Black Coffee is a South African DJ, record producer and songwriter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential and successful artists in the African electronic music scene. He is known for his distinctive blend of R&B, jazz, house and Afrobeat, as well as his collaborations with various local and international artists. He is also the founder of Soulistic Music, a record label that promotes and supports emerging talents in South Africa. He has released nine studio albums, a live DVD, and numerous singles and remixes. He has also won several awards, including a Grammy Award for his contribution to Beyoncé’s album The Lion King: The Gift.
Black Coffee’s Early Life and Background
Black Coffee was born as Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo on 11 March 1976 in eThekwini, South Africa. He later moved to Umtata, a town near the home of Nelson Mandela. He grew up in Ngangelizwe township, where he faced many hardships and challenges under apartheid. He was involved in a taxi accident when he was 14 years old, which left him with a brachial plexus injury that paralyzed his left arm. He did not let this disability stop him from pursuing his dreams and passions.
He studied jazz at Technikon Natal, now known as the Durban University of Technology, where he developed his musical skills and knowledge. He also worked as a backup singer for Madala Kunene, a legendary South African guitarist and singer. He formed an Afro-pop trio called SHANA (Simply Hot and Naturally African) with his schoolmates Mnqobi Mdabe (Shota) and Thandukwazi Sikhosana (Demor), which was signed to Melt 2000, a record label headed by Robert Trunz.
Black Coffee’s Comedy Career
Black Coffee started his DJing career in 1994, but he gained more recognition after participating in the Red Bull Music Academy in 2004, a prestigious global music workshop that selects talented musicians from around the world. He learned from some of the best DJs and producers in the industry, and honed his craft and style.
In 2005, he launched his debut album Black Coffee, which featured elements of R&B and jazz. He also established his own record label Soulistic Music, which aimed to showcase the diversity and richness of South African music. The album included samples of songs by renowned South African artists such as Thandiswa Mazwai, Hugh Masekela and Busi Mhlongo. He received positive reviews and acclaim for his album, and was hailed as a “rising star” in the South African music scene.
In 2007, he released his second album Have Another One, which featured “Wathula Nje”, a remix of Victor Ntoni’s jazz ballad “Thetha”. The song was later released in Europe along with “Even Though” featuring Bantu Soul. The album also introduced Culoe De Song, a young producer from Eshowe who became the second artist to be signed under Soulistic Music.
Since then, Black Coffee has released seven more albums: Home Brewed (2009), Africa Rising (2012), Pieces of Me (2015), The Journey Continues (2016), Music Is King (2018), Subconsciously (2021) and SBCNCSLY (2021). He has also collaborated with artists such as Alicia Keys, Drake, David Guetta, Usher, Sabrina Claudio, Pharrell Williams and Akon. He has also performed at various festivals and events around the world, such as Coachella, Tomorrowland, Ultra Music Festival and Glastonbury.
Black Coffee’s Awards and Achievements
Black Coffee has won numerous awards and accolades for his work and achievements. He has won eight South African Music Awards (SAMA), four DJ Awards, two Metro FM Awards and one Grammy Award. He won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for his contribution to Beyoncé’s album The Lion King: The Gift in 2020.
He has also been recognized by various media outlets and organizations for his influence and impact on the music industry. He was named one of the 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2019. He was also ranked among the top 100 DJs by DJ Mag in 2020. He has also been featured on magazines such as Forbes Africa, GQ South Africa and Rolling Stone South Africa. He has also been honored by institutions such as the University of Fort Hare, where he received an honorary doctorate in 2019.
2020–present: Subconsciously and other projects
Black Coffee released his seventh studio album, Subconsciously, on 5 February 2021. The album featured collaborations with artists such as Pharrell Williams, Usher, Sabrina Claudio, and David Guetta. It received critical acclaim and won the award for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
In October 2021, he produced a remake of the single “Too Late for Mama” by Mpho Sebina, which was released on the extended play Music Forever. The song was a tribute to the late South African singer Brenda Fassie, who originally recorded it in 1989.
Coffee co-wrote and co-produced three songs on Drake’s 2022 album Honestly, Nevermind. The songs were “One Dance (Remix)”, “Passionfruit (Remix)”, and “Signs (Remix)”. Coffee also appeared as a guest vocalist on the latter song.
Maphumulo married actress and television presenter Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa in 2011. They have two children together and he has two more from a previous relationship.
The couple faced several challenges in their marriage, including allegations of infidelity and domestic violence. In 2014, a South African tabloid reported that Maphumulo had allegedly cheated on Mlotshwa with a local model and that a woman from the Free State region was behind the allegations, and was demanding R100 000 from Maphumulo after coming into possession of a sex tape which verified her claims. In 2018, Maphumulo admitted to the affair, which he explained was the result of “being young and being overwhelmed by fame”.
In 2019, another cheating scandal erupted when Cathy Guetta, the ex-wife of fellow DJ and collaborator David Guetta, posted a picture of herself with Maphumulo on Instagram, which led to social media users alleging this was proof of further infidelity from the DJ. The couple did not immediately respond to the rumors; however, it was noticed that Mlotshwa had removed all pictures of the couple together from her Instagram. Maphumulo later took to Twitter to deny the allegations whilst also commenting on the way on the “lynch-mob mentality” of the users involved in spreading the allegations.
The couple separated in July 2019, with divorce proceedings beginning later that year. The divorce proceedings continued into 2020 and with them came further scandals. This included the publication of a leaked set of documents allegedly showing some of the financial demands being made by Mlotshwa.
The now divorced couple made headlines once again in April 2021 when TrueLove, a division of South African media juggernaut Media24, reported that Mlotshwa had filed for a protection order against her ex-husband alleging that he had assaulted her at her birthday dinner held at a home still shared by the couple. The allegations were made during a time of public outrage against the extremely high levels of Gender Based Violence (GBV) that were being experienced in South Africa. The report came following a statement from Mlotshwa confirming that she was seeking a protection order and that, according to her, it was her “duty as a woman to not only fight for myself, but for every single woman in South Africa”. She further went on to mention two widely known cases of alleged GBV, including that of Reeva Steenkamp, and that she wanted to help bring an end to these cases.
Maphumulo immediately responded to the allegation in a series of Tweets in which he denied the claims of assault whilst also recounting the GBV he witnessed within his own household whilst growing up. He further implied that this was an attempt by Mlotshwa to separate him from his children and “their” home. He ended the Tweets with one which explained that he, “as a law-abiding citizen”, would be observing the demands of the interim order but would fight against the permanent installation of the order.
On 7 May 2021, Maphumulo shared the news that the South African Court had ruled in his favor and set aside the interim protection order whilst also dismissing Mlotshwa’s case. In a since deleted video on Instagram, Mlotshwa announced that she “would no longer protect” Maphumulo and would be speaking openly about the abuse she alleged to have suffered as well as further alleging that Maphumulo had also emotionally tormented their children.
Awards and Nominations
2005 SAMA Best Dance Album Won
2010 SAMA Best Male Artist Won
Health Magazine Best Man
Metro FM Awards Best Produced Album Won
Best Dance Album Won
2011 Channel O Award Most Talented Male Artist
2012 Sunday Times Generation Next Award Coolest DJ
2013 SAMA Best Dance Album Won
Sunday Times Generation Next Award Coolest DJ
2014 Sunday Times Generation Next Award Coolest DJ
2015 DJ Awards Breakthrough DJ Won
2016 SAMA Best Dance Album Won
Album of the Year Won
Best Engineered Album Won
International Recognition Won
BET Award Best International Act: Africa Won
DJ Awards Best Deep House DJ Won
2017 DJ Awards Best Deep House DJ Won
2018 Dance Music Awards South Africa Best International Producer,
Best International DJ Won
SAMA Album of the Year Nominated
Male Artist of the Year Won
Best Dance Album Nominated
DJ Awards Best Deep House DJ Won
2019 Best International DJ Nominated
2022 Grammy Awards Best Dance/Electronic Album Won
2022 Headies Best Southern African Artist Of The Year Pending