“I know one song won’t change everything, but all I have is my voice,” Koffee tells Apple Music. “So, that’s what I’ll use to speak out. I might not be affected by certain injustices directly, but living in a place like Jamaica, you can’t avoid the truth of it. There’s youths here that have grown up with violence right on their doorstep, and I’m not just representing myself now—I also must speak out for them.”
In 2019, the world bowed as Koffee—real name Mikayla Simpson—unveiled her innovative blend of reggae, dancehall, and sculpted rap flows on the Grammy-winning EP Rapture. That was a historic victory, too, seeing Koffee become the youngest and first female winner of the Best Reggae Album award.
The pandemic could’ve threatened to slow her rise, but she instead leaned into the rich musical heritage of Jamaica (the spirit of Bob Marley is present on “x10,” while “Lonely” is a stunning ode to ’80s lovers rock) and the expertise of her live band to help craft a gorgeous, rich debut album.
“It was about recreating those uplifting vibes that I had in my mind,” she says. “And I’m so happy we were able to, especially during a time that people need us to spread this message. I feel honored when I listen back to these songs, perfectly arranged and beautifully done, feeling like, ‘Yeah, I am gifted.’” Read on for her track-by-track guide to Gifted.
“I came up with this song after a show in Antwerp. I was listening to my Bob Marley playlist, with [1980 single] ‘Redemption Song’ on repeat, alone in my room. In Jamaica, he is pretty much a permanent part of the culture. And we all experience his music from a young age, one way or another. I laid these lyrics down that night as a voice note, and the message is still so true. ‘It’s a pleasure to be outside’ was about coming from Jamaica and having my music take me far away overseas to Belgium. I put that down in 2019; now it’s even more relevant, coming off the pandemic. It’s a real pleasure to be back outside now.”
“In my heart, I didn’t want this project to be too heavy. On Rapture, the songs are more political, but this one is short and simple—and represents for the fans that love that vibe. I also worked [in the studio] with Kendrick Lamar on this track, which was a really dope experience.”
“The first part of this song tells a story, a real ghetto story. ‘Sun’s rising, gun violence, police sirens’—that’s a regular day for the youths. This song speaks to them, especially with the Jamaican and Caribbean scene right now pushing this vibe of senseless crime. These artists probably think it doesn’t affect anyone, and some don’t even care if it does. So, consider this song here a counter to that: if someone’s coming with that vibe, cool, I’ll come with this vibe and show you what’s good.”
“This one’s a little bit more lyrical, but still very fun. It’s a very Jamaican vibe and a self-affirmation, a simple reminder that whatever happens, you’re ‘guided and gifted.’”
“I’ve been trying not to ruminate too hard on lyrics lately, just keep the vibe and let it flow. And I was inspired by John McLean’s music, its real lovers rock vibes, and one of my favorites of his: [1988 single] ‘If I Gave My Heart to You.’ I really love his music, and I would listen to this particular song, thinking, ‘Man, I’d love to pull this off in my own style,’ and together with my band, we came up with our version.”
“The vibe that runs through this song—escaping to paradise, running away—is probably as we were away at writing camp. Sat by the seaside, literally. I was thinking, ‘What if we could just get on a boat, go out into the ocean, and just live there with everything we need?’”
“Where I’m From”
“This is a more hardcore, dancehall track dedicated to Jamaica. When I’m away, I miss the warmth—especially in Europe, where it’s freezing. But I also miss the people. There’s a quote from Martin Luther King. He says, ‘In Jamaica, I feel like a human being.’ And it’s because of the way the people relate to everyone and make you feel. There’s a certain warmth to it that I love.”
“During the pandemic, I got the chance to link up with [Jamaican producer and DJ] Iotosh, who I’ve been a fan of for a while, and this beat is so sick. This song represents me in the way that, of course, I’m not immune to sadness or frustration, but I also love to laugh and make the best of any situation. This is about having fun, whatever mood you’re in.”
“Trust me, even if it’s not my reality at the time, or there’s no party, I consider myself a happy enough person to find the vibe within me. Making this was a fun experience. I had a session with JAE5; we had just recorded ‘Shine,’ and we both weren’t done. He’s playing me more and more beats, trying to get another one in—and I knew I would find the right lyrics once we found it, the right one, with this beat. This was a really fun experience in London for me.”
“This was a song I wrote during the pandemic, obviously, but it came really spontaneously. Just as my shows were being canceled, it was also a good time to hit the road and connect with people. I received a call from Popcaan, to come by his studio, hold a vibe, and there I met [Jamaican producer and artist] Dane Ray, who’s responsible for some of [Popcaan’s] biggest hits. I already knew exactly what I was gonna do with this one, and it helps that he’s a great engineer too.”tes go here.
Stream ‘Gifted’ HERE