Student battles bouts of homelessness to pursue dreams of rapping, higher education

When Jimmie Reynolds was 11 years old, he wrote his first song. At age 16, his first track “To Mickey D’s” was recorded. Now at 21, the junior integrative studies major has recorded two albums, performed live and gained new life insights as he grows as a rapper, student and overall person.

Reynolds, who up until now, went by the moniker “Jimmie the Rapper” (he now refers to himself as “King Reynolds”), first became interested in hip hop as a child.

“When I was young, it sounded cool,” he said. “I used to read Dr. Seuss books, so I liked it to rhyme.”

Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Reynolds began producing his first tracks at his uncle’s home. His uncle is a member of a rap group called the Bacz, which has been a strong influence for him.

Though he used to start with lyrics first, Reynolds now begins with production, making beats with the digital audio workstation FL Studio, or FruityLoops. He favors “old-school type beats” over more elaborate styles used by other rappers working today.

“It sounds like the instrumentals are speaking over the artists nowadays,” Reynolds said.

At 22 years old, Reynolds has a sizable discography, with two albums and a mixtape recorded, and a third album in production now. Though currently unavailable for purchase, he is scouting out sites to sell his music on.

Reynolds aims to reach as wide of an audience as possible with his music and is mindful of whether or not people might take offense to his songs. Although, he added, that wasn’t always the case.

“When I was younger, I used to say anything, but now I’m trying to clean it up.”” Reynolds said.

Upon graduating from Holmes High School in 2010, he learned of NKU and decided to see his dream of higher education come true.

“I always wanted to go to college since I was five years old,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds currently lives on campus in Kentucky Hall. However, over the past two summers, he has not had permanent residences. Though he did have an apartment for most of summer 2012, the following summer, from May to August, he found himself sleeping outside or in shelters.

“I was just trying to survive until it was time to go back to school,” Reynolds said.

Despite having to deal with temporary bouts of homelessness, Reynolds said he never lost his hope.

“I’d seen a lot of people out there who had pretty much given up on their lives,” Reynolds said. “It ain’t about to stop me from trying to succeed. I wanted better in my life.”

Faith in god has had a profound impact on him and his music. Reynolds, who references god in his lyrics and cites him as a strong influence in his life, says he does not care if people single him out as a “religious rapper.”

“It don’t bother me,” Reynolds said. “If somebody don’t believe in god, that’s their loss.”

In spite of homelessness, these past summers have had some significant highpoints for Reynolds and his music career. Last summer, Reynolds gained the experience of performing live. He debuted at the Backstage Cafe in Covington, Ky., and then followed that up with a performance at the Mad Frog in Cincinnati. Audience members, were enthusiastic both times, according to Reynolds, who cites their singing along to his song “To Mickey D’s” as a highpoint.

Nathan Singer, Reynolds’ professor for advanced college writing, commented that Reynolds made a strong impression on him as a student and as a person.

“He’s got a really big personality and a vibrant spirit,” Singer said.

Singer believes that Reynolds’ writing displays strong personality, whether it be for a song or for an essay.

“Jimmie’s way with words both on the microphone and on paper definitely makes him stand out,” Singer said.

As he progresses through his college career and makes his way through life, Reynolds has seen his worldview change, and that translates to his rap career as well.

“The more I saw myself in school and succeeding, it made me want to rap about more positive things,” Reynolds said.