Black Coffee On New Album, 'Subconsciously': "Music Is Life To Me And I Want You To Feel That With Every Beat And Melody"

Black Coffee

Photo: Alari Teede


Black Coffee On New Album, 'Subconsciously': "Music Is Life To Me And I Want You To Feel That With Every Beat And Melody"

"That's what music should do, it should divide barriers and unite us under this one universal language," the South African DJ and producer says of his new album, 'Subconsciously'

GRAMMYs/Feb 5, 2021 - 02:29 am

If you have yet to immerse yourself in Black Coffee's captivating, atmospheric beats, now's a perfect time. The South African DJ and producer's emotive sixth album, and first in five years, Subconsciously, drops tomorrow, Fri., Feb. 5, on Ultra. To craft the enchanting soundscapes therein, Black Coffee tapped a diverse, talented group of collaborators, including vocalists Usher, Sabrina Claudio, Celeste and more, and fellow producers David Guetta, Diplo, DJ Angelo and Pharrell Williams (who also provides vocals on "10 Missed Calls").

Black Coffee has been big in the international house music scene since 2013. That year, he won bingo on the DJ bucket list, playing spots like Berghain in Berlin, Amsterdam Dance Event, Circoloco in Ibiza and his first Boiler Room set. In 2017, while he was busy bringing joy to dancefloors around the world, he made waves in the mainstream with his standout feature on Drake's More Life. "Get It Together" featuring Jorja Smith is a remake of Black Coffee's 2007 track "Superman," its pulsating beat traversing decades and borders.

The Drake spotlight led the talented producer to "Get It Together" in the studio with other heavy-hitters like Diddy, Akon, Usher and Pharrell and to where he is today. Subconsciously is a culmination of Black Coffee's two-plus decades refining and redefining his sound, limitless beyond borders and genres, yet rooted in his South African identity—he's never too big to work with fellow artists from his home country.

Ahead of his exciting new album, caught up with the "Wish You Were Here" artist over email to dive deeper into the project and its collaborators, as well as what representing South Africa means to him.

What does your new album Subconsciously represent to you? What was your creative vision for this project?

When jumping into this new project, I wanted to remind the world that we're not confined by genres. As an artist, that's a value I hold very close to me. I create music that I can connect with, that provokes a certain emotion.

That's what music should do, it should divide barriers and unite us under this one universal language—and that's exactly what I wanted to do with Subconsciously. My artistic touch will always be defined by my music, but I want to break barriers and convey a global message, not just on dancefloors. This album goes way beyond. 

Read: Record Store Recs: Producer Bongo ByTheWay Shares The Music Of His Mind

There are a lot great collabs on the project—how did you choose who to work with on this one?

There are different processes for making every song and so I didn't go into this album thinking that I had to work with a particular artist. As the music evolved, we played around with many different elements. Sometimes a particular voice just meshes well with the direction of my production and it works. Other times, we're pitched a vocal and I adapt my music to make it feel right. These different processes sort of create an equal playing field for collaborators. 

What is your favorite part about working with other artists? And what do you feel like is one of the more challenging elements of collaborating?

Sometimes, you've put your heart and soul into a particular song and you feel there's nothing else that can be done, but then you add another creative on board and the song is elevated to a place that you couldn't have imagined before. Every vocalist, producer or writer can add a certain key element that changes the whole dynamic of the music and I think that's the real beauty in collaborating. I wouldn't say there are challenges, only creative motivation!

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When you released "LaLaLa" with Usher in 2019, had you already finished the album? For you, in what ways did this track feel like a shift into new sonic territory?

Back when I released this single, the album hadn't been 100 percent completed. The general tracklist had been outlined, but we were still going in and adding finishing touches to make it what it is today. The creative process and journey in making this album spanned over a couple of years.

For me, it wasn't necessarily a shift, but rather a gateway to spreading the joy of different sounds and reminding people that one particular musical way of thinking isn't superior to another. To me, if a song can evoke emotion and power, it's already done its job.

The music I am producing is oftentimes very different than the music that I DJ. I create music that you can blast on your car speakers or clean your home to. I create feel-good music that can universally bring us together. It's all about that feeling

"To me, if a song can evoke emotion and power, it's already done its job."

As a whole, Subconsciously is very captivating and immersive, and it definitely has a bit of a chilled out and moody vibe. How would you describe the mood and the feeling of it?

Every time I listen to Subconsciously, I have a new favorite song. That's what makes this album unique. There's something for every mood; it evokes a lot of emotion. You have the deeper sounds of "You Need Me" [featuring Maxine Ashley and Sun-El Musician] or "Ready For You" [featuring Celeste], upwards to the more poppy side of the spectrum with songs like "Never Gonna Forget" [featuring Diplo and Elderbrook].

What do you hope your fans will experience while listening to the album?

I hope that it brings anyone who's listening from anywhere in the world joy. That's what the music is all about for me. I've been working on and evolving my sound for pretty much my entire life. Music is life to me and I want you to feel that with every beat and melody. 

What does it mean to you to represent South Africa across the globe? What is a misconception people often have about your home country?

My South African roots are something extremely important to me. I want to bring South Africa to the world. The talent emerging from my country is growing by the day and being able to collaborate with outstanding artists like Sun-El Musician, Tellaman, Una Rams, Msaki and C-Tea, to name a few, means I'm taking the sounds of South Africa one step further on the global spectrum. It's such an honor to be able to carry the flag on a more global spectrum.

When people from outside the country or even further, the continent, think of South Africa, they have a very cut-and-paste conception, but it goes so far beyond that. My country is home to some of the most incredible musicians, artists and great minds, even beyond the obvious household names. Our culture is vibrant and booming and I'm so proud to call it home. 

Do you have your eyes on any rising African artists right now?

It's hard to pinpoint any one particular artist right now, as there is so much emerging talent. In the music world, there's Da Africa Deep, in the visual world, there's Ghariokwu Lemi, but these are just two of so many. I could go on for days and the scope is constantly changing and evolving.

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons


ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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Ladies Antebellum And Gaga, Jeff Beck, David Frost, John Legend Win Three GRAMMYs Each

Arcade Fire wins Album Of The Year; Esperanza Spalding wins Best New Artist

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(To view a list of 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards winners, click here.)

The evening began with a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, but by the time the last of the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards was handed out on Feb. 13, several other singers and bands looked something like royalty. Foremost among them was Lady Antebellum, who walked away with three trophies while the group members earned two more each for songwriting categories.

Lady Antebellum at the GRAMMYs


During a show memorable for its range of fully fueled performances, the country superstars sang a pitch-perfect medley of tunes that ended with a quiet rendition of the song that launched them, "Need You Now," and shortly afterward collected the Song Of The Year GRAMMY for it (along with co-writer Josh Kear, with whom they also took Best Country Song). But there was plenty more to come for the trio. They also took home the GRAMMY for Best Country Album for Need You Now. Accepting that award, lead singer Charles Kelley said, "This song has completely flipped our world upside down." By the time Lady Antebellum stood up to collect a trophy for Record Of The Year for "Need You Now," they were in disbelief, and possibly discombobulated: "Oh my gosh, we're so stunned we started walking the wrong direction," said singer Hillary Scott breathlessly.

Also racking up awards was Lady Gaga, who claimed three: Best Pop Vocal Album for The Fame Monster, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video for "Bad Romance." Never one to miss the chance to make an entrance, she hatched herself onstage from a giant opaque egg. That was a riff on her new single, "Born This Way," and perhaps her bared shoulders, which sprouted a pair of pointy elbows, were too. Her dancers and outfit gave off a Cleopatra vibe, but Gaga can't be stopped from seeming ultra-modern, and her performance of "Born This Way" reflected that; it was a warp-speed whirlwind.

Lady Gaga at the GRAMMYs


In keeping with that same modernist — or maybe futurist — spirit, she accepted her award for Best Pop Vocal Album in black body armor. But Gaga also proved she can be an old-fashioned girl with a soft side. In an emotional acceptance speech for that award, she surprised the audience by thanking Whitney Houston: "I imagined she was singing…because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar. Whitney, I imagined you."

Leading the nominees with 10 nods revolving around Recovery, an album that detailed his struggles with addiction but also reestablished him as a rap force to be reckoned with, Eminem took home trophies for Best Rap Album — a triumph over rivals including Jay-Z, Drake and B.o.B — and Best Rap Solo Performance for "Not Afraid." Onstage, his swagger proved undiminished.

A flame-haired Rihanna opened Eminem's performance with a searching rendition of their duet "Love The Way You Lie," but it was Slim Shady who came out blazing, spitting the lyrics to that song before raging into "I Need A Doctor" with Dr. Dre and singer Skylar Grey; Adam Levine from Maroon 5 handled piano duty.

Closing the show and likely lifting the Sunday-night spirits of indie kids everywhere was the Canadian collective Arcade Fire, who won the Album Of The Year GRAMMY for The Suburbs and, before the night's final performance, turned in a frothy and fierce rendition of the rocking "Month Of May."

Arcade Fire at the GRAMMYs


Other multiple winners for the evening included classical music producer David Frost, legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck and R&B artist John Legend, who each earned three awards. Among those who won two each were alternative rock band the Black Keys, jazz giant Herbie Hancock, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, urban/alternative group the Roots, Keith Urban, and gospel singer BeBe Winans.

And in a bit of surprise, jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist over teen phenom Justin Bieber, as well Canadian rapper Drake, and adventurist rock outfits Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons.

Esperanza Spalding at the GRAMMYs


The show also featured a few firsts, including a first-time ever GRAMMY performance by Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger, who helped pay tribute to fallen R&B singer Solomon Burke.

But if there was also a constant, it was the annual, high-profile celebration of music that the GRAMMYs represent, and the 53rd GRAMMYs fit the bill once again, with performances, pairings and awards presentations that were full of pleasant musical surprises.

Click below for more GRAMMY content:

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest poll to let us know which you love most.

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Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?


And The GRAMMY Went To ... Usher

Usher's "There Goes My Baby"

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(In the coming weeks will feature information and video highlights on winners from the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, held Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Each installment will offer the winning or related video and some pertinent, and not so pertinent, information about the track and the artists.)

Track: "There Goes My Baby" (iTunes>)

Artist: Usher

Won for: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance

Previous wins: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2001 for "U Remind Me"; Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2002 for "U Don't Have To Call"; Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals in 2004 for "My Boo" with Alicia Keys; Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2004 for Confessions; Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2004 for "Yeah!" with Lil Jon and Ludacris

Did you know?: "There Goes My Baby" is featured on Usher's sixth studio album, Raymond V Raymond, his third release to top the Billboard 200 and his second to pick up Best Contemporary R&B Album honors. "There Goes My Baby" cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Usher performed his No. 1 single "OMG" on Sunday's GRAMMY telecast with his protégé Justin Bieber. With the help of Usher, Bieber landed a recording contract with Island Def Jam Music Group Chairman & CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid at the age of 15, just one year older than Usher was when he signed with Reid's LaFace label in 1992. Usher launched an acting career in the '90s, appearing in films such as The Faculty and Light It Up. He is a part owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, and owns his own record label, US Records.

Click below for more GRAMMY content:

GRAMMY  liveblog
GRAMMY quotebook
GRAMMY Week photos
GRAMMY Week videos

Click on the "And The GRAMMY Went To ... " tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.