In life we’re faced with choices that shape the way we experience the years between birth and death. Those of us who are lucky enough are either born into or earn the capability of having options as far as education, career, relationships, beliefs, and lifestyle standards. Specifically, in America, we grow up in a capitalist culture that insists we choose one avenue of professional work while building every other aspect of life around it. That school of thought is slowly but surely diminishing as Generation Y and Z usher in a new era of existence for anyone with multiple interests. Unlike our predecessors, we believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s the reason why there’s so much conversation around pursuing passions and being multifaceted.
Antone Exum of the San Francisco 49ers is no stranger to the concept of developing multiple interests at once, with plans to excel at both. One might think that becoming a professional athlete is the magnum opus of anyone’s life dream. Having the opportunity to take your talents from little league to stadium status is rare air that most people never get to breathe. As a matter of fact, only .09% of high school football players make it to the NCAA and end up in the professional ranks. So when you hear someone who’s accomplished something that’s next to impossible like going pro, you might gasp for air at the thought of them saying it’s not enough.
Grab your inhaler, because Antone isn’t satisfied with beating the odds. He demands a life that allows him to flex his musical creativity just as much as his muscle on the field. As a youth, he’d always taken an interest in music growing up in a household full of eclectic sonic taste. While his mother played Prince, Michael Jackson, and Mariah Carey, his sister was into Screamo and Gucci Mane. Meanwhile, his father would sing along to everything from Snoop Dogg to Hootie & the Blowfish. Antone recalls writing at an early age stretching his verbal artistry across music, poetry, diaries, and short stories. He even tried his hand at the electric piano. It should come as no surprise that there’d come a point in his life where he would embrace his musical interests, and dive into becoming a professional artist. It just so happened that the decision to take the leap would come during his NFL career.
After an injury sidelined him for a year, Antone used the downtime to develop himself as an artist. Remerging as Exum, he’s stepped into his second calling. Using collaboration, boldness, and a belief that life has no boundaries Exum is ready to tackle your eardrums as much as the ball carrier on Sundays.
CASSIUS: Was there ever a point where you felt like you were sacrificing your love for music, for your love for football?
Antone Exum: I wouldn’t say so. I grew up wanting to be a pro athlete and that’s what I decided to put my time into. There was never a conflict of interest as far as what I wanted to grow up and be, but it was always something that was there. When I was younger I loved to rap. I was the kid beating on the lunch table and making beats and rapping. I didn’t get a chance to tap into my creativity until I got hurt during pre-season in Minnesota. I was out for the whole season. That time period gave me room to open up into my creativity. I dove back into writing and decided I wanted to record.
C: Were there any athletes who inspired you to evolve into having a musical career?
AE: The success rate of athletes turned musicians is extremely low. People don’t take it seriously sometimes. At the end of the day, I know what I’m capable of, but I’m not sure if there’s been any true inspirations. Deion Sanders, Jim Brown, Allen Iverson, Joe Naismith had personas that were inspiring.”
C: Did you deal with any self-doubt in stepping outside of the football world to create music?
AE: You always have positive and negative thoughts until you reach that enlightened state. Until you reach the highest level of success in anything, you’ll always question yourself because you know others are questioning you. I’ve let that drive me to a point where I’m 100% secure in what I’m creating. Once you lose that care for what others think you create your best work.
C: In a perfect world, how do you see your music career intertwining with your athletic career. How do you plan to accomplish this?
AE: I’ll be doing the best I possibly can at both, reaching the highest level at football and reaching the highest levels with my music. I just plan on using my 24 hours differently. There’s enough time in each day to get one whatever you want to get done. The things you want to accomplish and enjoy doing will get done. There’s not much of a hurdle there in balancing the time required for both. Being a creative is who I am, whether I was doing music or not.
You always have positive and negative thoughts until you reach that enlightened state.
Exum’s creative process is a subconscious one. He writes using thoughts and inspiration stemming from conversations, nature, and people. In collaboration with his production partner Dex Barstad, Exum dives into his experiences and lets the verses and chorus’ come organically. That natural approach to creating resulted in his first single “Verdant Valentine”. As he continues to create music, Exum plans to use his voice to create meaningful dialogue.
“One of my biggest inspirations is to have a voice. I want to get across the teachings of love, peace, high spirituality, and creativity. I can speak on issues from a place of love, equality, and good moral standing. I’m not here to bash anyone or move from a place of hate. If I can touch the masses in a positive light and shed light on others it can start a chain reaction. At that point, it’s bigger than me.”