Allan Koikoi, known as Koi by most everyone, is a defensive back for Miami University football, as well as a hip-hop artist. Sports Editor Ben Panzeca and Senior Editor Claire Stemen sat down with him to talk about his rap music, football, and how the two have intertwined in his life.
Where did you grow up?
Randallstown [Baltimore]. It’s like five minutes outside of the city. But also, Baltimore is a small place. It’s not like Chicago, like Chicago people say, “I’m from Chicago” and they live like an hour outside of the city.
What are your feelings towards Baltimore?
It’s a love/hate relationship…mostly love. The only stuff I hate is, like, the natural attitude. A lot of people don’t like seeing other people doing good…like a crab in a barrel type mentality. But, you know. We’re trying to break out of that.
What does that mean?
Like, lobster, if you put them in a pot, you’ll probably have to close the pot. Crabs, you can leave it open because they’re just going to keep pulling each other down.
Was school a place where you saw this mentality?
I’ve always been a gifted kid, but I wasn’t challenged, and I didn’t know I wasn’t being challenged…some teachers just don’t know how to teach. They didn’t know how to deal with us. I got kicked out of class like every day and I was still coming in and getting 100s on the math test, and I think that pissed teachers off to be honest. A lot of teachers were like “you’re not going to make it” …crab in a barrel type stuff.
How long have you been playing football?
Since I was in the second grade. First my older brother, he played…and me, when I was younger—I talk about it a lot in my music—I was, like, a bad kid. Football was the first thing that, like, focused me.
Who was your football player role model growing up?
When I was younger it was Ray Lewis, but looking back…probably Ed Reed. like Ed Reed used to come to all of our rec games, he used to be on the sidelines giving us pump-up speeches and stuff, he was a good guy. I love Ed Reed. And on the field—a monster.
How did you get into making music?
Me and music have always been tightly connected. When I was ten years old, I don’t know if you guys remember the Naked Brothers Band? I was watching that movie, when it first came out, and I was like, “making music is like…cool. This looks fun. This is something I want to do. So for my birthday that year, I asked for a keyboard. Most kid’s ask for video games, I asked for a keyboard. My parents couldn’t afford to give me piano lessons, so I had to teach myself. So I went on YouTube and learned chords and different songs, basically by ear. That’s why my music isn’t always, like musically correct, but it’ll always sound good because that’s how I first learned this, by ear. I can read notes and stuff but I’d rather play by ear.
How did you end up doing hip-hop?
My life has been very cultured. My parents aren’t from here, they’re from West Africa. They came here, they lived in New York, lived in New Jersey, then finally settled in Baltimore…so I know all different types of cultures and my parents listen to all types of music—jazz, gospel, classical, every type of genre. I even listened to alternative rock at some point…I’m not close-minded when it comes to music, so if you listen to my music it’s different sounds. It’s all hip-hop, but I can sample anything. I say, “yeah I’m a hip-hop artist”, but my mind is all different types of genres.
Koi has been making beats since last summer, and his song “My Good Americans” is the first beat that he ever made.
Who are your hip-hop influences?
Early influences were like Ice Cube, Nas…Wiz Khalifa, surprisingly, was a big influence for me growing up.
What’s your go-to pre-game (football) music?
I can listen to anything really. Sometimes I listen to Nas, sometimes I listen to 2 Chainz…I can get hyped to anything.
What’s your weird music thing, that one genre you wouldn’t want to tell people you listen to?
I think it’s probably alternative rock. Yeah, but at the same time it’s like, I don’t care…I listen to all types of music. Like the Fray, um, Panic! At the Disco.
No way, you listen to Panic! ?
[Laughter.] When I was in music, that was my shit. I’m like, I got my headphones in, people at school are like “What you listening to?” and I’m like, “uhhhhh, Wiz Khalifa” (more laughter).
Claire singing lyrics to “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”
That was my song.
How has being an athlete influenced your music?
It hasn’t, really…music is separate, pretty much, from every part of my life. But I pull things from my life into music. Being an athlete has probably brought some storytelling, because I like telling stories, but that’s really the only way it’s impacted my music.
Do you ever bring your music into the locker room, or tell your teammates about what you’re doing?
I mean, I’m usually a quiet guy but they like it, so they heard it and they play it in the locker room and stuff. It’s kind of weird but also like, thanks for the support guys.
Do you find it difficult to be a dynamic person in a place like Oxford?
I’m a full believer in being yourself and moving in silence…I don’t feel the need to hide anything or act a different way. I just move along and do me, I don’t really focus on the things around me. If someone’s killing my vibe, I just bounce.
How do you feel about the team next year?
We’re going to be good. Really good…the defense—our defense already was good, but we’re going to be even better next year.