Not only is Black Coffee one of the few South African artists on the Coachella 2018 bill but the producer/DJ has proved to be one of the most exciting and in-demand artists across the nation.
Black Coffee is a household name in South African house music, and any record with his remix is bound to be a winner. And with 1.3 million followers on Instagram alone, Black Coffee also uses his platform for a greater good. Sometime in the near future, he plans to create a whole new neighborhood in his hometown of Johannesburg. It will be designed by Virgil Abloh and serve as a cultural venue, with concept stores and restaurants, along with a school where students are able to study music and fashion to pursue their creative dreams.
We caught up with Black Coffee ahead of his set to speak on the differences between a U.S. crowd and a hometown crowd, his dream collab, and his initial reaction to Avicii’s death.
L.A. WEEKLY: For those who don’t know, who is Black Coffee?
BLACK COFFEE: Black Coffee is a South African music producer and a DJ.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s very hard. Let me just say I love music. It’s texture and color and soul and beauty — and a bit of jazz and R&B and everything else.
How do your African roots affect your music?
I think that comes naturally in the rhythms, in the music that I choose to play and that I try to find for my DJ sets. The music that I create as well. It’s something that I can’t shake off, being African. Even at times when I don’t want to sound African and I’m going for a certain sound, it just comes through the rhythm. So it is part of who I am.
How do you feel going into Coachella weekend two?
I’m very much honored playing at that stage where I’m playing. It’s a big jump. It was a big thing for me. I played here about three years ago. That was our first time this year at the Mojave Tent. It’s quite big and I’m really honored to be there.
What’s it like playing for a U.S. crowd versus Africa?
I don’t know. Let me say in South Africa, we are like music connoisseurs. They know everything, so you always have to keep updating and playing stuff they don’t know. Whereas everywhere else that I play, whether that’s Coachella or in America, they are more receptive to the story that I’m going to tell — which is something I love doing. I don’t like playing new songs just for the sake of playing new songs. I like to start you on a journey even if it includes all of the songs or classic songs. It doesn’t matter. So the difference is here, they are receptive. They are open to whatever you want to say to them.
Do you visit Los Angeles a lot?
I visit L.A. a lot. I spent the week in L.A.
What do you like about L.A.?
It’s similar to South Africa — the weather, the lifestyle. I lived there one summer and I lived in New York one summer as well, so I know the difference. New York is more trains, which I never really took. The cabs. And L.A. is more you get a car. You get a house with a swimming pool and freedom. South Africa is like that. Stay in our own houses. Less apartments, more houses. And the way transportation is set up, and the weather and the beach. [L.A. is] a place that I kind of know because I’ve lived there, but at the same time it’s similar to my country.
What is the biggest highlight of Coachella, aside from your performance?
Last week was cool. I saw SZA perform. It was amazing. I had a show to go to after so I missed The Weeknd. I was here with Puff and his crew. We had a good time last week. So that was my highlight, just hanging out and watching the performances.
You’ve worked with some of music’s greats like Beyoncé and Drake, right?
Not Beyoncé — it’s a dream. I am on Drake’s previous mixtape.
What’s it like working with someone like Drake?
We didn’t work in the studio together, but it was a big thing for me to contribute to that project. The reception on it was really, really amazing. And it introduced me to an audience that didn’t know who I was. So it was really a great thing to be on Drake’s project.
What’s your favorite song to drop on the set?
My favorite song right now is a remix that I did called “Muyè.” That’s the one. I might do an edit before I play. I think I’m going to have time to play a different edit today.
Name three essential things you need on tour.
My laptop, my headphones, my music on my memory sticks. And then a phone, but those three things are important.
Who is the most played artist on your phone?
Recently, I’ve been playing BannerBoy.
What was your reaction to Avicii’s death today?
Oh my God. It knocked me hard. I was trying to talk to him last week. We were planning on working on some music together. He had business in South Africa so I saw him there, just talking about collaborating. But last week, we had a conversation. It was like, “What do you want to do?” He was really excited about what he’s been listening to, what he was inspired by. I didn’t see anything coming. I was on a flight in Mexico City. As soon as I landed I got all these messages. Young dude. Extremely talented. I’m going to do a little tribute during one of my sets.
What else do you have going on musicwise?
I’m working on an album. My other dream collab is Pharrell, so I’m working with him. Hopefully that song is going to be a single. I have great, great respect for him as an artist, but more so as a person. He’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.