Koffee's new single "West Indies" is a love letter to her home and heritage

By Ben Ilobuchi on November 21, 2021

Mikayla Simpson, better known as Koffee, is a Jamaican singer and songwriter hailing from Spanish Town, Jamaica, who, at only 21, has taken the world of reggae by storm. From the beginning of her career, entering a singing competition at school, to being brought onto the world-stage after her song Legend was shared by Usain Bolt, all the way to being the youngest and only female winner of the ‘Best Reggae Album’ Grammy Koffee’s rise has been a meteoric one. But, that ascent has not been unearned; Koffee’s ability to weave complex lyrics so precisely while still being fun and listenable, is one that would take most people longer to hone than the artist has been alive. While also nice to listen to on a technical level, the content of Koffee’s music is also a definite contributor to her prompt surge in popularity. In a time of immense cultural cynicism, Koffee’s music serves as a bright and hopeful light, her songs bursting with faith, spirit, gratitude and a youthful zest for life. In her new song ‘West Indies’ Koffee displays that characteristic gratitude, presenting the listener with a love-letter to her home and heritage with a sense of pride that is nothing if not infectious.

Koffee recently took the time to answer some questions for POCC

Where did the name Koffee come from?

The name Koffee came from me literally drinking a hot cup of coffee in high school back in seventh grade. It's very hot in Jamaica and that's unusual in September, like right at the end of summer. I also had the same first name as another classmate so my classmates gave me a simple nickname, and I stuck with it and when I started the music, I changed the C to a K. So that’s where the name Koffee came from. 

You grew up with a mother who was a Seventh-day Adventist. How did living in a religious household affect your development as an artist and as a young adult?

Growing up with a Seventh-day Adventist mum in a religious household definitely inspired me from a tender age, because the church that I went to, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was always a very musical church, so we would always be singing hymns, harmonizing with each other and the choir would always perform. I was a part of the choir as well. Being at home my mum would always play gospel music, so outside of being at church I got into gospel artists. I think the gospel genre is a very musical genre in terms of just the way to implement songs and the instruments that they use in their check. So I definitely got in touch with that at an early age and that this still inspires my music to this day.

Do you remember when you realised you had a talent for music and that it was more than a hobby for you?

I remember realizing I have a talent for music when I was about 16 or between the years of 14 and 16. I started writing at 14 and had chances to perform in front of my class up until I was 16, then got a chance to perform at my graduation. All these musical performances were received very well so I realized that I had the ability to entertain a crowd.

What were you doing when you found out you had won the Grammy for ‘Best Reggae Album’ and how did you react?

When I found out I won the Grammy, I was actually sitting at the ceremony. I tried to find out who was gonna win this Grammy. I was very excited, my team was there with me, so that was a very happy moment for us. We're proud for our country, proud to bring back home a trophy to Jamaica.


Your new song ‘West Indies’ is a celebration of the area and of your connection to it. What are some of your favourite things about the West Indies? Aspects you love personally, or experiences you would recommend to people who know nothing about it?

Some of my favourite things about the West Indies are the views; the sunsets, the sunrises, the beaches, the rivers, the trees—a sense of nature because it's pretty much summer all year round.

I love our people. I think we are a very loving people to a great extent. Obviously everywhere you go bad things happen and people can be not so nice to each other, but I think in general we have certain love for ourselves and our culture and we embrace that here so you can definitely feel that--not only the warmth of the weather but the warmth of the people. Those are two of my favourite things about the West Indies I’d say.

Can you give us a quick run-through of your song-writing process?

My song-writing process usually starts with hearing a beat that I really like and that inspires the beautiful melodies. I then record the melodies, then put the lyrics to the melodies. After all that it’s just about putting the entire song together.

You’re still very young and have entered the spotlight quite quickly but still have your own distinct identity. How do you make sure you’re staying true to yourself?

I make sure I'm staying true to myself by connecting, or staying connected with my roots. So, I make sure that I’m visiting Jamaica a lot, especially when I'm travelling. I always making sure I stop at home.

It’s not visiting because I live here but sometimes when I'm on tour it feels like I’m visiting.

Spending time at home, connecting with my mom and speaking with my family, staying spiritual. Doing things that I learned to do in the church like reading my Bible praying, stuff like that. Yeah, those things definitely help me to stay grounded and to stay true to myself.

I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot where you want to see yourself in the future, but do you know where you don’t want to be in the coming years? Something you don’t ever want to end up doing as a creator?

Something I don't ever want to end up doing as a creator is not inspiring people, because I always want the music I make to influence people positively somehow. I think if I lose that, I lose it all. That's something I want to keep: my identity and my positivity and my desire to inspire. Yes, sir.

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