Black Coffee. Picture: Supplied
Black Coffee. Picture: Supplied
Black Coffee. Picture: Supplied
Black Coffee. Picture: Supplied

His is the quintessential celebrity lifestyle. One minute he’s jetting off to exotic Ibiza, the next he’s rubbing shoulders with P Diddy, or working on a song with the likes of Alicia Keys or Drake. You may even have seen his face on a can of Axe deodorant. 

But it hasn’t gone to his head. Black Coffee insists he prefers being just Nkosinathi Maphumulo, a father, friend and a husband to his actress wife Mbali Enhle Maphumulo.

The globally acclaimed DJ says he sometimes forgets that he is Black Coffee.

“Most of the time I forget I’m Black Coffee, and that works against me a lot.”

That explains why this international star felt overwhelmed at the prospect of working with Jay-Z.

Referring to his recent interview on Metro FM’s Fresh Breakfast show last Friday, Black Coffee shed some light on why he was unable to work on a collaboration with the rap legend on his latest album.

“I got a call from (hip hop producer and Alicia Keys’ husband) Swizz Beatz. I was in Milan at the time. He said, ‘Look man, I need a song urgently.’

“We exchange songs a lot. I said: ‘For who?’ He said: ‘For Jay’s album.’ I’m like: ‘Jay? Who’s Jay?’ He continued to say: ‘Jay needs your vibe. We need to hook up and do a song.’

“It turned out Jay is Jay Z.”

Black Coffee said he was “freaked out” at the request, but although he was humbled and excited at the same time, it was too overwhelming for him and he felt he couldn’t do it.

Black Coffee. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

“I was like, ‘I’m gonna do something’ but I couldn’t. I was excited but I could not sit down and do a song for Jay Z and I didn’t do it because it was such a big thing for me. I didn’t even know where to begin. I just wasn’t ready.”

He said these are some of the battles he chooses not to talk about most of the time because people only see the victory, the success. They don’t see the struggles the artist faces.

“People see all the good, all the great things that we do. Out of 10, we win five, we lose five, that’s how it works. People say everything you touch turns to gold. They don’t know about the 10 that we lose.”

Still on the Jay Z collaboration, Black Coffee also touched on how people need to be responsible on social media and think of the consequences and how their actions can tarnish someone’s reputation.

“I spoke about this on radio (Fresh Breakfast) and that’s why I’m speaking about it now. When I speak about things, they get turned around. There’s a headline on Twitter that says ‘Black Coffee turned down Jay-Z’. I had to respond to the tweet and say, ‘No, that’s not true’, because what that does is it’s gonna get to his TL (timeline) and I’m this guy in Africa who is telling lies about him (Jay Z).”

He spoke passionately about ‘Black Twitter’ as well.

“I say this a lot: If I wasn’t Black Coffee I would have deactivated Twitter because they call it Black Twitter in this country. It is the most depressing place to be. It’s where people are broken, they are broken by the people who don’t actually understand how much we need to build each other.”

The music producer and entrepreneur has recently teamed up with Axe to release his own body spray, called Black by Black Coffee.

He chuckles as he starts to recall one particular childhood memory, growing up in KwaZulu-Natal.

“As a kid I grew up milking cows, my grandmother used to have cows. In primary school, I was that kid was smelled of milk, literally, and ubulongo (cow dung). Smelling good is something I’ve always wanted, so when I could start buying myself deodorant spray, I overused it because in my head I was still smelling of milk. Fast-forward to today, I’m on this can.” He laughs as he points to his face on the Axe can.

“The reason I’m here is because I found my magic very early in my career and that magic for me was music and that’s the reason I keep moving forward.

“For me, is not even about inspiring DJ’s, or people in the music (industry). I think there’s a pattern about people who want to do great or people that are doing great in whatever they do, and that is really spending time doing what they love.”

Asked what he does for fun, he hesitantly says: “I hardly have time for fun fun for me is like Friday night is movie night, so if there’s any kind of fun, it has to be with my family really. I don’t have boys’ nights out where we go out clubbing. No, not for me.

Black Coffee. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

“If I’m not working, I find joy in just sitting and not doing anything, not even watching TV, not even reading a book, because I’m always doing something and not doing anything for me is so liberating.”

If he wasn’t Black Coffee today, this acclaimed DJ believes he would be exploring his other artistic talents.

“I would probably be Nkosinathi Maphumulo, who’s an artist, drawing and painting. When I went to study music, I wanted to study art as well, so I literally filled in two forms. I wanted to go to Wits for Fine Arts and Natal Technikon (now called Durban University of Technology) for music. I decided to do music but I used to draw a lot. I liked scrap books, mostly cartooning. I drew a lot of cartoons.”