Written by Calvin Schneider
Reuben Vincent is the next best thing out of Charlotte, North Carolina. By the age of 13 he was already getting noticed by hip hop legends like Swizz Beats, DJ Premier, and 9th Wonder who he later signed with. At only 19, Reuben just dropped his debut EP, Boy Meets World. 8 song project with features from fellow Jamla artists, GQ and .SMITTY as well as production from Soul Council and Von Beats. Of all the new age rappers coming out these days, Reuben Vincent has shown that he’s the most prolific and isn’t afraid to tell his story. Read what Reuben and I talked about and make sure to stream Boy Meets World below.
Who Is Reuben Vincent?
I’m Reuben Vincent, I’m 19. I’m from Charlotte, NC, I come from a Liberian home. I go to school at North Carolina A&T. I’m studying Business Education with a minor in Information Technology. I’m a brother, I try to be a leader. I’m an artist that tries to do as much as I can.
Tell me about Meyers park?
So Its a high school that I went to. Let me tell you a little about me. Charlotte is big. A lot of people may not know that, It’s a little bit bigger than Raleigh which is the capital of North Carolina, and its still growing to this day. I grew up on the east side of charlotte. Growing up on the east side is a little different from growing up in other areas. Meyers Park High School was on the south side. So in my freshman year I lived on the east side i went to rocky river high school. Some things happened at my house with my mom, and she wanted to relocate to get us into a better environment. So we moved to the southside in the Meyers Park area. That was different from where I grew up. On the east side of Charlotte, there are a lot more people that look like me, you know what I’m sayin? Meyers Park is a predominantly white school. There were a lot of things I experienced over here and people that I know, with things like police brutality and racism as a whole. When we did the project, I wanted to touch on that the most. So if you go back to meyers park, even tho I was 16/17 when I recorded it, there was a lot racism and other things I was touching on, growing up as a young black man on the south side. Thats what that song is about. And just being in school and being young and understanding yourself. On the southside I didn’t really know anybody so I had to get used to being in the house and studying my favorite rappers. It wasn’t just bad at meyers park I don’t want to say that. It taught me how to move in different rooms. It was a gift and a curse moving here for sure.
What’s it like to be recognized by hip hop legends like 9th wonder and rapsody? How did the signing to Jamla come about?
First and foremost it’s an honor. Working with 9th and the hip hop legends that have acknowledged me. When I was 13 I was just starting to take rap more serious. I was studying the legends, and just trying to showcase what I can do. I was recording in my room, and I put out this mixtape called Idolescence, a play on the word adolescent. I put it on datpiff.com and I was sending it to every producer that I was a fan of like Swizz Beats, Pete Rock, and I was sending it to their emails. Nobody was replying at all. 9th was going to be the last person I emailed, and I was telling myself “Nah he’s probably not going to see it anyway”. That was on Saturday. On Monday I was at school, I got back home and I checked my twitter and this dude from oakland, i think his name was mr drake, and he was like “Yo I don’t know this kid from a can of paint, but he has talent”. This guy was on tour with 9th and he played him my music, and 9th reached out and said “Yo you’re dope DM me”. I was going crazy, I ran to my mom and told her and she told me to email him back right away. Since then we been building our relationship. He’s taught me alot of things. I remember he gave me a list of albums to listen to like Pharcyde Labcabincalifornia, or listen Black Thought’s breath control on certain songs, or how Snoop Dogg handles himself. I was studying all these people. He was definitely a person that became a mentor for sure. I would go over there, record record record, and I remember I got older and my voice developed, I was 16 at the time. I remember 9th he texted me saying “Yo I think you’re ready” Ever since then I’ve been running!
So on Juneteenth you released your single, close. Tell me about this EP Boy Meets World
So Boy Meets World is 8 tracks long, its an EP. It’s produced by the Soul Council which is my production team at Jamla records. It also has production from one of my homies his name is Soundtrack, and Von Beats who is S1 (Symbolyc One) son. The story, growing up all I knew was Charlotte. I didn’t really get to see the world much. Boy Meets World is me finally being able to see the world, understand who I am in the world, and what’s my purpose. As I got older, and high school, and music started to take off, and I could finally see the world. I went to Jamaica, ComplexCon, BET awards, LA. All of that was through rap and 9th wonder. They were big on showing me the ropes and how the music business worked, and also showing me the ropes of life. Boy Meets World is me expressing myself and understanding my flaws, and understanding where I want to be in the world what my purpose is. The song called If I Die is about police brutality and racism in america. Or How We Feel is about my experience of going to college, family issues, and the hook is about how drug abuse has affected my people. Expedition is a confidence booster, the first thing I saw is “I was hardly in my bag, but see I got back in it”. Close is about expressing my flaws and what’s going on around me. The highs and lows of life you know what I’m sayin?
You were talking about how when you were 13 and justing your rap career you would study the greats, who were you looking up to and trying to and inspired by?
I can take you back to even before I was 13. Growing up I always knew I wanted to rap. 13 is just when I got more serious with it. I’ve been writing raps since I was 4 years old. The first person I remember hearing and wanting to emulate, was Lil Bow Wow. As a 4 year old, that’s what you gravitate to. I had older cousins that lived with me, they were girls who were 16 at the time when he was poppin. So obviously seeing that I was like “If he can do it, I can do it”. But as I got older I started to find myself. My father used to pick me up from my moms house in his blue Cadillac and he would play Biggie, Pac, Nas. My mom played Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu around the house. Growing up I was also big on Kanye, Lil Wayne, Kendrick, Drake, J Cole.
What about local rappers from North Carolina?
I respect Da Baby alot. His hustle and his grind. I remember seeing him when he was Baby Jesus performing at Rocky River my freshman year high school. I admire Lute who’s signed to dreamville. I used to see him around the city before he signed to them. One of my homies, his name is MAVI, he’s doing great right now. We’ve known each other since I was like 14/15. To see his growth is dope. Those are people I look to from the city for sure.
Tell me about Jamrock? What’s it like to remix such a legendary track? Has Damien Marley heard it?
Soon as I heard the beat I knew exactly what that was. I’m Liberian so we played African music and Jamaican music in the house. Doing that was just sparring off, a little competition with the family. They were like “Everybody get your bets verse and we’ll spare off”. I remember when they sent the beat, I was in my room and I knew I had to deliver and on top of that, I was kicking it off. I had to bring that fire. I feel like I did it well and it was exciting being in the studio recording and hearing everybody’s verses. That was a real dope experience. Being at Jamla we’re very family oriented. We love each other so much that we tell each other when we’re wrong, and embrace each other when we’re right. Its family competition, we’re all trying to see the best of each other. Seeing the way everybody work, and knowing I have to put in that same work to go farther. Im the little brother at Jamla. I’m looking up to everybody and seeing how they work and taking notes. Theres nights I’ve seeing Rapsody in the studio from midnight to the morning. Now I practice the same thing, just putting in those 10’000 hours.
Have you ever watched Boy Meets World the show? It was a 90s sitcom
Yes definitely. It used to come on in the mornings when I was getting ready for school. Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, Fresh prince, Martin, all of that.
Do you have a favorite track off the album or is there a stand out track that means a lot to you?
The song If I Die. Its about police brutality, racism, and black power ya know power in my people. I wrote the song maybe a year and a half ago after seeing this movie Blindspot. I remember feeling how much the movie affected me, and there was a lot going on at the time with police brutality that’s still happening to this day. It’s crazy that it’s still relevant. With that song I just wanted to uplift my people. We gonna be good ya know? In the hook I say “If I die today, tell em baby Ima fly away” and the first line says “Ima take a stand against any attacker, against any oppressor, against any of those factors” If they shoot me its a speeding bullet to heaven. As long as we live on this earth with our purpose of who we are. On If I die I want everyone to understand that we do have a purpose, and if we die from this purpose of standing for our people and believing in our people, then we fulfilled it. Don’t back down. Stand for something don’t die for nothing. It’s inspired by pac, all of the leaders before me Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey. Thats the one I’m excited for people to hear for sure.
What’s a crazy story or racist experience you have from your childhood?
I’ve had a lot of minor ones. I’ll go in the gas station and because of the way I look the owners will think I’m about to steal. It happened to me a couple months ago. I was just going in the gas station to get something to drink and a snack, and I walked in and the dude was like “Don’t even think about it” and something like “I know your kind”. It rubbed me the wrong way. As a young black man it makes you fearful for yourself. I felt crushed that people look at me that way just because of how I dress and how I look. There have been worse things that’ve happened to my friends. When I moved to Meyers Park there were kids that would say racial slurs and thinking its funny to say shit like that, and these were people I went to school with.
Do you think racism in North Carolina has gotten worse?
Its definitely gotten worse, and as I’m getting older I’m becoming more aware of it. I feel like right now we’re waking up. Not just North Carolina but America. We’re waking up from the situations at hand. Right now is the time we need to continue to stay woke. Its a cliche but literally we need to wake up. We were asleep and distracted from what’s the biggest pandemic in America right now. Its time that we need to be aware and give back to the community and understand and trust in our people. Building and investing in our people. Give this wisdom to our kids so they know how to interact and deal with these situations. We’re the generation that has all the tools. For this generation I feel like its best that we go out there and vote, get active, put money back in the community. We’re in a time where we can break this and grow
Is there any message that you have for your fans?
What I’m trying to tell people in Boy Meets World is understanding ourself. understanding the emotions that we go through, dealing with it and letting go. Learn to let go but also learn to be confident in yourself and knowledge yourself. Thats what Boy Meets World is for me. Understanding the world around you but first understanding yourself. Realize your flaws, and also letting everyone know that I’m with them. I’m young, I’m just the voice. Thats what I have to say to the people. I’m not above y’all I’m with y’all for real.