Koffee – Gifted

by Apr 14, 2022Artist, Reviews

Koffee - Gifted

Release Info

Promised Land Recordings
Street date
March 25, 2022
Website Artist

01. x10
02. Defend
03. Shine
04. Gifted
05. Lonely
06. Run Away
07. Where I’m From
08. West Indies
09. Pull Up
10. Lockdown
Rapturous: A review of “Gifted” by Koffee

Next. There is a wonderful term, “GLOBALIZATION”, that we generally use around here to signify growth and development of a particular sound. We say things like Reggae and Soca have been globalized and what I mean is that the music has grown to a level, like more ‘mainstream’ genres, where it is being heard and embraced by people all over the world. On top of that, you’re seeing people from every country, culture and speaking every tongue actually PERFORMING the music as well, which is probably music’s ‘response’ to the grand ways of technology leaping forward: It’s taking much longer, but it is advancing as well. Speaking specifically for us, I’ll go back to definitely one of the coolest and most interesting individuals that we’ve encountered through the history of these pages, Ras Muhammad. Before you even get into the man’s work, you take the construction of his name – combining INSTANTLY two different paths of life — Rastafari and Islam — signifying the heritage of the Roots Reggae music he makes with the heritage of his native Indonesia. Artists like Ras Muhammad and dozens of others we’ve encountered throughout the years (and producers and promoters alike) from, literally, every corner of the world (I’ve always enjoyed just how popular it seems to have grown in Scandinavian countries) show just how powerful this wonderful music, which is often still considered ‘niche’, has become. It’s hit a certain level and now, you can be sure that as long as we exist, AS A SPECIES, someone somewhere will be making Reggae music. That spreading across the globe is one form of globalization and today we’re going to be taking a look at another form of it, arguably just as important, consistently. When Reggae originally came to the cusp of global attention, it immediately had an identifiable figure with whom to associate it. It was an impassioned, dreadlocked singer with a guitar (….who was named Bob Marley). And although that has changed slightly throughout the years (sometimes he wears a turban, sometimes he has a spliff, sometimes there’re Red, Gold and Green colours around him), that archetype of ROOTS REGGAE MUSIC exists to this very day (and it will exist tomorrow and the day after that as well). ‘He’ also still EVOLVES and promotes the music as, just as a generation fell in love with him, their children and grandchildren are now doing the same and their kids will do the same. That is the way that it has been from the inception of the genre and while we can look at something like Dancehall (which never really had such a figure and, instead, has relied more on the emergence of stars to do its greatest damage) (symbols in Dancehall would be Beenie, Bounty, Buju… etc.) which has seen a far more frequent level of change in the outward sense, Roots Reggae (fittingly, I suppose) has stayed the course and many of the stars who have followed the King, have done so in a similar fashion.

For example, had you told me in the heyday of the popularity of the likes of Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton, Anthony B, Luciano and the likes a few years back that the next group that I would be enjoying would be Turbulence and Warrior King and Queen Omega, I Wayne and Pressure Busspipe, I would have been thrilled, but I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit surprised. If you would then go on to to mention Etana, Queen Ifrica and then Jah 9, Protoje, Chronixx and Kabaka Pyramid, none of that would have been jarring as, though I clearly couldn’t have predicted their rises (with the possible exception of Etana, who came out destroying everything in sight, seemingly from the first chance she got), who they are and how they sound fits that archetypical Roots Reggae sound and presentation. NOW, had you continued down the line and… oh, I don’t know, ran into someone like…. let’s just say Koffee, then I would have probably had a difficult time believing that one. That one may have been just too damn far-fetched for my imagination; but, damn, I would have enjoyed being wrong.
We may actually find ourselves in just a few short years’ time where the international face of Reggae music is a kind of ‘electric’ female in her mid twenties – an extremely far cry from the stereotypical dreadlocked Rastaman in silhouette. While the music has definitely seen unusual rises to prominence in the past (you need not go back any further than Sean Paul, a veteran at the time, who caught fire via…. pretty much doing what he always did. There was no adaptation at all for ‘Gimme Di Light’) (WHAT TOOK Y’ALL SO DAMN LONG TO START PAYING ATTENTION AGAIN!), none of those, respectively, have looked like what Koffee has managed to do. Already one of the genre’s biggest names having just turned twenty-two years old, the Spanish Town native has strung together a… STRANGE level of accolades for someone her age in any genre and that is especially true in Reggae music. Back in 2020 Koffee would become the very first female to be awarded a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, which was actually given to her for “Rapture”, which wasn’t an album at all and, instead was her debut EP and only five tracks and fifteen and a half minutes long. Were that not enough (and it was), Koffee’s profile, locally and internationally, has skyrocketed and you just see her doing things which have not been afforded to Reggae acts, EVER. You can throw terms at her such as ‘trailblazer’ and ‘pioneer’ and, again, despite being at such a young age, she’s deserving of them all. Koffee has broken the proverbial mold and, though with it has come a whole heap of ‘different’ type of attention (and I won’t get into that too much, but what I will say is that Koffee, POTENTIALLY, may have the ability, one day, to change the way A LOT of people think) which we have rarely ever seen given to an individual so young. Also, though Reggae & Dancehall have been packed full of women from very early on, none of them have looked like Koffee. None of them (even the most venerable and most respected) have carried themselves like her. I’ve never had the fortune of meeting her, but she comes off as very much a young person, but one with the ‘personal liberty’ of someone much older (I’ve noticed that one of the best things about getting older is that you realize how small you are and how little other people care about what you do) (…because they have their own damn problems). But all of that would not be what it was if it weren’t for the fact that KOFFEE MAKES EXCELLENT MUSIC. From when she very first put her foot in the door, she introduced herself to us all as someone fully capable of crafting DIAMONDS of songs in both the Roots Reggae and Dancehall arenas. She scored hits as both and, across the past four years or so, she has supplied the music with some of its most memorable pieces. Maybe one thing was missing though. As ridiculous as it is to say, someone with a Grammy in their back pocket for Best Album, had yet to… actually make an album! Fantastically and finally that has now changed as Koffee brings forth the aptly titled “Gifted”, her debut full album release. As further evidence of just how far Koffee has come, “Gifted” (just like “Rapture” before it) comes via Promised Land Recordings (who has done virtually all (if not ALL ALL) of her official releases), a label backed (as far as I can tell) by Sony Music and Columbia Records and also on board is RCA. She’s managed to gain the investments of industry pillars such as those and you will not get very far at all into “Gifted” before seeing it clear that Koffee has well rewarded their support.
As if Koffee and her rise to stardom weren’t unique enough already (and they were), perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects about her the effect her music has had on a global stage despite the fact that it isn’t very ‘global’, at least not to me. Though things have changed somewhat (and I guess Koffee would be the prime piece of evidence of that), in previous times we would think of someone attempting to ‘go international’ with their music when they incorporated different styles. Maybe the Dancehall star would bring in more Hip-Hop or R&B. Maybe the Soca artist would add some Pop and then have something more casual and international fans would gravitate towards. Koffee doesn’t really do any of that. She does have her moments but, generally speaking, her music ranges somewhere between more traditional Reggae music and Dancehall (going forward, again, this woman may prove to have been VERY powerful when all is said and done). She’s also HIGHLY lyrical which was always thought to be somewhat of a ‘barrier’ for Caribbean artists receiving a bigger spotlight, in general, but as you can see those rules apparently just do not apply to Koffee. You don’t get much more “traditional Reggae” than the opener for Koffee’s debut set, “Gifted”, ‘x10’, where Koffee taps the legendary aforementioned Bob Marley and his ‘Redemption Song’. ‘x10’ is about how thankful the youth is to be in the position that she is in. She definitely recognizes how fortunate she’s been (and we’ve all been from being able to receive her work) in her life and, here, we find her being grateful for everything, from something as simple as just the sun rising in the morning. Despite its brevity, ‘x10’ is fantastic. Speaking of things that go quickly, next is the sub-minute ‘Defend’ which finds the artist, perhaps, getting as defined political/social as you’re going to find her in a direct way.
Mi have enough pon mi plate
Nah exaggerate nor try animate
When mi do talk, it’s straight
Kendrick consolidate
All dem police you run to ah cop off yuh face
Run di race, hold di pace
Big bro hold di faith
Jesus, gimme di pillow, beg yuh hold di case
Mi ah plead, youths ah bleed from dem heart and dem face

I read a piece of an interview where Koffee said she worked in some way with US hip-hopper Kendrick Lamar on ‘Defend’ (which is why she mentions his name I suppose) and while I know very little about Lamar, full credit to him, Koffee and whoever else spent time on this one because, for what it is (a downright brilliant interlude of sorts), ‘Defend’ is all kinds of excellent. She follows up with, fittingly, with the latest single from ”Gifted”, ‘Shine’. From the way it begins [“Sun’s out. It’s a siren. Gun violence – tiring”] this song is almost building on ‘Defend’ from just ahead of it, but ‘Shine’ isn’t a direct ‘descendant’ (well it is, but… you know what I mean) and, instead, it’s more of like its coming out of the darkness of ‘Defend’. Things haven’t gotten completely perfect and there remains much work to be done, but with ‘Shine’, we’re on the right track. Next in is the title track and when I first heard this one, it made me SMILE! The vibes on ‘Gifted’ are immediately very strong and really put a good feeling into the listener. The actual song behind the vibes is impressive as well as Koffee somewhat builds upon the theme of the opener. Here, we find her extremely GRATEFUL in acknowledging her lot in life [Killin dem ‘bumaye’. All these blessings weh ah come my way. Pray to The Father, say ‘kumbaya’. FULL UP MI PLATE AND BRUK MY TRAY] and about as far away from bragging as a successful person could possibly be. The very interesting riddim behind her — produced by one Frank Dukes — also deserves a mention as it sounds like people talking behind Koffee in a very creative style. So biggup Mr. Dukes (that thing is NICE!).

I hesitate to call ‘Lonely’ a ‘love song’ because it comes off as so much more by its end, but it definitely has those type of elements to it. Ultimately, where I am with it these days is that ‘Lonely’ is more of a ‘potential love song’. There’s someone that you’re well interested in and they’re reciprocating it, but you’re kind of still in the process of figuring it all out exactly and seeing if maybe you two can keep one another company on a more consistent basis. HOWEVER, with that being said, buried on this song is one of the most stunning moments found on “Gifted” altogether as Koffee closes matters with a DOMINANT lyrical tirade:

Listen mi, Koffee: Di Visionary
Picture mi visually, get a picture-delivery
You know seh mi criss from mi mama did Christen mi
And then mi full up of precision, that’s why you fi prefer mi
And when you look upon mi wrist and mi pocket, you si money
And then mi run up on di streets, wake di town, tell everybody
Seh from mi step up in di place, then it hot like seh it sunny
Do this fi mi bredda, mi grannie and mi mommy!

BOOM! DAMN WOMAN! You don’t expect such passages on a song like ‘Lonely’, otherwise, but Koffee definitely puts her own, one-of-a-kind stamp on it, which hopefully is appreciated by the masses (DAMN!).Oh and, before I forget (and I was about to), the composition on ‘Lonely’ is absolute GOLD. It is BEAUTIFUL! There almost R&B-ish ‘Run Away’ is a love song in the more traditional way of thinking, but even it isn’t such a song EXACTLY. It would help, I’m sure, but I don’t have to love you to find some nice place to run away with you for a little while and while ‘Run Away’ does have a time or two when it does, for the most part it isn’t what I would call a ‘romantic’ tune necessarily. Regardless of its foundation, it is another big winner from the album, this time on a very CHILLED level. Next was a pair of similarly steered selections in ‘Where I’m From’ and ‘West Indies’. Both are celebrations of Koffee’s background and both, wonderfully, give the listener two different styles. The former has a bit more flames to it and it comes off as more personal to Koffee as she directly deals with things such as her family, friends [When wi ah step, wi no ordinary. Air Force white cuz a God inna wi. Mommy proud of mi. Mi proud of mommy. She seh ‘Koffee just go fi di Grammy] and experiences; while the GOLDEN latter, which is, EASILY, one of her biggest tunes (“biggest” meaning one of her most popular as well as one of her finest) is more all-encompassing and general, but no less impactful at all, lifting up the most beautiful place and people in the world. ‘West Indies’ begins a run to close out “Gifted” which features some of Koffee’s more recognizable material to date and it is followed by the recent single, ‘Pull Up’. This one is just FUN and I just cut out this long ass sentence where I attempted to put it into some type of scope, but a song like this one is just to be appreciated for what it is and a credit goes to the player of saxophone for, initially, making their presence known, here and there, before taking it into a higher gear to close us out. And speaking of closing us out, giant hit ‘Lockdown’ takes those honours for “Gifted”. The very clever ‘Lockdown’ is another one that blurs the edges between being a love song and something else (in this instance, a celebration of life and FREEDOM to an extent) and it does so brilliantly. We’ve all had to deal with certain things and make adjustments for life these days and ‘Lockdown’ is Koffee’s ideal vision of just how she would like things to be once we get COMPLETELY back to normal. It was very unique and probably my single favourite tune on the entire album.

In an unsurprising move, Koffee and co. have also made a Deluxe Edition of “Gifted”, which features some of her older well known tunes (feels odd saying that with someone her age, but she’s already racking them up). Along with the entire Grammy winning “Rapture” — ‘Rapture’, ‘Toast’, ‘Blazin’ alongside Jane Macgizmo, the absolutely MAMMOTH ‘Throne’ [Mi no waste time wid di music. In ya ears like any q-tip] and ‘Ragamuffin’ — it also carries the dazzling ‘W’ with Gunna, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Burning’. All three additional tracks are EXCELLENT (I was about to say ‘W’, in particular, but ALL of them, in particular) and, like I said, I wasn’t at all surprised they made the bigger version of the album, just to catch anyone up who may’ve missed anything. Think about this quickly: As of writing this, Koffee has just turned TWENTY TWO about a month and a half ago. SHE IS TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD and has, basically, just dropped an album with eighteen songs on it and not one is ‘average’. The worst of them is ‘good’ and I’d argue that they’re all even a step ahead of that. That makes absolutely no sense at all.

Overall, taking it for what it is, “Gifted” is one of the best Reggae debut albums that we’ve seen in a very long time. If you just hold it to the level of being a debut album for a very young artist, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: It introduces Koffee to the masses by mixing in some of her established hits with some others that may (will) go on to become hits and it puts her in a very strong position to succeed with everything going on behind it in terms of its presentation and publicity. For her part, Koffee also does what she is supposed to do. She clearly embraces the moment and, when it comes to the newer songs, she shows that what we have heard up until now is just who she is as an artist and not a matter of someone being in an all-time form. Given her age, perhaps it is wise for us to temper our expectations as far as just how far Koffee can go, but for a twenty-two year old person to do what she did with “Rapture” and now “Gifted” – well, if she continues along in this way, a century from now, that Reggae symbol of a dreadlocked man may just have a sister.



Where to get it

Buy @ Apple Music

More Koffee Music

Buy @ Apple Music