With a focus on personal growth and optimism, Rylund Exum is a local rapper who steers clear from modern stereotypes of mainstream rap music.
Inspired by artists such as Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar, Exum’s music tightropes between playful and inspiring, boastful and poignant, all the time keeping a soulful swagger. His tracks “Hello Universe” and “Glory” merge thick, jazzy instrumentals with a laidback, often intricate, delivery.
“You can catch me rhyming in the backseat, writing diamonds that will crack through the concrete,” Exum raps on his song “Hello Universe.”
A senior at MTSU and member of Omega Delta Psi, Exum has has his own philosophy on hip-hop and trying to make it in a tough business.
“[Hip-hop is] about partying and having fun,” Exum said. “And I want to keep it to where it’s cool to boast and brag—not about materialisms or violence, but on how we can effect and change the world.”
Newly signed to Match Records, Exum creates music that challenges negativity within hip-hop, but he also honors its ability to make people feel powerful in hard times.
“I want you to feel invincible,” Exum said. “I want you to feel like you can achieve anything. I want you to listen to my music and feel like: ‘Man this is such a good song—I feel like conquering school today, or…this is such a great song I’m about to go into work and demolish all my work today.”
Before moving from his hometown of Marietta, Georgia, Exum created a small movement with friends called “The Freedom Writers,” an ideology focusing on inner freedoms and helping people to “break out of the negative vibes of other people.”
Exum isn’t afraid to redefine the status quo and exhibits this in his music, especially on “Glory,” a song released a few months ago through his SoundCloud which aims to re-appropriate the old-school meaning of balling.
“Balling typically stands for ‘I have a lot of money in my pockets and I can blow that money,’” he said. “So you hear that concept and automatically think: ‘Oh, okay he has a lot of money,’ but I changed the concept to mean I’m actually balling with my pen. I treat it like a sport…everything you do in life is poetic, and I treat it to balling.”
As a rapper who believes in God, Exum’s views on life and music are merged with an inherent spirituality, but he views music as a platform for inspiring listeners, not preaching.
“I rap about what I see just like a Muslim rapper would rap about what he believes,” says Exum. “And how I perceive the world is through the lens of God. I’m not here to judge anybody. I’m not here to correct anybody…I’m just a human being.”
In late December, Exum will be releasing his new mixtape “Stuck in my Room,” a follow-up to his 2009 release “Swimming on Jupiter.” On the topic of upcoming singles, Exum remains secretive.
“I gotta keep that hush-hush,” he said, but admitted that an untitled EP is on the way.
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