KINGSTON—Toward the end of August 2017, a 17-year-old Jamaican musician named Mikayla Simpson uploaded a video of herself singing to her Instagram account. In the short clip, she strummed her acoustic guitar and performed “Legend,” a record she’d written as a tribute to the country’s famed track star Usain Bolt. “Yuh nuh need no medal with a heart of gold, yuh stay humble inna yuh glory,” she sang about the Olympic champion. “If the times get slower and yuh start get old, mi still remember yuh story.”
Soon after, Bolt saw the video and reposted it to his own account, where it has since been viewed nearly 300,000 times by his several million followers. In the year and a half since recording that first video, Simpson, who sings under the stage name Koffee (sometimes Original Koffee), has been wholeheartedly embraced by some of Jamaica’s most famous musicians—and by their fan bases. At the January 2018 edition of the annual reggae festival Rebel Salute, the veteran artist Cocoa Tea introduced Koffee to a massive audience one month before her 18th birthday. Now 19, the DJ and singer-songwriter—or “singjay,” in island parlance—has already performed alongside contemporary icons such as Chronixx and Protoje.
When we spoke in Kingston’s Mountain View clearing late last month, a day before the release of her Rapture EP, Koffee marveled at the support she’s received from industry legends. “Being a young artist, you know that you’re not the first and there are a lot of people who have been there before you to basically look up to—people who have been setting examples forever,” she said. “They’re the foundation for the music that you are here experiencing and listening to now, [so] to know that you can … reach out to them and have them give you advice and just guide you along your journey, it’s a very comforting feeling.”