Black Coffee chats to the M&G about his Grammy win and ‘career milestones’

For the DJ who coined an authentic signature sound of Afropolitan house, Nkosinathi Maphumulo aka Black Coffee’s Grammy win signifies a milestone for African dance and electronic music. 

This win solidifies several firsts for him, as one of the most awarded DJs in Africa. Black Coffee was the first DJ to perform at Coachella twice, the first African artist to have his show on Apple Music’s Beat 1, and the first African DJ to win a BET award.

The monumental moment came right after the relaunch of the Black Coffee Foundation in March 2022. It was not just a celebration but a fundraiser to help students studying in the arts, a act of kindness motivated by the pandemic, which was hard on the creative industry. 

As a young boy who didn’t have it easy while trying to pursue his career in entertainment, he understood the stigma around choosing the creative field as a legitimate career and wanted to lend a helping hand to those who can’t afford to go to school to study what they love. 

The DJ and Drive hitmaker was nominated alongside internationally recognised dance ensembles Weapon, Marshmello, and Illenium.

Snazo Notho interviewed the DJ a day after his Grammy victory. 

What does this award mean to you as an already heavily decorated South Africa producer and DJ? 

For the African kids who were watching, who come from where I come from, who may think they don’t stand a chance to get on a global stage, I want to say to them: it’s possible. The award isn’t just for me. It’s to show them that this isn’t about music alone either. It’s about anything they may want to do. This Grammy for me is a symbol of that. That it’s really really possible to get here, by the grace of God.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 03: Black Coffee, winner of the Best Dance/Electronic Music Album award, poses in the winners photo room during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Were you anticipating the win? 

Of course you hope for a win. A Grammy Award is the pinnacle of the music industry. But to be as brash as to regard the win as decided in your favour… Never! 

Does you attach value to the award, especially this biggest award? 

The Grammy nomination and award is an extremely big deal to me. It’s a career milestone of incredible significance because I intentionally worked tirelessly and relentlessly to get to this level. And the kind of recognition I’ve achieved on a global scale is incredibly rare for an artist from Africa. African artists are typically relegated to the African/world music category, competing only against each other. So for me to get a Grammy nod was equivalent to the global music industry saying, “We see you,” in the most profound way. 

In terms of the evolution of your music from inception to now, what are some changes you’ve introduced over the years that have contributed to you being a household name? 

Up until now I’ve produced mostly pure house music albums. They’ve all been specific genre-driven projects. Over time though, I’m now in a space where I want to explore as much music as I can without being stuck in one genre.I want to do everything that I love. I’m a music fan first. Even the music I listen to varies. I listen to so many different styles of music. And as a producer, too, I want to delve into producing different styles of music.

Subconsciously is the first album where I’ve stepped outside of the house music-only approach while still remaining true to my roots. I still have my rhythms and I have my people on the album and we all move together with the common goal of presenting who we are without trying to be anyone else. 

What was the thinking behind the suit you wore when accepting the award? 

I wanted to wear a custom Amiri to the Grammys but I also wanted whatever I wore to be a tribute to my late friend Virgil Abloh, to be inspired by what he has done. The suit was inspired by the look that he wore to the Met Gala in 2021. I was honouring Virgil’s signatures as a fashion designer, which was crafting angelic, beautifully tailored suiting with a modern twist. 

The late Virgil Abloh at The 2021 Met Gala Celebration In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue )

In your speech you mentioned Msaki and David Guetta. Who are other artists that you feel enriched to have worked with?

So many, but they include Pharrell, Diplo, Elderbrook, RY X, Delilah Montagu, Sabrina Claudio, Maxine Ashley, Celeste, Cassie, Usher, Jozzi, Sun-El Musician, Una Rams, Bellman, Jinadu, Angelos… 

What are your plans for the near future?

I’m looking forward to my Ibiza 2022 residency and to continue making music and touring across the globe. Since I’ve relaunched the Black Coffee Foundation, we’re working on numerous exciting projects.

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