Meet Koffee, 19 Year Old 2020 Grammy Award Winner From Jamaica
Mikayla Simpson (born 16 February 2000), better known as Koffee, is a Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, rapper, deejay and guitarist from Spanish Town, Jamaica. She released her debut single, “Toast”, in 2018, and in 2019 signed with Columbia Records. Her 2019 release Rapture won the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
Koffee’s mother was an occasional actor, Seventh-day Adventist, and a Ministry of Health employee. Koffee’s first musical inspirations stemmed from her mother’s religious background. She sang in her church choir, taught herself guitar at age 12 on an instrument borrowed from a friend, and began writing lyrics inspired by listening to reggae singer Protoje.
In 2016, she won her school talent show at Ardenne High School located in Kingston, Jamaica without realizing that the informal show at which she performed in her school cafeteria had been an audition. She went on to learn music theory and vocal technique in her high school choir. A defining moment for Koffee occurred her final year of high school, when she performed at her school’s talent show with other gifted artists in front of about 1,000 people. She indicated that the show gave her the first bit of confidence to perform and deliver music live.
Koffee gained popularity after uploading a video to Instagram of her singing. In 2017 she released her first single, “Legend”, with just her voice and acoustic guitar. A tribute to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the song became a viral Instagram hit, once the athlete reposted it on his own instagram.
Awareness of the violence and social problems she witnessed growing up has influenced her lyrics, and besides Protoje and Chronixx she has cited Super Cat and Giggs among her musical inspirations.
Koffee was introduced by Cocoa Tea at the Rebel Salute, a reggae festival, and has also performed with her musical inspirations Protoje and Chronixx.
“Burning”, her take on Upsetta Records’ Ouji Riddim (which had been made popular by Jamaican artists Busy Signal and Luciano), followed. “Burning” grew out of her desire to inspire herself to push forward despite disappointment at not getting into post-secondary Sixth Form after she graduated from Ardenne High School.
In June it spent three weeks at number one on The Foundation Radio Network’s Top 30 Reggae Chart covering New York City and South Florida.
In 2018, Jamaican reggae/dancehall singer, songwriter, and deejay Cocoa Tea brought her on stage at the 2018 Rebel Salute and Rototom Sunsplash in Jamaica and Spain respectively.
Protoje asked her to perform with him. Chronixx invited her to join him a BBC Radio 1Xtra broadcast from Tuff Gong Studios, and she went on to tour with him in the UK at venues such as Bush Hall and at Alexandra Palace. Koffee and Chronixx appeared on BBC Music Introducing…LIVE on November 10.
Koffee’s December 2018 single “Raggamuffin” called out gun violence and governmental neglect of the youth BBC Radio 1Xtra named Koffee one of its “Hot for 2019” artists. Her next single, “Toast”, was produced by (izybeats) and (Walshy Fire) of Major Lazer. Both Chronixx and Protoje appear in the video. In 2019, Tory Lanez made a remix to “Toast” as a part of his International Fargo project which can be found on SoundCloud.
In 2018, she also signed with Columbia Records UK, and Rapture. Her debut EP on the label, was released on March 14, 2019. Her “Throne” video, which takes viewers on a tour through her home town of Spanish Town, Jamaica, debuted on The Fader on 22 January 2019.
On November 13, 2019, Koffee was announced as an opening act for Harry Styles on select dates of the North American leg of his 2020 Love On Tour, and on December 3rd as an opening act for the Latin American leg.
Rapture received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, becoming only the fourth solo female artist and the youngest solo artist to be nominated. A couple of days later, Koffee released her first cross-over collaborative single “W”, featuring hip-hop artist Gunna.
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