Most 13-year-olds spend their summer preparing to enter the new world of high school, for Ray Emmanuel, he’s entering the music industry.

Ray’s story is a product of the power of social media, talent and ability, and just the right amount of divine intervention.

The talented 8th grader took to Instagram to showcase his rhyme skills to friends and family. It was a slow build without much action until his cousin Andrew Barnes shared the video about a month into it. Andrew plays the bass for the singer Rhapsody. Eventually, she saw the video and reposted. After that, Tyrese Gibson shared it, Dwayne Wade, Taraji P. Henson, and many others also shared. He racked up millions of views very quickly, and that was the start of his newfound fame.

“I grew up in a musical family,” said Ray. “Everyone on my father’s side either sings or plays a musical instrument.”

The young viral star started out as a drummer but at the age of 7 began to soak in the sounds of hip-hop. When he turned 8 he started taking it seriously and writing his own rhymes. He was just afraid to put things out.

So what changed?

“Me finding my own sound. Once I got into doing that, I said, ‘Why not write one-minute raps and upload them to Instagram and still try to get a message across?’ he stated. “A month or a month and a half later, I started seeing it everywhere.”

He continued, “Celebrities started seeing it and contacting me. It’s a dream come true really. I just want to use the platform to give the world a positive message. It shows me that I’m really reaching people. Just the fact that people hear the point I’m trying to get across is worth it.”

Ray was able to communicate with Suede the Remix God. Normally, the producer adds beats to things that are funny. Instead, he told Ray that he wanted to produce some beats for him. The following video is a product of that convo:

@04emmanuel04 ???? (Prod. by Me) more otw ?✍ #SpreadLove

A post shared by Dj Suede the Remix god (@remixgodsuede) on

Christian rap O.G. da’ T.R.U.T.H. reached out to Ray as well. The rapper and his father hopped on the phone with TRUTH to build a connection. “He wants to build a relationship with me. It won’t be business, it’ll be a relationship.”

Fern, of the Social Club Misfits, also exchanged info with him and let the young man know that he wanted to work together in the future.

Ray understands that having mentors and people to break bread with is very important to the goals he’s trying to accomplish.

“I think it’s better to stay in my lane working with Christian artists,” said Ray. “I don’t have any doubts about turning away from Christianity, but want to surround myself with that love Christ as much as I do.”

He said he’s also inspired by Lecrae and Andy Mineo. “They do the same thing I do,” he shared. “They are rappers and they believe in God and they want to tell that story through their lyrics. The sound they are using is trap and that catches people’s ears, but the lyrics are talking about the Lord and people can hear that as well.”

Ray is also a big fan of J. Cole and leans more toward some of the positive messages in his music. He hopes to make “real music” like Cole does but infuse it with what he knows about Christ.

“If I can put those two together and people can still hear my message, that’s it!” he said. “If nothing else comes with this, I’m perfectly ok with that, knowing some people heard my message. It’s not about me, it’s all about the message.”

As of right now, Ray is handling this attention really well. He said he won’t change who is because there are more eyes on him. He also has already experienced some “old friends” coming out of the woodwork but he takes it in stride. “I know who I am and who’s been with me since the beginning.”

“I’m still that same little kid from a small town in North Carolina who’s been rapping since he’s 7 or 8.”

Ray is going to keep posting videos to Instagram and is in the process of recording music in a studio. He is unsure of whether to drop an EP, mixtape, or album but does promise diversity in his music. “A little bit of storytelling, a little bit of turn up,” he revealed. “I don’t want to stick to one concept. I want to be versatile.”

His final thought is much more mature than you’d expect from a teenager.

“I want people to know that for me it’s not about views. It’s about the message being spread,” Ray said. “If I’m the one who has to deliver it then that’s what I’m going to do. The fact that all this attention is on me, I will be putting out more music so people can get the message.”

Well, Ray Emmanuel, and the rest of our readers can’t wait to see what you blossom into. He has a solid foundation in his faith and family and is more poised than some people twice his age.

Follow Ray Emmanuel on Instagram