A collegiate Antone Exum first stumbled onto my radar as a defensive back from Virginia Tech. It was my strange obsession with the NFL Draft that initially familiarized myself with the Richmond, Virginia native. He would eventually split six NFL seasons between Minnesota and San Francisco, racking up an interception, a sack, two forced fumbles, and over 50 tackles to pad his resume. While popping up in former years of Madden and sometimes even on Sunday broadcasts was one existence, the artist formerly known as Antone Exum is here to share another – EXUM.
It’s always incredibly inspiring to see multi-talented people splitting time between two talents. Shaq, Kobe, and even Manny Pacquiao are all sports legends that have spent significant time in the studio, yet we very rarely play those songs on repeat. J. Cole and 2 Chainz may have some nice game tape and urban legends, yet we never see them on the professional court. Dame D.O.L.L.A. might be an exception.
No slight to any of the aforementioned legends, but it serves as a testament to just how difficult it is to see any success in both disciplines, let alone professional success in one. Even our very own Espi shed some light on Vegas’ own Quinn Ayers and his journey through music coupled with collegiate baseball.
For EXUM, it was apparently a 2016 injury in Minnesota that led to downtime, the connection with Norwegian producer Erik Samkopf, and further exploration into his newfound musical craft. What once seemed like a sideshow or a “Dark Kept Secret,” is now EXUM’s sole focus – expressing himself his way through his art.
He will release his much anticipated debut album, Xardinal Coffee, on June 4th.
“Dark Kept Secret,” released in January of 2021 with a music video, was our first taste of what to expect on the nine song album.
An incredibly liberating song, we see a hulking Antone Exum in a boat, on a horse, dancing on a star, dancing everywhere really. The whole video and vibe couldn’t be further from “former NFL player,” and it’s that exact feeling that makes his work riveting. Who is this guy and how did he get here? There’s a very intriguing story behind all of this. Ten bucks to anyone who listens to the song and legitimately guesses that the artist had to have spent some time playing professional football.
The violin and strings featured on the song sweep you, as EXUM’s layered voices and different tones provide great texture. There is certainly a European style and influence to EXUM’s work that reminds me of similar sonic approaches from Bakar, King Krule, and Yves Tumor. Yet over any four songs you can hear all four artists push and explore their art in their own very unique ways.
EXUM has recently released “Bad Chick Bad Dude,” which is also set to be featured on his debut album, and much more experimental than the first track. It’s a fun song that hits similar to a Skepta or A$AP Ferg feel, while EXUM has a number of approaches to the mic through its three minutes. The video has a Gorillaz-esque animated appeal and is certainly worth a watch.
Antone Exum has been reborn in a way that makes most sense to him, and I bet he wouldn’t have it any other way. While he’s made it happen on the big stage in the NFL world, EXUM seems more determined in making art that’s 100% representive of his authentic self. Regardless, EXUM seems well on his way to making it happen on the big stage in the music world as well.
Enjoy, good people!