Exum, student performer, challenges hip-hop negativity

Ryland Exum performing. Photo by Greg French.

Exum performs at MTSU’s “Beat Battle” hosted by Match Records and Urban Entertainment Society. Photo by Greg French.

With a focus on personal growth and optimism, Rylund Exum is a local rapper who steers clear of mainstream rap music’s modern stereotypes.

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 had 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 affect 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.’ ”

Stacy Merida and Robert Mogensun set up the "Beat Battle" stage. Photo by John Connor Coulston.

Stacy Merida and Robert Mogensun set up the “Beat Battle” stage. Photo by John Connor Coulston.

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,” he explained.

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, OK, 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 release 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.

Exum recently performed “Glory” and “Backpack” at MTSU’s “Beat Battle,” a contest that’s set in bracket format eliminating beat makers one-by-one based on a panel of judges’ opinions.

The battle, hosted by Match Records and Urban Entertainment Society, gave each contestant 60 seconds to impress well-known producer G Money (Wiz Khalifa, Sean Paul, Gucci Mane), mainstream producer and TV host Big Fella, and Bonnaroo drummer Big Kev. Beat Battle winner Daniel Young received a first place trophy, an exclusive sound pack from G Money,  a set of SONY MDR-1R headphones, and year’s worth of bragging rights. All the contestants received a certificate of participation and production software from BKE Technology.

Exum, along with Luke Caccetta and Theia, are artists currently signed to Match Records. All are set to perform at the annual Fall Listening Night held on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

To learn more about Match Records, check out matchrecordsmusic.com or contact Merida at stacy.merida@mtsu.edu.

Thank you to Blake Jennings and Sidelines http://mtsusidelines.com/2014/11/match-records-exum-talks-hip-hop-faith-and-balling/



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Categories: Students

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