By Edward Henderson
How many Black water polo players with international team experience can say they’ve performed an opening set for a multi-platinum selling hip-hop artist? San Diego is home to possibly the only one.
Asante Sefa-Boakye recently returned home to Coronado from a three month stint in Brazil playing his second season of water polo for one of their club teams. Shortly after his return, he earned an opportunity to open for Big Boi from the legendary rap group Outkast. 800 screaming fans at the Observatory in North Park got to experience his unique brand of energy, personality and stage presence. But only a chosen few in that audience knew the full scope of this young man’s accomplishments.
Asante’s international journey began in 2016.
His mother was convinced to put Prince into the sport at an early age to try and overcome his asthma. Despite some early struggles with bullying and getting acclimated to swimming so much, Prince took to the sport and excelled during high school and college.
Teammates from his college team had experience with the Brazilian club league and inspired him to try out. Prince created an athletic resume and persistently sent it to a coach from the league until he got an invitation to join the team.
“I had no Portuguese,” said Asante. “All I knew was where I had to be at the pool. It was just me trying to figure out the routine, culture, lifestyle and how to get by. The biggest thing that helped me learn was watching TV with subtitles and reading lyrics of music. All of that with the call to action and the urgency saying that I had to learn how to communicate.”
Surviving the culture shock along with the frenzied environment of the Olympics happening during his first trip, Asante returned to Brazil in 2017 fluent in Portuguese and ready to make a mark on his team.
Asante was the only American on a squad that was filled with Brazilian Olympic and national team talent. Through hard work and dedication, Prince was able to help his team achieve success in multiple leagues of competition.
During his time in South America, Prince also honed another passion of his. Music.
“I was able to connect with the people so much because I love music and whenever I hear music I just start dancing and smiling. There is music literally in every corner over there. Growing up in Coronado it’s not diverse at all. I grew up being the only black kid in my class, especially playing water polo too. When I went to Brazil, I saw more people of color playing it made me feel like I was at home.”
Asante’s family wasn’t initially excited about his new found love for hip-hop music. Raised in a strict Ghanaian home rich with history of doctors and educators, the expectation to follow in their footsteps was always present.
“Telling them I wanted to take a break from school to be a rapper didn’t really resonate with them. It was the classic case of parents wanting what’s best for you and them not wanting you to do what you want to do. I kept looking back to the Langston Hughes poem ‘A Dream Deferred’ and it kept me going forward. I couldn’t let this shrivel up.”
After surviving some bumps in the road, including a cancelled show at True North bar in North Park because he was told he had ‘too much energy’, Asante found his groove and began to fine tune his craft and dove into the San Diego open mic scene.
To the relief of his parents, Prince eventually finished his college education while serving as a substitute teacher and writing music during his free time.
The fruits of Asante’s labor are finally coming to harvest with his recent Observatory opportunity being his biggest break yet.
“Anything is possible. Whenever something went wrong I would find examples of great people who had setbacks and failures. The motivation is that the more you practice at anything the better you will become. The fact that one person that says no or tries to stop you isn’t the case for a million people. Whatever you want to do, do it fearlessly.”
In the future, Asante plans to play one more season of international water polo, this time in New Zealand. He also plans to continue his work in the San Diego open mic scene pursuing feature opportunities and promoting his new mixtape ‘Tall-ish Dark and Handsome’.