You have to be supremely talented for 9th Wonder to hear a mixtape you made at 13 years old and want to help you grow as an MC. Reuben Vincent, now 22 years old, was — and still is — that talented and has earned the utmost respect from one of the greatest producers of all time.
“He has a relentless pursuit to work on his own, night after night. I’m leaving the studio at one in the morning, and he’ll be in the studio all night by himself,” 9th Wonder tells REVOLT. “Some people need a lot of people in the studio. They need inspiration. They need that feeling. They need to get that energy. But he doesn’t. This is why he has a catalog of almost 200 songs… because that’s what it takes.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the two discuss the making of Vincent’s new album, Love Is War; lyrically sparring with Rapsody; and how conversations with Young Guru and 9th Wonder turned into some of the album’s best songs.
Check out this exclusive chat with Vincent, one of Jamla Records’ deadliest lyricists, and the incomparable 9th Wonder below.
At 13 years old, what was it like being in the studio with 9th Wonder?
Reuben Vincent: What was dope was it was divine timing. Around that time, my mom was going through a divorce, and she had to work three jobs to keep the lights on. I saw this at home, thinking, “My mom is working hard. We’re struggling right now. I have to come in here and show and prove.” I knew it wouldn’t be overnight, but I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. I was recording in my closet on headphones a few months prior, and now I’m in front of a mic with the whole Soul Council in there. I went in there with the mentality of showing I belonged.
Let’s fast forward. You released your album Love Is War in January. How long did it take you to complete it?
Vincent: We went through a lot of album changes. It didn’t take that long. Once I sat down with [Young] Guru at his house, that’s where we sat down and worked on the album. “Butterfly Doors” is one of the earliest songs I recorded. I did that at the beginning of COVID. But once me, 9th, and Guru locked in, it took about eight months last year to do it.
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Are there any songs that came from conversations you had with 9th and Guru?
Vincent: The one 9th and I had [turned into] “2ime Flies.” During the period I was working on this album, I was becoming a young adult. So I had many conversations with 9th and Guru about being a young man. We had conversations because of the sample and how it relates to where I am as a 22-year-old with women. But we also were having conversations on how to attack the record and spacing between the verses. I have a voice memo somewhere where 9th is telling me, “Yo, this is the cadence,” and I went back in and filled in the words. With Guru, the one song I could say we had a real conversation about is “Bottle Service.” It was one of those records where we were talking about how people have issues with drinking. Gu told me, “Yo, during COVID, I started realizing I’m waking up and drinking.” That inspired me because Kash gave me the song, and the beat was saying “battle,” but I thought it was saying “bottle.” Throughout the process of making this album, all the conversations we were having were grown-man conversations.
9th Wonder: “2ime Flies” was one of those things where I was sitting down looking through some songs I had, and I pulled up [Janet Jackson’s] “Funny How Time Flies.” I started playing with different parts of the session, and it just morphed into a beat. There was nobody but Reuben and me in the room. He’s sitting right behind me. The studio was full, but nobody else walked in there. When I was done with the beat, I told him, “If you use this, I’m going to call Jimmy Jam and see if we can use it. I have a relationship with Jimmy Jam, so I will text him. When we’re done with it, I’m going to send it to him.” We finished it, and I sent it to him. When Reuben talks about the cadence, I’m a big proponent of borrowing and moving something from one generation to another. “2ime Flies” has the same cadence as [A Tribe Called Quest’s] “Electric Relaxation.” We did that, and then during the hook, I took Janet’s vocals and told Reuben, “You going to be talking to Janet in the hook?” When she said, “I really don’t know where the time went,” he said, “Come on, Janet, you can stay a little bit longer.” When we finished it, it was a joint.
What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen Reuben do in the studio?
9th Wonder: He has a relentless pursuit to work on his own, night after night. I’m leaving the studio at one in the morning, and he’ll be in the studio all night by himself. Some people need a lot of people in the studio. They need inspiration. They need that feeling. They need to get that energy. But he doesn’t. This is why he has a catalog of almost 200 songs… because that’s what it takes.
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Reuben, what’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen 9th do in a session?
Vincent: I’ve seen that man make a beat in five minutes, walk out and tell his daughters, “That’s how y’all eat dinner” (laughs).
9th Wonder: (Laughs). It doesn’t go exactly like that. There’s usually a conversation that precedes that for me to say that to them. But I do make beats in five minutes.
Vincent: I remember when we were working on an album that didn’t end up coming out. I think it was the one night I came in with a whole bunch of samples. I think I put a playlist together with the Thundercat joint and the Miguel joint, and he was knocking them out. That night, Swizz [Beatz] hit the group chat, and you were like, “I’m not playing.” 9th has the quickness, but it will also be the craziest s**t you have ever heard. That’s the most impressive thing to me.
On your song “Point of View,” you said, “I used to sell J’s, now they saying I’m selling my soul (sole)/ Y’all get a kick out of that, I be kicking with Hov.” Was there a specific moment in your life that inspired that lyric?
Vincent: My little sister called me and said a dude came up to her in school and told her, “Your brother sold his soul.” I’m in North Carolina and was probably sitting in the studio with 9th and them. I’m thinking, “What the hell is she talking about?” That was just me replying to it. When you do something that hasn’t been done before in your city or you reach a plateau that people have not reached, they’re quick to blame it on the devil.
You have Rapsody on “February 13th.” She’s a supreme lyricist. Is there any friendly competition between you two?
Vincent: All of the time. The dope thing for me with the Love Is War sessions is that I was trying to play catch-up, especially with her, when I was younger. She works hard. For this record, me being older, I saw this as the moment where she’s like, “My little brother got his weight up. He’s been in the gym. I can’t go easy on him like I used to” (laughs). That’s what it was this time when we worked on “February 13th.”
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9th, you’re one of the smartest basketball minds in hip hop. Who would you say is Reuben’s NBA equivalent?
9th Wonder: If you know the history of this player, you’d know he was labeled a prodigy at age 14, and that’s Luka Doncic. Luka started so young and was playing with pros at a young age. He did so much preparation overseas until he got to the main stage, and look at what he’s become. But he wasn’t the kid that said, “I need to go to the NBA now” or “I need to do this now.” He stayed in the process and played on a certain level to the point that we basketball enthusiasts knew. So, when all the new Luka fans of the past couple of years see him play, they’ll say, “Oh, he’s so good,” but the basketball enthusiasts knew.
You don’t fall in love with the game if you don’t love the scrimmage. Luka loved the scrimmage and playing on a certain level until the world knew about him. Reuben loved playing on a certain level. He didn’t need motivation to be great until the world knew about him. He’s 22… he’s young. But this is a nine-year process you’re looking at.
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