Literal icon

This Philly native didn't let the code of the streets turn him into a statistic

Antoine the Icon
Antoine “The Icon” Acosta, went from being homeless to crafting a music career that’s hard not to notice. | Image: Facebook

Philly’s Antoine Acosta, also known as Antoine The Icon, started his musical journey at the age of 12.

His journey continues today, as he lives up to his motto: Go hard or go home.

Antoine has five music videos on the internet, as well as a single on iTunes called “Focused” and his debut album on Amazon called “In Icon’s Words.” He also has an abundance of mixtapes, posters, and videos. 

He has performed all over Philadelphia, primarily the area college scene where he tends to attract the most crowds. PW recently caught up with Antoine to talk about his career and music and the survival of both.

You say in your bio that you’ve grown over the years in both character and drive, due to the many struggles you’ve faced, both professional and personal. How has growing up in Philly shaped your career as a recording artist and songwriter? Talk a little about the struggles you have overcome.

Growing up in Philly is hard, depending on what part of the city you live in. I was born and raised in Philly, so for 26 years, I’ve been through it all. I was homeless with my mom and my little brother at an early age, living in train stations and barely eating. 

Then, at the age of 8, I was taken from my mom by DHS. At 15, my mom went to jail and I had to take care of myself and my little brother, so I did not really have a childhood. Then, at the age of 16, my mom kicked me out, and I was homeless again until I found a way out. 

At the age of 21, my dad was released from prison – he was in prison for more than 21 years. So I basically had to teach myself how to be a man. 

Life is hard, but I always show the skill of perseverance through any and everything I go through. When it comes to my career and how things were shaped, I just put all my pain into my music. What does not kill you makes you stronger. I have learned that lesson in life.

Your musical journey started when you were 12. Can you talk a little about your early musical influences and describe the path you’ve taken over the years?

My early influences with music started at school. To be exact, it started at Russell Byers Charter School in the sixth grade when other kids were rapping and my mom was like, “boy go rap, that’s all I hear you say nowadays anyway.”

From that point, it opened my world up, so I started studying 50 Cent, Jay Z, Nas, T.I., Lil Wayne. I started listening to battle rappers in Philly like Reed Dollarz, Meek Mill (even though he changed), Ar-Ab, and Gillie. Over the years, from sixth grade, I was battling kids after school, or even during school, I was performing for people. I was just hungry.

You’ve performed all over Philly. What are some of your favorite venues to play? How would you describe your Philly fans?

I like the college scene. It’s easy, and people are just hype. I performed at Temple University, Penn, the Community College of Philadelphia, for Charlie Mark’s talent show [at the] University of The Arts. Philly fans are like the stock market because sometimes it’s a high percent that likes you and your music, other days that stock market crashes because Philly fans might not like the latest music you released versus your old music. 

“Growing up in Philly is hard, depending on what part of the city you live in. I was born and raised in Philly, so for 26 years, I’ve been through it all. I was homeless with my mom and my little brother at an early age, living in train stations and barely eating.”

– Self-made musical artist Antoine “The Icon” Acosta

What sets you apart from the many other up-and-coming performers? How is your music different?

What sets me apart is I don’t have a team or a hype man, it’s just me studying the game and applying what I learned to my music as well as my career. The music business is 90 percent business and 10 percent music. I built my own independent label called Elysian Gang Ent. 

I considered my music pain medicine as well as “relate music” because you either can relate to what I am talking about or you know someone who can relate to my music. When it comes to pain medicine music, I put my life stories in my music for people to know my story. A lot of other people just rap about a fake life they never live or things they never did but what their friends and other family members got into.

When you’re not writing or recording, what are you up to? What are your favorite hobbies? Who do you like to listen to?

When I am not working on music, I’m playing video games or working my job or thinking of other ways to get ahead in life. I like sports, paintball, almost anything kids like. I’m basically a mature kid. 

I listen to almost any artist that has more to offer than just hype beats and a good music video. I need good content, like K. Michelle, Drake, J. Cole, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko and many more. 

I am also up to working on an EP. I recently released a new music video with a new song “Called Breaking The Code Remix,” featuring myself and Philly Mi Yaan, produced by Icon Beats. Everybody searches for that song and those artists. Mark my words, we are the hottest talent coming out of Philly, stay tuned.  

What’s coming up for you? New music? More appearances, once the virus goes away?

What’s coming up for me is new music, new album, new styles, new flows. I even started singing lessons so I will put those things to the test. More shows … but the music never stops, even with the virus, I still go out and post posters.

Follow Antoine the Icon on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.