Black Coffee's 15 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Nick Boulton
Black Coffee

Do you like your house the way you like your coffee; deep, rich, with soulful notes of floral citrus? You need to tune in to Black Coffee, because the South African producer and DJ is brewing some of the most compelling house music on the market today.

His five studio albums play like mixes, with beautiful sonic themes and tracks that seem to melt in and out of one another perfectly. He's been at it a long time, since 1995, and his fame has grown well beyond his humble roots: He caught international attention in 2004 when he nabbed a spot at the Red Bull Music Academy in Cape Town, and he turned many heads when he won “Breakthrough DJ of the Year” at the 2015 DJ Awards in Ibiza

His mixes are something magical, but his productions form the foundation of his worldly style. His sound is tropical, moody, jazzy, and timely. Black Coffee is music to wake up to, to get you through the day, and tuck you in at night. Black Coffee is perfect for lounging around the house, knocking out those chores, getting ready for a late night, and driving off into sunset. It's uplifting music, it's creation without borders or boundaries, and it's good for the soul. 

Here’s Billboard Dance's list of the 15 best Black Coffee songs to date,

15. Marie Joly, Black Coffee – “Gratitude” Feat. Rebecca Murray

Everyone needs to give a little “Gratitude” to the goodness in their life. Here's a musical meditation to ground you in your thankful place. It sees Black Coffee teamed up with France's Marie Joly, and the two dive deep into an amber ambient glow. Rebecca Murray's voice is clear and twee. She sings like she's cuddling up to something good, no?

14. Black Coffee – “Juju” Feat. Zakes

Tribal dance floor love song? What could be wrong about that? Singer Zakes Bantwini is a South African pop star, and this was his first big break. He and Black Coffee were nominated for Record of the Year at the 16th Annual South African Music Awards for this hot-and-heavy jazz build. When the song hits its peak, you''ll be sweatin', too.

13. Black Coffee – “Stuck in Your Love” Feat. Azola

From 2015's Pieces of Me, “Stuck in Your Love” is a haunting love song built on an anxious rhythm and a nervous melody. That's the way love can feel sometimes. You're trapped in your longing. You try to dance it out, but you still find yourself checking your phone, checking out of the moment. We're just over here in love with all this bass.

12. Black Coffee – “Skhuzile”

This track from his 2005 debut self-titled LP is a beautiful introduction to all the things that make Black Coffee so rich. A relentless beat pounds under moody melodies, a series of ever-evolving instrumentation builds on top of the soulful atmosphere, vocal samples come in just to tease the ear. The song evolves from beginning to end, and it's never a dull moment. “Skhuzila” demonstrates the producer's incredible diversity in a solid, danceable six minutes. It's no wonder Black Coffee soon rose to be a household name in his native South Africa, and soon, the world.

11. Black Coffee – “Traveller” Feat. Nomsa Mazwai, Black Motion 

Calling all the restless spirits around the world. This is an anthem of movement and discovery for all those who seek the bleeding edges of the world. There's a hint of danger in the percussion. Is that a rattlesnake chirping from the bushes? Doesn't matter, nothing can stop us from forging ahead. This Black Coffee song is all about embracing your potential. Borders are imaginary, rules are mere suggestions, and anything is possible for the courageous at heart. “Traveller” will have you feeling bold and beautiful, so put it on when you need a boost.

10. Black Coffee, Darque, Kaylow – “Ready For The World” 

Another near-perfect groove. This collaborative stand-alone single slips through your fingers as you pass idle time. This is South African noir music, the perfect soundtrack to a late-night stroll through a rain-soaked city. It gives you the feeling that adventure is waiting just around the corner. Kaylow is pretty magical on the vocal. His jazzy delivery gives the steady house tune deeper soul.

9. Black Coffee – “You Rock My World” Feat. Soulstar

This jazzy tune made its debut live during Black Coffee's Africa Rising performance at Moses Mabhida Stadium in 2011. It's got a colorful, infectious rhythm that takes my mind to Brazilian dance floors surrounded by big, brightly colored flowers. Shout out to Black Coffee's own wonderful voice at the end -- he should get on the mic more often.

8. Black Coffee – “Love on Fire” Feat. Lungi Naidoo, Ribatone

Love is yet again the dark subject of Black Coffee's “Love on Fire.” South African dance vocalist Ribatone is incapacitated by his adoration, and the droning piano chords trudge through the rhythm like soldiers to their divine death, and there's something so sensual in the torture. Lungi Naidon brings brightness to the devilish track, turning the energy up on the dance floor until the song hits its climax.

7. Black Coffee – “Izizwe” Feat. Busi Mhlongo

For those keeping track at home, “Izizwe” is the Zulu word for “nations,” and this track from 2007's Have Another One is a beautiful blend of tribal drums, folksy guitar, and African choirs. A real tropical hip-shaker, it sets the dance floor on fire with pinks, yellows, and oranges. We can feel the heat of the sun on our skin just listening to it. It's the first track on the album, and it really lets you know what kind of cool party you're in for.

6. Black Coffee – “Your Eyes” Feat. Shekhinah

This Black Coffee song is not as catchy or carefree as most of his catalog. It's subdued and almost a little sad. The drums are not the star here. It's all about the desperation of Shekhinah's voice and the cold, cutting piano chords. The beat builds triumphantly as the song progresses, and the strings swell with cinematic emotion. It's a powerful song that stops you in your tracks and definitely needs to make its way onto your next breakup playlist.

5. Black Coffee – “We Dance Again” Feat. Nakhane Toure 

“We Dance Again” comes in low and dark with a simple clicking beat and bumpin' bassline. Singer Nakhane Toure comes in with rich, soulful vocals and builds a haunting melody. Strings follow his voice for dramatic effect, and before you know it, you're dropped right into the funkiest surprise hook of your life. It's so subtle, but it immediately nestles into your brain and lives there forever. There's an anxiety in the track that holds your attention. You're forever dancing toward some great release of tension, a feeling mimicked in Toure's lyrics that tell the story of a dangerous attraction that refuses to die. This tune also spawned its own Instagram meme, the #WeDanceAgainChallenge, that had IGers showing off their dance moves across the world.

4. Black Coffee, Monique Bingham – “Deep In The Bottom (Of Africa)”

This collaborative track with fellow South African songstress Monique Bingham is a beautiful ode to the struggle of their homeland's black community. There can be joy in pain, and there is hope in even the darkest hour. South Africa is the bottom of the continent, and it can sometimes feel like a low place to be, but this song and the resilience of a nation is one of its many brilliant highs.

3. Black Coffee – “Come With Me” Feat. Mque

From 2015's Pieces of Me, this is soulful, coffee shop house at some of its most sublime. The crisp production shows how far Black Coffee has come from his humble beginnings. There's a slickness to this tune, but thankfully, none of the honesty has been sacrificed. The acoustic guitar melody has our mind lost in grassy fields, white the beat keeps our heart thumping in the club. Mque brings a serious earworm for the vocal hook. This is a tune for the hot, lethargic days and steamy, neon nights.

2. Black Coffee – “Buya” Feat. Toshi 

There is something so incredibly haunting and beautiful about “Buya.” It hooks you in with that continuous chord, like getting swept up in a river's current. Toshi Tikolo casts a spell with her vocals. This song sounds the way dark chocolate tastes, smooth, rich, with a hint of bitter spice. It's got sweet heartbreak all over it. It's the sound of waiting to move on, but it sounds so good, we might just stay in this headspace a little while longer.

1. Black Coffee – “Superman” feat. Bucie

Originally released on the 2009's Home Brewed, fans surely recognize this as the beat Drake recently made even more famous when he sampled it for More Life's “Get It Together.” It's one of the coolest lounge grooves you're likely to hear, somehow relaxing and energizing. Vocalist Bucie is effortlessly soulful and laid back over dancing piano. We love Drake's take, but honestly, “Superman” was damn-near perfect even before he gifted it a new hook.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.