Darko Swaps Kicks for Beats
July 24, 2012
By: Nick Kurgansky, Maryland Media Relations
Maryland soccer alumnus Kwame Darko, who graduated in 2009, has always had two passions in life - playing soccer and rapping.
Coming out of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School as a four-year starter who earned First Team Washington Post All-Met and all-county honors, Darko thought he wanted to play soccer for the rest of his life.
"Soccer had always been a huge part of my life and I went to Maryland to play soccer," Darko said. "My main focus was soccer and the majority of my time was spent practicing and playing, even though I loved music and wanted to devote time to that too."
Darko played for four years at Maryland as a defender, where he found ways to incorporate his music into the team's daily routine.
"Kwame would always play his tracks in the locker room before our games and on the bus to other schools," recounts former teammate Rodney Wallace, who currently suits up for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.
While at Maryland, Darko also found time to go to the studio after practice and record songs, which ultimately led him to decide to pursue his love of music instead of playing professionally.
"I weighed my professional offers after I was done with school and even signed with an agent, but then I came out with a mix tape and got tremendous feedback," Darko said. "That's when I decided that I was more passionate about music and that's what I wanted to do."
As a result of that decision, Darko traded his soccer cleats for headphones and a recording studio. After graduating, he moved to New York City and is currently working for CBS Radio while making his own music.
"During college, I was working on music and building my network, but soccer was always my platform," Darko said. "Now, I am entrenched in the music industry [in New York] and get the chance to work on my own music too. I am hoping to make music my 9-5 job, where I don't need to get a side job because I'm worried about not having enough money to live."
Darko is well on his way to making his dream a reality. In May of this year, he released a song on iTunes called "Beautiful Thing" and is currently working on a music video to go with the song.
"Kwame's latest single shows his maturity as an artist and how he's progressed over the years," Wallace, who was joined Darko as a member of Maryland's 2008 national championship squad, said. "It's a clean version of what he envisions. The song reflects everything that's been going on with him and what be believes."
But this single is only part of the success he has achieved.
In 2011, he was the opening act at James Madison University for a Wiz Khalifa concert and was the opener for Big Sean in Baltimore. He is currently finishing up an EP (extended play album) that he hopes to release by the middle of September, as well as putting together some shows of his own.
The transition from soccer to music wasn't with complete ease for Darko, however.
"It was difficult leaving college and not playing soccer consistently at a high level. My identity had always been Kwame the soccer player, so when I stopped playing I didn't know who I was anymore. Luckily my friends and people who knew me encouraged me and helped me out. I have lived vicariously through Rodney Wallace, A.J. Delagarza, and some other teammates as they continue their career professionally."
When thinking about how his time at Maryland and playing soccer has helped with his transition and early success in music, Darko credits head coach Sasho Cirovski.
"Soccer has helped me a lot in terms of focus," Darko said. "When you have been playing a sport for so long, you have a level of concentration and a certain work ethic built up.
"Furthermore, when you're at the track running miles and miles for hours, how hard can it really be to wake up and go to the studio? Life at Maryland with Sasho was very strict and stern, but it was always in our best interest and he helped keep us motivated and focused."
Darko knows he wouldn't be where he is right now if it weren't for Maryland and Cirovski. He also wants to highlight another important message.
"I had a great time at Maryland and got to know a lot of great teammates and people," Darko said. "But I want to build awareness of the fact that not every student-athlete goes on to play professionally. Thanks to our university, coaches, and teammates, we are prepared to take on whatever path we choose."