Nineteen-year-old Charlotte native Reuben Vincent met Jamla Records CEO 9th Wonder through Twitter when Vincent was barely a teenager. An outlier among Gen Z hip-hop artists, he was committed to the essence of ‘90s hip-hop: heavy drums, soulful production, impressive lyricism and cadence, and memorable storytelling. By age 16, he had landed a record deal with Jamla, which released his critically acclaimed debut mixtape, Myers Park, in 2017.
Three years later, he’s a rising sophomore at North Carolina A&T, and his new EP, Boy Meets World, follows the traditional hip-hop coming-of-age narrative.
The eight-track EP tells compelling stories about what it’s like to be a young college student chasing rap dreams. Despite Vincent’s personal anecdotes about self-doubt, his delivery is polished and confident, with a solid balance of braggadocious lines and intellectual gems that celebrate the beauty of Black women and address America’s racial pandemic.
The Soul Council’s production is equally balanced. Khrysis and Eric G stick to soulful R&B samples on tracks like “How it Feel?” and “If I Die,” but they also take impressive, textured risks on “Whatchu Say?” and “Expedition.”
The first thing we hear on Boy Meets World is Tupac speaking on the challenges of being young, which shows that Vincent is a hip-hop prodigy wise beyond his years. We caught up by phone to discuss the influence of the greats, being a signed artist on a college campus, and learning the mysteries of love.
INDY: What is your earliest memory of Pac?
REUBEN VINCENT: Tupac was an early influence in my life. He was one of the first rappers I heard. I remember my pops used to pick me up from my mother’s house and he used to play Pac. It’s a funny story, but I remember I low-key had a fear of Pac. He was dead and like the only ghost I knew when I was younger. But I was so attracted to his voice and his message. In preschool, my pops had brought me a Tupac shirt, and my preschool teacher, she was like, what you know about that? I was like, that’s Pac, and I was saying all of these songs that I knew.
What was the creative process of Boy Meets World like?
I was very hands-on with everything. Like the joints that I did with Eric, especially “Expedition,” I played a major role in the production by sending him samples. I sent him the Paul Wall sample. I was like, “Yo, this is how I want it to be. I want it to be energetic. I want it to bounce.” Some of the other beats that Khrysis made, I had already heard and had a vision for it. I would tell them, “I want some keys on this.” I feel like as an artist you’re supposed to be hands-on. You’re supposed to be there when the production is being made because it is your art. I have to give credit to them, though, because without them, there wouldn’t be no Boy Meets World.
In comparison to Myers Park, how has your artistry improved in on this project?
I’m a little bit more mature and older now and I have more life experience than when I was 16. I feel like my angle was mostly just to be one of the best rappers and show people that though I was young, I could rap. This time around there’s more of a message that’s going to stand the test of time. I wanna give something to people where they can sit back and listen and be like, “Yo, I can relate to what he’s saying.”
I noticed there’s more talking about love and your experiences with girls and relationships. Thus far, at 19, what do you know about love?
It’s a tricky situation. You know, I haven’t been in a lot of relationships. I’ve been in two. What I understand from love is, it teaches you something. Obviously, being young, you’re not always going to be the best guy, but you learn from it like, “Alright, I did this wrong in this relationship. This is what I can do moving forward.”
Me and my friends, we have conversations about it all the time. You’re not just learning about the other person, but you’re learning about yourself through the relationship. And I feel like a true relationship is supposed to teach you to grow.
I’ve been reading this book called The Ways of the Superior Man [by David Deida]. It’s a book Rapsody recommended to me. Domani Harris [T.I.’s son] also recommended it to me, and it was also referenced in a Nipsey [Hussle] interview. It’s teaching me about love and understanding how to really move when you’re in love with a person. I’m not in love with anyone right now. I’m chilling. I’m focused. But it teaches you how to grow as a person while you’re in a relationship.
That’s super dope and wise of you to even be thinking of. You attend North Carolina A&T—pre-pandemic, what was your experience as a signed artist on campus?
It was really fun, especially being my first year. You get to experience being around a lot of people, especially people that look like you. Attending A&T and getting that HBCU experience of going to the parties, seeing how turnt up they can get—but then on Monday, you back in class and you focused! It teaches you a lot of endurance and persistence.
It was fun because people knew who I was. It would be weird, sometimes I’ll be in the cafe and somebody would be like, “Yo, you Reuben Vincent?” I’m like, “Whaaaat? You know who I am.”
Or for example, since I have a record on [a Madden NFL football video game], sometimes I’ll walk past a dorm and they’ll be playing Madden and I’ll hear my song. And they probably didn’t even know because of the way I was moving my freshman year, trying to keep low-key. Everybody ended up finding out. What am I supposed to do? I can’t even get mad at that. It’s been dope.
I’m mindful of how I pick and choose who are really my friends. You always gonna have the vultures who try to be your friend just because of who you are. I just tried to give love to everybody that I met, but also keep my distance and know who is real and who is fake.
What do you want to do with your degree? Why was it important for you to go to attend an HBCU even though you’re actively pursuing music?
First and foremost, it was because of my mother. She’s from Liberia and she came here when she was 16. One thing she wanted to do but couldn’t because she was working, was go to college. On top of that, I’m also studying business education, trying to figure out how to keep my artistry while also knowing the music business. So whenever these deals come on the table, I’m not getting played.
I’m also trying to pave the way for future youngins that’s gonna come when I’m a little bit older. Like, “This is me. I studied the business. This is how I move with the business.” I know college isn’t for everybody, but if they see how I handled my business maybe they’ll want to go down that same route. With my platform, I hope to inspire other young people to attend HBCUs and be great, highlight our community.
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