Eighteen-year-old rapper-producer Redveil gets most of his samples from digital databases like Tracklib and Splice, but the way he combs through piles of vinyl, you’d think he’s a traditionalist who isn’t stuck in time. On a cloudy fall afternoon at Village Revival Records in midtown Manhattan, he digs quietly and patiently: The most vocal thing about him is the image of a cowboy riding across the chest of his jean jacket. “Cover art is one of the first things I look for when I listen to a new album,” he says, studying the brightly colored Cubist portrait that adorns experimental guitarist Adrian Belew’s 1986 album. Desire seized by the tail.
He spends much of his time browsing the store’s gospel selection. His mother took him to church every Saturday for most of his life and often played gospel around their home in Prince George’s County, Maryland. “I love how emotional gospel music is,” he says. Learn to swim 2, his breakthrough third album, released on his 18th birthday last spring, equally channels feelings, his boasting and bowing dovetail with tales of adolescent boredom and the triumph of reaching the other side. He comes off the racks with Golden Gospel Anniversary, a 1976 compilation featuring a woman praying on the cover, her dark brown afro blending into the black background.
Learn to swim 2On its own cover is a painting of the artist alleuu with a veil submerged in water, his hand over his jawline – almost praying – as he floats against a purple horizon dotted with clouds. The image is soulful and pensive, a representation of the transition to adulthood, and reflects the music’s dance between risk and comfort on its way to adulthood. For any means of propulsion Learn to swim 2 On a track like “Diving Board” or “PG Baby,” there are sections steeped in painful memories, such as the missed connection in the second verse of “Shoulder,” or the veil’s acknowledgment of suicidal thoughts on “Automatic.” The beats, produced by Veil himself, mix live and programmed sounds into intricate, cascading shapes.
“Learning to swim is about how you fit in the water,” he later explains of pizza. ‘How much it costs to sink, how much it costs to stay afloat. It’s not a concept album, but that’s the theme.”