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  • Mathew Silver

A Volleyball Star Who Raps As Kofi

The New York Times, December 2019. Find the original article here.

Name: Daenan Gyimah

Age: 21

Hometown: Toronto

Now Lives: In a five-bedroom home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles that he rents with nine other students.

Claim to Fame: Mr. Gyimah is a star volleyball player with the U.C.L.A. Bruins, as well as a rising hip-hop artist who performs under the name Kofi. A highlight reel of his blocks and jumps posted by Epic Volleyball, a YouTube volleyball channel, has more than 12.5 million views.

“I’m not that good in the technical skills, but I jump very high, which people like to see,” he said. In the music studio, Mr. Gyimah writes, produces and performs his own material including “Came Up,” a melodic rap song he released last January.

Big Break: Mr. Gyimah started playing volleyball in the ninth grade, mostly because his older sister, Aja, played. His gifts were quickly recognized: He was taller, longer and jumped higher than others in his class. While playing a tournament with the Canadian youth national team in Des Moines, he was recruited by U.C.L.A. coaches. “I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Gyimah said. “Everyone knows U.C.L.A.”

Latest Thing: Earlier this year, Mr. Gyimah was named an All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association and was voted by Off the Block, a college volleyball news site, as the best middle attacker. He also competed for the Canadian men’s volleyball team; if the team qualifies for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Mr. Gyimah will try to be on the roster. “That would be a dream,” he said.

Next Thing: Mr. Gyimah plans to graduate in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but he is already set on a career in music, as a performer and songwriter. He is “always recording” in his basement studio, he said. In September, he signed a recording contract with Red Bull Records, pending the approval of his O-1 work visa.

Bootstraps: Mr. Gyimah grew up in a poorer section of Toronto, where his father is a truck driver and his mother is a clerk for a health company. Friends sometimes compare him to Drake, though obviously not for his volleyball prowess. “We’re both half black, half Jewish, from Toronto,” Mr. Gyimah said. “We weren’t the brokest kids growing up, but always, for some reason, grew up in ’hoods.

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