Life lessons from DJ Black Coffee

Photography: Chris Saunders
Words: Hagen Engler

A few tips for success from a man who’s made it from the townships of Mthatha to the very top of the house-music game through constant visualisation and dreaming of success.

Keep dreaming

Don’t let your circumstances determine your dreams. 

“I never limited myself as a kid, despite where I grew up. I always wanted the best things, even though it wasn’t clear how I would get them. As a kid, I used to take a piece of paper and literally draw my dream house and my dream car. All the things that I wanted. Even my family…”

Black Coffee's key to success

Photography: Chris SaundersStyling: Jamal NxedlanaWords: Hagen Engler With hardcore creative determination, Black Coffee willed his stellar DJ and production career into being. Now he's on top of the world, but he's still dreaming

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Customise your life

Take what you have and make it unique to you. 

“I’ll fall in love with the way a car looks and then think, ‘Okay, let’s change the sound. Let’s change the colour.’ If it has chrome, I’ll dechrome it. Get a better exhaust pipe. ’Cause I don’t want it to feel normal. It must be unique.”

Plan your attack

Work out how you’re going to rise. Plot your path to success.

“If you have nothing, the biggest thing you can do for yourself is to think, ‘How am I going to get out of here?’ Visualise that.”

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Don’t dwell on the negatives

Try not to focus on your limitations, get out and live the best life you can.

“As a kid, I used to get physiotherapy for my injured arm, but it wasn’t helping. Then one day I told my grandmother, ‘If it’s possible, I would like to stop this thing.’ From that point I just shut it down. I just forgot about the fact that I’m injured, and started playing with other kids.”


Being original will make you a unique proposition people want to do business with.

“I came from an era where compilation albums were big. Local DJs would literally fight over which songs they could licence for their compilation albums. Instead of licensing music from overseas, I decided to create music and have overseas people licensing it.”

Follow your gut

Do what feels good to you. Don’t get too hung up on trends.

“People get thrown off by trying to follow the new sound. But look at Happy, by Pharrell. It’s a hit, but it’s not a part of a trend and it’s so different to his hip-hop stuff. If you get to studio and you start feeling the funk, go with that funk! Go with your feeling, man! When you go with your feeling, it helps you, because that’s what you know!”

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