RALEIGH, N.C. — On a rainy Wednesday afternoon rising rapper Reuben Vincent was at Jamla Records in Raleigh. It's where he started an extraordinary journey that's brought him to the brink of stardom. He embarked on this path early in life.

"I remember when my dad used to pick me up in his blue Cadillac when I was a little kid. He used to play Pac, Biggie, Nas, all these legends," Vincent said.

What You Need To Know

  • Charlotte rapper Reuben Vincent takes the Dreamville stage Sunday

  • Vincent landed a major record deal with Roc Nation when he was 20 years old

  • You may have already heard one of his songs if you played Madden 2020

It wasn't long before he started showing off his lyrical prowess. There are home videos of him turning heads with his rap flow and clever wordplay when he was just 10 years old. At 13, he recorded a mixtape using Apple headphones. A low-quality production he recalls, but it caught the attention of a high-profile producer. Grammy award-winning producer 9th Wonder reached out over Twitter and invited him to the studio.

"Definitely was nervous. 9th Wonder had told me to write eight songs before I came here, and I lost my notebook that week," Vincent remembered. "On the car ride here, I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote until we got to that point."

They made nine songs and a beat during that first visit. There would be many more as 9th Wonder took Vincent under his wing. He returned to the studio as often as he could from weekends to spring and summer break.

"This has been a place (Jamla Records) where I got away from home, and it was my second home," Vincent said. "All my frustration I put out on this microphone, I put on this computer."

Impressed by the neophyte's dedication and potential, 9th Wonder signed Vincent to his independent label when he was just 16.

He'd continue to juggle music with school, consistently making A/B honor roll, even graduating from high school six months early. He spent those six months before college in the studio, honing his craft.

As Vincent continued his studies at N.C. A&T, there were more signs pointing to music as the path to take. He was at the right place at the right time when the makers of Madden NFL video games told 9th Wonder they were looking for new music. If you've played Madden 2020, you probably heard his song "No Problems," one of 22 tracks in the game.

"When I was in college, my friends and people I'm not even knowing are playing Madden, and I'm hearing my song come on," said Vincent, who made the song when he was 18. "They're not even knowing it's me, but it was that validation I needed to keep going."

During the pandemic more of his time drifted away from school, which had gone remote, and toward music. The release of his video "State of Mind" in the summer of 2021 changed his life. As he clocked out of work from a hat store one night, 9th Wonder called to tell him the music video struck a chord with a top executive at Roc Nation. The Jay-Z-owned label wanted to sign him.

"I just said 'What?!' I went to DoorDash after I got off work and I just drove. I didn't even do orders, just clear my head like this is really happening," Vincent said.

The news also stunned his mom. It just came out one day when she was yelling at him on the phone for not filling out his class registration for the next semester.

"She started yelling at me on the phone, 'All you do is music!' I said, 'Well you would too if you had a Roc Nation deal on the table.' I didn't want to tell her that way, but she poked the bear," Vincent said with a laugh.

You can find him on the Roc Nation website, sandwiched between fellow North Carolina artist Rapsody and Rihanna.

"We're in good company," Vincent confidently said.

Life as an up-and-coming artist is hectic. From tours to media appearances, it's not an easy grind.

"It's been constant on go, go, go" Vincent said. "My time is not my time anymore."

His Dreamville debut marks a full-circle moment. He met J. Cole for the first time five years ago when he skipped his senior prom at the last minute to attend a concert. As Vincent puts it, "no regrets, I'll wear my suit at the Grammys."