Variety is the spice of life. Musical variety is no different.
Yet, the monolithic representation of black women in music persists.
While there are black women in every music genre, the mainstream representation does not usually leave room for such nuance.
If one wants to find black women in music who go against the grain, hard work is usually needed. It will not be as easy as turning on the radio or looking at the top of the charts.
Even in a typically black-centered genre like reggae, black women do not dominate the charts.
This is one of the reasons musical artist Koffee is so essential. The next generation of black girls can see there are many different ways of displaying musical artistry.
Born in Jamaica, Koffee’s love of music started at an early age, and she taught herself to play the guitar at age 12.
In 2016 she won her high school’s talent show. Later, as a senior, she performed at another talent show, this time in front of one thousand people. She had a great experience, and this encouraged her to pursue her love of music.
This decision has paid off for Koffee. In 2020, at only nineteen years old, Koffee, whose real name is Mikayla Simpson, won Best Reggae Album. She became the first woman to take home the award and the youngest reggae trophy recipient in history!
Her lyrics are not only positive and hopeful but display a depth that belies her age in her song Pressure, for instance. Koffee sings about pressures faced across socio-economic lines. She understands that whatever our social or economic class, we all face some form of pressure.
In a world where having an beat face is the norm and in an industry where hypersexuality is pushed onto black women, Koffee stands out.
Koffee stands apart from her musical counterparts. Her face is usually bare, or she wears minimal makeup, her hair is natural, and her clothing style does not conform to the prevalent style ethos of how a woman should dress.
In her own words, Koffee has said, “I am a person who dresses to be comfortable.”
Within the music industry, black feminity is viewed under a very narrow lens. Therefore Koffee’s non overtly sexual musical and fashion sensibilities are very important. We need to see a diversity in the way black women are presented and represented.
That includes her hair. Black women’s hair has been politicized, weaponized, and mocked. We have been casualties of eurocentric beauty standards. Koffee is setting a new standard with her locked natural hair.
While there are a few black women with locked hair, Chloe and Halle, most notably Koffee, stills stand apart. Her hair, combined with her unique dressing style, carves out a new lane for young, black female artists.
Koffee is currently rocking braces. Most celebrities have veneers. Koffee’s normalizing of one’s regular teeth is significant.
Young girls in general and black girls in particular face so much anxiety about their looks; therefore, it is beneficial for them to see a Grammy winner as a normal human being. To see their brand of beauty being celebrated and rewarded.
Koffee’s strong individuality is seen even in her name. She was christened Coffee after drinking a hot cup of coffee on a sweltering day when everyone else was drinking soda and juice! Eventually, she turned it into Koffee using the K from her given name.
Rarely would a guy who considers himself masculine be caught in public singing to a songstress’ art. Koffee has overcome that barrier.
The summer I discovered Koffee, it was her song Toast that was being blasted obnoxiously loud throughthe car windows of masculine-presenting men. Toast was celebratory, a turn-up and be carefree, but also display gratitude ,summer anthem.
Koffee was slated to be the opening act for quite a few musicians last year. Unfortunately, the coronavirus halted those plans.
Ever the optimist, she has turned this disappointing turn of events into an opportunity for growth. She has been learning to play the piano and improving her music reading skills.
Globally most of us have experienced quarantine. Koffee released the single Lockdown, an extremely relatable tune! Lockdown was released in July 2020, right in the thick of things.
There lies part of Koffee charm. She has a relatable, broad appeal while still, maintaining her brand of individuality.
The New York Times recently did a profile on black women in country music. Hopefully this is a sign that progress is being made. Artist like Koffee are creating space for muti dimensional music from black women. Not everyone is a Beyonce or Megan There Stallion nor should they be forced into such a box.
As Koffee gears up to release her sophomore album, her accomplishments so far are remarkable. She is part of the new generation and is already setting trends. She is showing that there isn't one way to be a black woman in popular music and that's something that should be consumed.