Immigrant rapper carries rhymes from West Africa

IMG_5044Tyler McNeil | The Hudsonian

Tyler McNeil
Managing Editor

Souhimbou Doh Kone listened to gunfire, explosions and rap music while he was surrounded by civil unrest in Ivory Coast.

Civil War

One of Kone’s friends started knocking on his door in September 2002. After being let inside, Kone discovered that his friend, crying in pain, was struck with tear gas. This was the first time Kone learned about an armed uprising across the country.

For over a decade in Ivory Coast, Kone witnessed two civil wars between Muslim rebels and the Christian-led government. “I heard AK-47 [rifles] going off all night and seen missiles fly over my roof,” said Kone. His family often went into hiding.

While tension split his home nation apart, Kone found comfort in rap music. He was introduced to rap through his older brother, who created rap groups in both Ivory Coast and India . “Hip-hop was always in the back of my head, even when I was growing up,” he said.

Kone hopes to eventually use rap music to alleviate himself from trauma in Ivory Coast. “I witnessed some terrible things and sometimes I want to forget about them,” said Kone. “I feel like I have to relieve myself of all that pain and I plan on doing that through my music,” he said.

Moving to the United States

Eight months into the Second Ivorian War in 2011, Kone’s parents moved overseas. Immigrating to the United States, his parents, which worked as educators in Ivory Coast, struggled to find employment. “We started again at the bottom of the food chain,” he said.

Coming toAlbany High School in tenth grade, Kone had to start over. “I felt like I was in another dimension,” he said. “I could not hear anything they were saying.” Having limited knowledge of english at the time, Kone described hallway noise at school like “bees buzzing.”

In his first year at Albany High School, Kone met Eric Degny, a member of hip-hop business Team NLD and an Ivory Coast immigrant, who helped develop his ability to freestyle rap. “It was hard for me to come up with words on the fly because I would mumble,” said Kone. “He told me ‘just keep mumbling, keep spilling, keep spilling and I just kept getting better at it,” he said.

While working with Team NLD (as ‘Ebuprofen Swaveli’), Kone was able to keep up with academics, athletics, school clubs and partying. In 2013, Kone earned the UAlbany Multicultural High School Achievers Award. “A lot of people are flabbergasted about how I can be active in so many different ways and do well academically,” said Kone.

From Pills to Parkour

Unlike high school, Kone had a difficult time adapting to life at Albany School of Pharmacy. Flunking two chemistry classes in his first year, Kone started doubting his future in the pharmaceutical industry. “I couldn’t focus on just school so I started doing worse,” he said.

Kone’s ‘ego’ drove him to stick around at the school for three semesters despite losing interest in pharmaceutical studies. “Sometimes we don’t consider how our ego drives us to make bad decisions,” said Kone.

While Kone struggled with medicine, he released stress with parkour or freerunning. Kone was first introduced to parkour as a child after watching District 13, a 2004 action film, directed by David Belle. “I was thinking ‘how do I learn this?’,” he said.

Nearly a decade later, after gaining years of experience with martial arts, Kone started to use his agility to pursue parkour across Albany. “I love being free and with parkour that’s something I can really be,” he said.

Hudson Valley Fallen Angel

After little success at Albany School of Pharmacy, Kone decided to push his future in a different direction at Hudson Valley. Starting 2016 off at a different school inspired Kone to release “Hudson Valley Fallen Angel”, a new song discussing life at Hudson Valley from financial aid to campus diversity.
Ever since taking Hudson Valley classes in high school, the college has stood out to him. “I always heard about Hudson Valley and cared about Hudson Valley, said Kone.
Next year, Kone hopes to drive his future towards UAlbany in their public health program. He currently considers himself content being undecided about his future goals. “It’s not about reaching a goal, it’s about having something to reach for,” he said.
Check out Kone’s music online:


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