Koffee – ‘Gifted’ review: another giant step forward for reggae’s bright new star

The hotly-tipped Jamaican artist, who already has a Grammy to her name, confidently flits between reggae, dancehall and R&B on her assured debut album

It seems like the musical talents of 22-year-old Mikayla Simpson, AKA Koffee, know no bounds. Since the release of her 2019 breakout hit ‘Toast’, the Jamaican artist has marched onwards and upwards by delivering new and exciting takes on reggae and dancehall as well as dropping collaborations with the likes of J Hus, Gunna and John Legend. The biggest validation of her thriving career so far, though, came in 2020, when she became the first female and youngest-ever artist to win Best Reggae Album at the Grammys for her 2019 EP, ‘Rapture’.

Koffee’s ever-growing legion of fans have, understandably, been eagerly awaiting her debut album ever since. Fittingly, the 10-track ‘Gifted’ wastes no time by grabbing its listeners from the off, offering a blissful soundtrack to the upcoming summer months through its mix of slow bops, punchy tracks and genuine moments of joy. Take the uplifting opening track ‘x10’, which celebrates the idea of not taking life for granted (“I’m glad I woke up today”) and delivers that message through confident, unwavering vocals which sit atop soft guitar strums.

Good vibes are a recurring theme across ‘Gifted’, as the album bursts with positive imagery and heartening messages. “Just believe and you’ll achieve whatever you want to,” Koffee encourages on the slow and relaxed ‘Shine’, adding later on: “Life just reminded me, we’re diamonds / We shine away.”

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The record also showcases Koffee’s versatility, with the provocative ‘Defend’ blending R&B and reggae sounds as she delivers an impactful commentary on the importance of political activism (“Emergency state, we can’t escape it / Inflation crazy for the old lady”). It may be the shortest track on ‘Gifted’, but its evocative tone lingers long in the memory and only emphasises her songwriting strengths.

Crossover party anthem ‘Pull Up’, a collaboration with frequent J Hus associate Jae5, bursts with energy and flair, illustrating the attitude and charisma in her lyricism. “Zero to a hundred in two / Yeah, so me flex ‘pon you,” boasts the singer atop a contagious beat and flavourful rhythm. Seemingly keen to check herself amid the hype, Koffee also pays tribute to the “good company” who are keeping her grounded through her blossoming success on ‘Lonely’.

After making such an encouraging start to her music career, many observers are already calling for Koffee to be crowned as the next queen of reggae. Given its creator’s effortless vocals, smart lyricism and obvious ability to craft new bangers, ‘Gifted’ will only add to the clamour surrounding Koffee’s name: time will tell how far she will continue to rise from this point.

Details

Koffee - 'Gifted' artwork

Record label: Columbia

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Release date: March 25

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