SAM MUKWAMU

Legendary South African DJ and producer, Black Coffee, released his highly anticipated album, Subconsciously, on 5 February. Coming five years after his last album, the 12-track body of work is packed with impressive collaborations with international acts like Usher, David Guetta, Pharrell Williams, Diplo and Cassie. The album also features local acts including Sun-EL Musician, Msaki, Tellaman and Una Rams.

Having earned global stardom, the Durban native has graced some of the world’s biggest stages and collaborated with some of the most prominent names in the music industry. This has allowed Black Coffee to develop his unique sound and musical range, which is fairly evident on Subconsciously. The album is smooth, melodic and sonically diverse, and is accompanied by sultry and soulful vocals that set a relaxed vibe that is carried throughout.

The tone for Subconsciously is set with the opening track, “Lost”, a smooth and emotional song with very relatable lyrics, backed by a gentle kick drum-laden beat. The second track “You Need Me”, featuring Sun-EL Musician and amazing vocals by the Bronx-born singer, Maxine Ashley. This song delivers a laid-back beat with gentle piano chords, and strikes the perfect balance between the emotion in Ashley’s vocals and the energy in Black Coffee’s production that demands movement.

There is an uptick in tempo by the third track, “SBCNCSLY”, which features exquisite vocals from US-based singer, Sabrina Claudio. The tempo is further heightened by the hypnotic rhythm set by “I’m Fallin’”, featuring RY X.

The album further comes alive on “Time”, with R&B star Cassie delivering simple yet elegant vocals, with Black Coffee producing a melody that plays to her strengths. On “LaLaLa”, Black Coffee enlists the help of R&B icon, Usher, for a groovy track guaranteed to make you move. Next up is “Flava”, a song with a banging beat and booming horns, however the lyrics are somewhat uninspired. The song features Tellaman and Una Rams singing about an untrusting woman with “too much flavour”, who was once sweet, but was turned bitter by a former lover. Although the song is still enjoyable, it is somewhat at odds with lyrics on “SBCNCSLY”, with Sabrina Claudio singing that “she’ll love when she’s ready”.

Black Coffee’s range is further highlighted on “10 Missed Calls”, a pop-infused track featuring vocals from Jozzy and Pharrell. A more relaxed mood is reintroduced on “Ready for You” and “Wish You Were Here”, both of which make you reminisce and long for the return of music festivals.

The inclusion of Black Coffee’s 2018 hit “Drive”, featuring David Guetta and Delilah Montagu, on the album is a welcome bonus to an already solid body of work. Three years later, the track still holds up. The album is rounded off with “Never Gonna Forget You”, which sees Black Coffee team up with versatile American producer Diplo and features vocals by Elderbrook. The song perfectly ends off the album with Elderbrook providing catchy vocals that complement the polished production done by Black Coffee and Diplo.

On Subconsciously, Black Coffee manages to perfectly balance star-studded collaborations with exquisite production, delivering a strong project with a recognisable mellow sound that we’ve come to expect from him. Subconsciously is packed with songs perfect for club and festival settings; however, with the uncertainty around their return, you’ll have to settle for whatever setting you can think of to enjoy this album. It certainly has the quality to be enjoyed anywhere, any time.

Image: pitchfork.com

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