DJ-Producer Black Coffee Takes House Music to New Heights & Lands a Grammy

By Gabrielle Pharms | April 7, 2022

Though DJ-producer Black Coffee received his first Grammy this year in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category for his 7th studio album Subconsciously, his 10+ years tenure is a testament to his sultry signature production style. Through the album, Black Coffee managed to teeter the fine line of remaining true to the foundation that brought him fame while producing surefire hits that resonate with the mainstream. The result? A seamless audio experience taking the listener across a star-studded (Pharrell Williams, Usher, David Guetta, and other A-listers made the album’s cut) journey through syncopated house beats evoking a mood that compels you to dance.

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EDITION caught up with the newly crowned Grammy winner to discuss how he measures success, what he learned from the late Virgil Abloh, paying it forward to his South African community, and more.

See more: AMÉMÉ Talks the Impact of Afro House Music & Shares an Exclusive Mix

This year marks your first-ever Grammy win! You’ve been in the electronic music industry for years, so how does it make you feel to get the recognition now?

It feels exciting, exhilarating, and surreal! To know that the realm of electronic music and, in particular, the lane I come from is gaining so much more global recognition across the board is something that brings me a lot of joy. There's endless talent, and all should be awarded! Being able to accept my award and elevate the continent of Africa on a global stage makes all the hard work worth it.

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Subconsciously is a masterpiece, plus you have some awesome featured artists. Compared to past releases, specifically 2016’s Pieces Of Me, what unique approach did you take to produce this body of work?

Subconsciously truly pushed boundaries and showed the dance music world that it's all about what moves you. We can't be pigeonholed to one genre, sound, or BPM. It's all about that feel-good sound that has the power to heal the soul.

We’ve covered Virgil Abloh quite a bit on EDITION. From my understanding, he was a frequent collaborator and close friend of yours. Even for those who didn’t know him, he touched so many lives! What are a few gems you learned from Abloh that you’ve embedded into your artistry and lifestyle?

Virgil was a pioneer, a legendary artist across many worlds, but first and foremost, he was a kind person. Virgil always made the time to show people how truly appreciated they were. He showed resilience and kindness up until his last moments, and it's something I'll always keep close to me in all that I do. His excellence will live on forever.

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Abloh was supposed to design your Grammy outfit. I heard you worked with AMIRI on a specially designed suit in honor of Abloh. What hand did you play in the design? Why AMIRI?

I was a big fan of AMIRI the brand, and then I became a fan of Mike personally. I love what he is doing and the direction he's taking in the fashion world. I love how free and unorthodox he is with what he is doing. I called him up to say that I wanted to do a custom suit with him for the awards, and we discussed ways in which we could pay tribute to Virgil with it. I feel as if the final piece really encapsulates the angelic, beautifully tailored suits that Virgil gave us. He was with us there, always looking after us.

It’s wonderful that you’re involved with philanthropic initiatives. How do you pay it forward to your local community in your home country of South Africa?

For me, it's empowering young people to have the confidence to go after anything that they're dreaming of. I want to inspire in all that I do, so in all my philanthropic initiatives, that is at the core. I've recently relaunched my foundation, the Black Coffee Foundation, which aids in raising funds to help provide education for the underprivileged students of South Africa. We should all be given an opportunity to learn and grow.

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In what ways have you grown as an artist over the years, and how would you measure that success?

With each set I play and each song I release, I'm molding into the best version of myself. As I continue this journey of finding myself and perfecting my craft, I measure my success by my growth. If you're not learning and evolving in everything that you're doing, then what are you even chasing after?

Even though electronic music is rooted in Black culture, artists of color in that genre remain a minority – which can be intimidating for a DJ-producer on the rise. So, what advice would you give electronic music artists of color seeking success in the scene?

Music sees no race, no gender, and no sexual orientation. Music – and in particular dance music – is meant to unite. Get out there and be yourself! The world needs more authenticity.

Photography by: David Becker/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Christian Lamb