Reuben Vincent makes intellectual, socially conscious, and lyrically dexterous rap that firmly plants him next in line among the lineage of North Carolina MCS who’ve left their mark on the genre. Though the Charlotte rapper/producer is only 21 years old, he’s already hustled hard in his home state, releasing records with 9th Wonder, touring with Rapsody, and creating songs full of wisdom well beyond his years. In his growing catalog, Vincent deftly balances incisive social commentary, mature introspection, and sharp, allusion-heavy wordplay tailored for rap scholars. The Roc Nation signee knows where the form has been, and now he’s pushing it forward.
“I want to be one of the greats,” Vincent says. “9th Wonder and Jamla Records are helping, and will continue to help me do that. Now that Roc Nation has put me on a bigger platform, I’ll get there.”
Love Is War, Vincent’s first joint release with Jamla Records and Roc Nation, is a conceptual yet subtly constructed album that will put him at the forefront of debates about new rap greats. He unpacks relationships and romantic entanglements over warm, soulful beats from 9th Wonder, Young Guru, and other producers (himself included) whose work modernizes and morphs boom-bap. With polished and varied flows, he weighs the time spent on love against the hours necessary to pursue his art (“Feb13th”), examines our fascination with money (“Mon’e”), and finds the value of self-confidence (“Butterfly Doors”), a journey that he says is key to the record as a whole. “Instead of looking for love from others, I had to find the love within,” he says.
Vincent wouldn’t be here without both love and war. His parents fled Liberia during the country’s first civil war and settled in Charlotte, where they immersed him and his six younger siblings in West African culture and cuisine at vibrant cookouts and house parties. Afrobeat blared from the speakers, but Vincent fell in love with hip-hop while listening to 2Pac and B.I.G. in his father’s Cadillac. When two older cousins showed him Lil Bow Wow, he knew he wanted to rap. While friends played, got into mischief, or began their first steps down the wrong path, Vincent drew album covers and wrote rhymes. Even as a preteen, nothing deterred him from his goal. The stresses of being a first-generation American only fueled his desire to succeed.
“Your parents sacrifice for you to have a better life, so you have to live up to that expectation,” Vincent explains. “While you’re trying to put on for your country, your ancestors, and your last name, there are all of these barriers, like racism and classism, that you encounter as a Black person. But first-generation kids are hustlers. We’re going to get it regardless.”
An honors student who kept his headphones glued to his ears, Vincent released his first mixtape at 13. Shortly after, an early fan sent his music to 9th Wonder, the celebrated North Carolina producer behind tracks for Jay-Z, Little Brother, and Kendrick Lamar. Vincent then spent high school dividing his extracurricular hours between recording at home and trekking to 9th Wonder’s studio. By the time he enrolled at North Carolina A&T, he’d released Myers Park (2017) and Boy Meets World (2020) on Jamla Records.
“I don’t have memories of hanging out with my friends and getting into trouble. I was in the studio,” he says. “Instead of going to prom, I went to meet Kendrick Lamar.”
No longer in school, Vincent has traded writing essays for composing the witty, poignant, and smooth verses on Love Is War. The accolades will surely come, but for now, he’s focused on being an example to his peers and, especially, representing fellow first-generation Americans. On record and in his career, he hopes to prove you can be brilliant without sacrificing your swagger. For Vincent, being a dedicated student of your craft and your self is how you win the war.