Black Coffee spoke to Helen Herimbi about his new brew: being the first African act to land a Beats 1 radio show.
“Putco Mafani,” Black Coffee excitedly exclaims just a second after I’ve asked him who his favourite childhood DJs were. “Um,” he takes a moment to think about the rest, then says: “Sanuse Nqoloba. Yup, yup, I am OG,” he laughs.
While the former Umhlobo Wenene and Radio Transkei DJs brought vibrant colour to the childhood of the DJ and producer who was born Nkosinathi Maphumulo in Durban, he says the only thing he drew from them and implemented in his new Beats 1 radio show is making music the centre of the show.
“The focus is music,” he tells me. “Those DJs exposed us to music more than anything. The knowledge they had, of what they were doing, was key. It wasn’t just about them talking. If you didn’t know an artist, they would tell you the history of that artist and that’s what I’ll be doing: exposing people to the artists they don’t know.”
“This is Beats 1, so the first thing you think is that you’re going to only hear house music or South African music on my show, but what we’re trying to do is to really expose people to me. As in, what do I love as this is my show? What inspires me musically? So it’s different sides and genres.”
Cup runneth over
Fresh from buying into Zone 6 Venue in Soweto and yet another nomination at the international DJ Awards, Black Coffee’s cup runneth over with good news. Debuting this Friday, the two-hour fortnightly radio show is simply called Black Coffee on Beats 1. It sees Black Coffee follow in the footsteps of the likes of Drake and Pharrell Williams, who are also artists with their own radio shows on the Apple-owned Beats 1.
The globe-trotting one man band might be busy with producing hits for your favourite Americans and his residency in Ibiza, but he is not resting on his laurels. Black Coffee on Beats 1 starts on Friday and you can catch it at 8pm if you’re in Africa. The show will see him host a slot with a wide scope of music and he’ll interview some of the biggest names in the house music scene.
South Africa’s Da Capo will play a mix and be interviewed on the first show. Black Coffee will also act as the plug for dance DJs who are bubbling under the mainstream. He’s not alone on this radio journey though. Black Coffee introduces us to Mario Cee who will be his co-host.
Raised in the UK, Cee is the Kronologik Records label owner and a former pirate station DJ. He and Black Coffee have been friends for 15 years, which will make for easy conversational banter on the show.
“Mario is one of my oldest friends,” Black Coffee explains. “We started doing this a long time ago. He started on internet radio and one of my earliest memories of being in London as a DJ is him hosting me on his show so much so that the locals thought I was from there. He’s good at this and it was a no-brainer to have him co-host.”
I got an exclusive look at what’s going down in the first episode of Black Coffee on Beats 1. And yes, the Mzansi icon does touch on his relationship with Diddy and how he got to jet set on his PJ. But what is probably most exciting is the fact that Black Coffee will be playing his never-heard-before untitled track featuring Burna Boy. I asked him how that song came about.
“I was in studio with Swizz Beats and we’d been intending to do stuff together for a long time,” Black Coffee recalls. “But on that day, I was there to listen to his upcoming album and hear what he’d been doing. “So I was also playing him stuff I’d been working on. One of the songs I played was the instrumental for this song. He played me his songs too and there was a particular one that he played that I told him straight up: ‘Listen! Burna Boy can kill this song. I can hear Burna Boy on this song.’”
“Obviously he didn’t know who Burna Boy was, so I had to educate him. I played some videos and they all fell in love with Burna Boy. The following day, Swizz sent me a message showing me Burna Boy was in New York. I had to find Burna Boy’s number, I called him and he was very excited. I told him I thought he’d be a great feature for Swizz’s song and I arranged for them to meet.”
“Swizz met Burna Boy before I did,” Black Coffee laughs like he still can’t believe Swizzy beat him to it. “They started working on Swizz’s stuff, but then Swizz also played Burna Boy my instrumental I had played him back at that other session. Burna Boy liked it and, in my absence, he started singing on the song, so when I came back the song was done.”
Future of music
That untitled song is not yet finished as Black Coffee plans to get another artist to jump on to it, but he thinks “it’s cool to play the track for the listeners anyway”. Another song you can expect to hear is yet another remix of Superman.
Music is still the core of Coffee and he lets me in on the fact that he’s just worked on a song with two Pretoria producers and that song has been recorded by one of the biggest artists in the world. But he’s tight-lipped about the details. What he does tell me is that he believes African artists are the future of music.
“The thing about South African music is that there are a lot of songs that have big potential to be internationally recognised. Like a lot of the music Kent is doing – I feel like if the same song was by Calvin Harris, it would blow up on the Billboard charts. Because it’s exposed to the right people. That’s what I want to try and do with this show. This is an opportunity to expose our music to the world.”