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A Christian hip-hop artist whose rhymes suggest the influence of pioneering '80s artists like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Pharcyde while his music embraces everything from old-school beats to alternative pop, John Reuben (born John Reuben Zappin) was born in Columbus, OH, on January 14, 1979. Reuben's family ran a Christian outreach center and drug rehab facility in Columbus, and he grew up on the grounds, spending a lot of his time with troubled youth from the East Coast who helped fuel his interest in hip-hop. By the time Reuben had enrolled at Ohio State University, he'd taken his interest in rap music to the stage, performing at open mic nights and releasing several recordings on his own label. At 19, Reuben pulled up stakes and moved to California, hoping the change of venue would help him take his musical career to the next level. Reuben worked odd jobs and was an extra in movies and television shows (he says he can be spotted in Clueless and Melrose Place, among others), but returned to Ohio when he landed a deal with Gotee Records, a Christian label founded by Toby Mac of dc Talk, on the strength of his independent EP Monuments. In 2000, Reuben released his first album for Gotee, Are We There Yet?, and his witty, insouciant attitude led many critics to label him as the CCM answer to Eminem. However, Reuben began to come into his own as an artist with his third LP, 2003's Professional Rapper, which he helped produce, incorporating a greater use of live instrumentation rather than samples and loops. (Reuben and his brother also used the title "Professional Rapper" for a short mock-documentary comedy in which an aspiring rapper from Ohio documents what he imagines will be his rise to fame.) Reuben continued to tackle more personal themes and an increasingly eclectic musical outlook on his next two albums, 2005's The Boy vs. the Cynic and 2007's Word of Mouth, both of which earned him enthusiastic reviews from the Christian as well as the secular music press. ~ Mark Deming