your ideas. It can be really confronting sharing your ideas with others and building a team around you when you haven't seen your ideas out there before or can't see your ideas or values represented.

Which is why I wanted to chat to Jess. She seems to have a bottomless pit of ideas and ways to tell stories in new ways. And from what I could grasp - there was some significant backing of her own ideas going on behind the scenes. Which takes a crazy amount of self belief. Basically, I wanted to steal some of her mojo.

Jess let me bug her with some intimate questions on her creative process and how she approaches her art. And keeps sane.

What tactical things have you found helpful to create your art?

I have found that the more kaupapa, meaning and political substance I bring into my life - my art improves and resonates with more people.

Sometimes it might resonate with a smaller audience, but the few who get it are more deeply effected so it works out to be more valuable. I will never have that crossroad where there is nothing for me to say, cos there is always something wrong with the world, something you can help with your skills/voice, ideas you can push to help bring your communities out of the dark and into the sun.

Your work is never done if you are a soldier and sometimes that's enough to get me out of bed in the morning.

When you're being creative - and something has never been done before - how do you back yourself and get on with creating?

I believe, somewhere deep inside my art practice and vision is something scarily unshakable that I can't explain and don't fully understand myself.

I have shocked myself with how steadfast and stubborn I am on some ideas. For example I stayed with my cartoon webseries for over two years when almost everyone else's heart had dropped out on it. Because I believe in Mãori & Pacific visibility that much... and I know my voice is needed as a woman in screenwriting - so I stand by my shit like a sacred thing. I might forget about dreams sometimes but I have a contract, it's like a pinkie promise I can't break til something reaches it's potential. I might fuck things up but I seldom flake, if that makes sense.

In what ways do you tackle self doubt?

I need help on this one. I still get scared, even with things I've done all my life. I was never molly-coddled creatively, I grew up in a very "you just gotta pull it off" laidback but cut-throat culture.

I use those ridiculous hypothetical fears we have as my down payment to achieve and go for it, those demons won't go away until I've executed or at least tried.

What's been the biggest challenge about motivating yourself?

I have pretty wild mental and spiritual health that I have finally learnt to take seriously. 

Several times I've tried to assimilate into the normal workforce in vain, but space, independence and autonomy is what I need to stay creative and well across the board. It means I forgo a lot of other stabilities, like having your day, role and income mapped out for you. Without these, an identical stress can easily creep back into view anyway. So you are always juggling, compromising, keeping tabs on the two evils and working as hard as those with a job.

It boiled down to the fact that if my work is going to make me psycho, I want it to be my work. When it comes to being an independent artist and creative freelancing, every day I wake up I have no idea what I'm doing. That's the motivator and the demotivator all wrapped in the same house coat and trackpants.

If you'd give a tip to your 21 year old self - what would it be?

Survive, upskill, evolve and outlast your doubters - especially if one of them is you. If not for the love of your craft, at least do these things for a fleeting sense of revenge LOL.

You can connect with Coco here. Image by Thomas Neal.