Black Coffee & Tresor’s Work On Drake’s New Album Speaks to the Rise of South African Music
On the 16th of June, news that rap superstar Drake was dropping a surprise album first hit the internet. As with any of his releases, the announcement sent people into a frenzy. Leading up to the drop, the OVO camp, as part of a subtle and timely album rollout, put out a track list. Included in it as one of the album’s executive producers was South African super producer, DJ and artist Black Coffee. His name was listed amongst Drake’s regular collaborators and business partners, Noah 40 Shebib, Oliver El-Khatib and Noel Cadastre.
The two artists have previously collaborated on the remake of Black Coffee’s seminal 2009 hit “Superman.” Drake’s take on the instrumental and composition, “Get It Together,” was released almost a decade later on his 2017 playlist More Life. When the song dropped, the reviews and public reactions were split because of the original vocalist Bucie being replaced by then-burgeoning British singer Jorja Smith.
Fast forward to 2022, Black Coffee has a ‘Best Dance/Electronic’ Grammy award for his 2021 album Subconsciously, and has played at the biggest stages across the globe. It then shouldn’t come as a surprise that when putting together his experimental dance album, Drake tapped the South African producer to oversee and shape the sonic and creative direction of the album.
For an influential artist and global icon of Drake’s stature to do that is a historic moment and, not by any chance a small feat, particularly for the explosive South African dance and house music scene. While it doesn’t originate here, dance and house music has always had a home in South Africa. The country has produced many great dance music artists, birthed multiple sub genres and has contributed to the global dance/house music landscape and industry.
Black Coffee is credited as a producer on the tracks “Texts Go Green,” “Currents,” and “Overdrive.”. His Midas touch can, however, be felt on most parts of the 11 dance songs included in the 14-track project. Even his biological son, Esona Tyolo (Sona) made his debut and secured himself a producing and songwriting credit on the song “Texts Go Green.” “Falling Back” and “A Keeper” are produced by &ME and Rampa — whose 2018 track “Muye” got treated to a Black Coffee remix, and became a prominent feature on the DJ’s live sets. Australian artist and producer RY X worked on “Sticky.” The artist made an appearance on Black Coffee’s Subconsciously track “I’m Fallin’”.
Congolese-born, South African-based singer/songwriter Tresor also has a significant contribution on the album, providing his songwriting abilities and backing/additional vocals on a total of six songs (“Currents,” “Massive,” “Flights Booked,” “Overdrive,” “Down Hill,” and “Tie That Binds”). The pop star made an impression on the OVO camp through his 2021 genre-blending, joint album with the Scorpion Kings, Rumble In The Jungle. The project got major support from Oliver El-Khatib via multiple spins on OVO Sound Radio (Sound 42, SiriusXM) and Tresor would end up writing and producing Drake’s Tems-assisted song, “Fountains.”
Not to be exaggerated or be made to be seen bigger than it actually is, however, the involvement of Black Coffee and Tresor on the album holds weight. Unlike the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther: The Album, or Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift album which had hints of South African flavours on them and small contributions by South African artists, Honestly, Nevermind is imbued with South Africa. Yes, there’s no obviously-sounding, expected and uniquely SA dance music genre on it (i.e. Amapiano, gqom, or even Afrohouse/tech), but home brewed talent extensively graced Drake’s seventh studio album (not a “playlist” or a soundtrack-driven project), and that speaks to our brilliance and what we can offer to the world.