During her first 16 years, Koffee’s life was an island life that rarely took her out of Spanish Town, a Jamaican city about 10 miles west of Kingston. “I lived there and my school was there too, so I didn’t really travel much,” he says. “What was in my immediate environment and the feelings I experienced there were what I translated into my lyrics.”
The last five years have been a completely different matter. After catching the attention of the reggae world for the first time in 2018, when she made a brief but exciting appearance during the set of veteran singer Cocoa Tea at the Rebel Salute festival, Koffee (real name Mikayla Simpson) has become one of the most popular and promoted Jamaican artists in decades. . Now 22, he has won a Grammy for his debut EP, a deal with Sony, a slot at the Coachella festival and nightly television appearances, all of which have eluded other reggae artists who have been recording for decades. And while many reggae groups spend years playing small venues as they accumulate their audiences, Koffee’s first U.S. tour takes her to big clubs like Big Night Live in Boston, where she appears Monday night.
“When I started making music, we were amazed at how it all turned out,” says Koffee, speaking on the phone from New York after performing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”.
“We were pleasantly surprised, but we were very busy, very fast. In fact, when the pandemic came, this would have been our first break. So even though everything slowed down, we actually found some peace there. “
Jamaica’s nocturnal curfew inspired “Lockdown,” one of the songs on Koffee’s first full-length LP, “Gifted”. The album demonstrates Koffee’s lyrical inclination towards songs with a positive, upbeat and fun atmosphere. Speaking of the lead song, Koffee says that “if you’re alive you have a gift. But everyone has a talent, something we’re good at, and it’s about remembering to celebrate that gift. “
While Koffee’s voice could only be Jamaican, the music below adds to the long-running dialogue between Caribbean music, American R&B, and African music. There is a large dose of afrobeats, the rhythms of West Africa that are often heard in Jamaican ballrooms. Koffee says his love for the afrobeats comes from listening to Mr. Skintight. Nigerian Eazi while consulting the catalogs of modern reggae stars Sizzla, Chronixx and Protoje. Koffee also says that much lesser-known British rock singer John McLean is a key influence. “I love how relaxing his music is and how it inspires love around the world,” he says.
“One thing that’s pretty clear about this project is that there are different sounds, there’s a mix at all levels,” Koffee says. “One of the things I tried to achieve was to have all my fans. I’ve had songs that sound different over the years and I have some fans. [the 2018 song] “Raggamuffin” who aren’t necessarily fans of “Lockdown,” so I tried to mix it up so that each of my fans could find their own specific little flavor. “
Boston radio station known as Reggae Robin, which has presented the program “Raggamuffin International” on WZBC-FM for more than three decades, only remembers a handful of reggae artists who exploded as fast as Koffee, and none of them were. female. “There’s a lot of talent in Jamaica, but they don’t always notice, and she was in the right place at the right time and she had the talent and also the knowledge, and she came out of there,” she says. . “It’s a tough road for women in reggae, which is a male-dominated genre. So a lot of women are really struggling to get that recognition. “
Asked about this struggle for women, both inside and outside reggae, Koffee says she has not “experienced it specifically.” Maybe I will, maybe not. So I’m grateful, but also very aware of that for other women [that challenge ] it’s very real. ”
When the subject of women appears in reggae, Koffee is quick to mention her adoration for Sister Nancy, the 1982 “Bam Bam” of which she has become ubiquitous in recent years, from events sports to hip-hop shows. This has resulted in a larger profile of Sister Nancy, who plays at Bill’s Bar in Boston on June 26 along with Boston’s pioneering reggae artist Lady Lee.
“Ghera Nancy, I love her style, I love her attitude and the way she does her things, and how years and years after doing her song, she’s still showing up, so you can smile with that. says Koffee.
As for Koffee’s own impact, it was seen in comments made last year by Shaneil Muir, a rising dancehall artist with several Jamaican hits and a show on May 21 at Dorchester’s Kay’s Oasis. When a Jamaican television interviewer asked him about his goals, Muir said he was looking to follow the roadmap set by Koffee. “Koffee has won a Grammy at a young age. When I look at this and see how young he is and the talent he has for being in that position, and for being rewarded for the hard work he’s done, I feel like I need to know what’s going on. behind that business right. there, ”Muir said.
With Buju and GENRUS. On Big Night Live, May 9 at 8pm www.bignightlive.com