Kwame Darko Interview: Rapper, Producer and Soccer Athlete
Kwame, best known by many as a rapper and producer, also was a soccer star in college for the University of Maryland. While his college playing days are behind him, Kwame is friends with many U.S. soccer stars. Here’s the interview:
Kristan: So soccer was your sport of choice at college. So, who did you support in terms of a club team?
Kwame: I’ve always been a Manchester United fan. When my dad came back from business trips in England, he’d bring back replica jerseys. I’d play in the backyard all day wearing those jerseys pretending I was at Old Trafford. Domestically I’d say I’ve always been a D.C. United fan because I’m from the D.C. area. But lately I’ve been torn between MLS teams because I have so many close friends who play on various teams throughout the league.
Kristan: Do you still play at all and, if so, with any fellow rappers?
Kwame: I play every now and then, when I can find the time or a competetive game. Unfortunately I haven’t played with any fellow rappers [laughs].
Kristan: Did you prefer to wear classic plain cleats or colorful flamboyant ones?
Kwame: I definitely wore flashier cleats. Not too flashy, but if I could pull off a pair that didn’t clash too crazily with my uniform, I was all for it. Just had to make sure I justified wearing them by playing well.
Kristan: I don’t know if you know this but Akon is a big soccer fan. Would you consider a Kwame and Akon production for World Cup 2014? And what would you call it?
Kwame: I didn’t know he was a fan! Good to know though! It would be an honor to do a song with Akon! And since my childhood ambition of playing in a World Cup is done, I’d like to perform at one for sure! I have no idea what I would call the song though. If someone wants to put me in touch with Akon, I think we could vibe to a track in the studio and figure it out [laughs].
Kristan: Okay, so from college defender to rapper from MD, explain how this transformation came about exactly?
Kwame: I’ve always been musically inclined and I’ve always played soccer. A lot of people think I made some sort of transformation into a “rapper” when that’s not the case. It just so happens that I’d built up a bigger reputation as a soccer player at a young age. It wasn’t until college that I was really able to really get more involved with music and learn about the business. Before college I was defintely working on music and building my network but soccer was kind of my platform.
Kristan: Some may say moving from a likely pro soccer career to music is a risky decision. Do you see it like that? Is it a case of you taking a chance to do what you truly love?
Kwame: I don’t see it as risky at all. I’ve been blessed to have a choice. Both soccer and music are risky routes because longevity is a luxury in either profession. I picked music over soccer because music is what makes me happier and it was the best decision for me. I have so many talented friends who were/are willing to sacrifice anything to play soccer. That just wasn’t the case for me after college. I have admiration for them and they respected my decision to step away from the game to pursue my other passion.
Kristan: You’ve played with a variety of ‘who’s who’ in US soccer. You’re even friends with some of them. Have they ever asked to do a track with you? Is there any you would or wouldn’t let touch the microphone?
Kwame: All of them want to get on a track with me [laughs]! I think Maurice Edu is the only one who I’ve actually recorded with. I wouldn’t let AJ Delagarza or Omar Gonzalez touch a microphone [laughs]! They can stick to the backline with the Galaxy [laughs].
Kristan: Clint Dempsey (aka Deuce) has already released a video. Honest opinions now, what did you think when you first heard it? Could that be a future collaboration?
Kwame: I thought it was interesting when I first heard it. I think he brought awareness to some people who wouldn’t have known anything about US Soccer. The video was actually featured on 106 and Park so that was definitely a good look. Sure, there could be a future collaboration. Why not? We know a lot of the same people and have an interest in rap. Looks like I’ll have to reach out to some of my former teammates and have them contact him.
Kristan: If you could pick your dream team in terms of collaborator and album producer, who would you pick and why?
Kwame: That’s always the toughest question…I really can’t pick an artist who I would want to collaborate with because everyone brings something to the table and I look up to so many artists. I can’t narrow it down. It’s the same with producers but I guess the producer who I’ve been most curious about working with is Pharrell. I think it would be dope working with him in the studio.
Kristan: And what about a dream eleven to play with?
Kwame: International (current/former): Goalkeeper: Tim Howard; Backline: Cafu, Lucio, Puyol, Maldini; Midfield: Messi, Ronaldinho (2002 WC), Essien, Cristiano Ronaldo; Forwards: Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole (Package deal…best forward tandem EVER!)
MLS (current/former): Goalkeeper: Chris Seitz; Backline: AJ Delagarza, Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez, Danny Califf; Midfield: Jeremy Hall, Seth Stammler, Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers; Forwards: Jason Garey, Taylor Twellman.
Kristan: Have any of your professional playing friends ever tried to get you back into the game? Would you consider it?
Kwame: No, they haven’t. We’re all such good friends and they know what I want to do. Before a show I get calls from them and before big games I give them some words. It’s beyond soccer. We look out for one another on a larger scale.
Kristan: How would you describe your style and lyricism to a potential new fan?
Kwame: I would say that I have a more upbeat sound overall but I have the ability to really mesh with soulful tracks. If you’re open-minded and come from a diverse background ethnically and/or economically I really think you can vibe to my music. Even if you’re not I think you’ll grow to have an appreciation for what I’m saying because I talk about my experiences from my perspective.
Kristan: Is it sometimes an annoyance to have people focus on your soccer career when you are trying to establish yourself as a musician?
Kwame: At first it was but I realized that soccer is a huge part of who I am. It’s the world’s greatest sport and one of the largest political platforms. Why not embrace it? As of late I’ve been getting more recognition for just music. The bottom line is that people who know me know where my mind has been with the music. It just takes others a little longer to realize that music has been just as important and that my potential in music is greater than it could have been in soccer.
Kristan: You’ve produced some mix-tapes. Do you think mix-tapes are a staple of the emerging rappers repertoire?
Kwame: They are a huge part of an emerging artists career. People aren’t buying music like they used to and until you have a large enough fan base that truly supports you, it’s a must. It’s a tool to keep your fans satisfied but gives an artist the chance to gain more fans along the way.
Kristan: You’re a member of Twitter like many musicians. What do you see as the benefits of having a Twitter in your profession?
Kwame: The benefits are enormous. It’s great for networking but more importantly it gives an artist a more personal relationship with fans who want to know what an artist is up to on a daily basis.
Kristan: What three CDs are currently playing in your car stereo? Obviously if you don’t have a car, we’ll say iPod.
Kwame: I recently moved to NYC and refuse to drive so I have my iPod on blast when on the subway [laughs]. To be honest, I don’t really listen to full albums on the regular anymore. I think it’s because I just recently found my comfort zone/identity as an artist and don’t want to be too influenced by what other people are doing. But yeah, I’ve been listening to Yelawolf, J.Cole and Wale a lot on my playlists.
Kristan: Do you have any tips for who might win MLS Cup this season?
Kwame: If I had to guess, I would say the Galaxy. AJ and Omar are holding down the backline for LA and they have special attacking players in Landon and Beckham. Aside from the Galaxy I think any team with a Terp in the lineup has a shot!