The Maryland based rapper is just sixteen years old. You have likely never heard of him before stumbling upon this review. Yet redveil, at sixteen years old, just quietly released what could be considered one of hip hop’s strongest albums of the year.
redveil began to raise eyebrows in 2019 with the release of his project Bittersweet Cry. He made it evident then that he is blessed with raw talent, but perhaps more importantly has a deep level of understanding of the world he lives in as a black teenager in 21st century America. He raps with the cadence that is comparable to the likes of Earl Sweatshirt, while implementing post production techniques of Isaiah Rashaad to help add melodic depth to his lyrics.
Niagara continues to highlight the sheer talent that revdeil possesses, while showing surprising artistic growth and a movement toward a more unique sound, style and subject matter. With the support of strong features and a mix of soulful and lo-fi style production, redveil is confidently aware of the world he finds himself in, and begins to explore possibilities for improvement. With more implementations of melodies, deep and varied subject matters and an evident charisma, redveil is setting himself up to be one of hip hop’s major players in the coming decade.
redveil’s lyrical talent is as strong as anyone’s in the rap game, and it is clear to hear throughout the album. Lines like “I planted seeds and watch ’em bloom, get of my dick for jeez sake / How my n****s goin’ up they prayin’ til they knees ache / I’m eatin’ all this chicken soup I feel my stomach, til I can’t / We ballin’, tryna take them threes, we take this straight to the paint,” on the album’s opening track “Campbell,” as well as, “We gettin’ n****s got / I couldn’t spot they pocket, watchin’ all my shit I watch it / thinkin’ like a plot / We too sick, n***a wipe this snot,” on “Revolutions,” demonstrate his skills of wordplay, punchlines and his capacity for rhyming. His slow, deliberate flow allows for each lyric to carry weight and meaning, while also offering surprising and well executed flow swicthes, such as on the second half of “Campbell,” on “Weight,” and on his verse on “Clench.” His high attention to lyrical detail doesn’t take anything away from the melodic aspects of the album, whether it is evident in the production or in the vocals of redveil or a featured artist. The combination of constantly intriguing lyrics with catchy melodies will only continue to develop as redveil further and further hones his craft.
Another musical standout on Niagara is the varied production that is unique and a great compliment to revdeil’s rapping style. Tracks like “Campbell,” “Weight,” Badnews,” and “Grass” display beautiful soulful samples that redveil effortlessly glides over, while songs like “5500,” “Clench,” and “Drown” are more bass heavy and upbeat, allowing redveil to take a more melodic and rhythmic approach. “Revolution” and “Fastlane” are two interesting standouts, as they utilize a more lo-fi production feel infused with synths, providing an alternate backdrop for redveil to rap over. No matter the production style, redveil displays a variety of different flows, all of which serve as rhythmic compliments to the production behind him.
redveil’s dense lyrics provide layers of meaning that are waiting to be unpacked. He yearns for love, as he details on “Pidgeonman,” yet can barely bare the pain that love can bring him. His line, “No wonder Mari sayin’ love is a drug / I ain’t believe him now I’m trapped in a cell / Tryna figure how to maneuver this hell / I love it and I fuckin’ hate it but I’m tryna prevail,” is as eerie as it is relatable, as his emotions and vulnerability he displays hits home for any listener who has felt the pain that love can bring. He raps later in the song, “You attractin’ all that negativity, I let you in / Past my better judgement, and I can’t even begin to forget / I hate the fact that you still live in my head,” as these lines provide heartbreaking, familiar feelings for the listener that serve as a reminder of the unfortunate pain that often compliments feelings of love. “Pidgeonman” may not be the focal point of the album, but the song is a masterful display of redveil’s ability to relate to the listener, expose his vulnerability and provide potent lyrics that contain depths of meaning and emotion.
redveil’s triumph on Niagara is much more than just strong lyrics, pleasant melodies and stellar production; his commentary on society is powerful, and puts listeners in the shoes of a black teenager struggling to find his place in white America. He makes this evident early on, as he raps on the album’s second track, “Weight,” “I remember when I was eleven and watching my brother on the TV get spilled out / Now I got a little older no love for the system and I’m reaching back for the grid now / and it’s really fuck 12 I done grow in myself to the point I can see that they hate us / All these white n****s bought on the web with that robe and that price and they know they wanna fade us.” His perspective allows us to understand the motives of a young black teenager, as he raps that making embracing music and making money is the only true way to escape the system that is designed for redveil, and others like him, to fail. On “Revolutions,” he elaborates on the chorus, rapping “I’m grateful for these revolutions/ Me and my n****s breakin’ down institutions / You gotta see the evolution / Writin’ out this pain, n***a that’s the best solution / That’s really all we got,” doubling down on fighting against the status quo, as well as the fact that music is his best way to rise out of the institutions he wishes to fight. On “Clench,” redveil asserts his loyalty to the black community, as he raps, “I can never be a puppet fuck white America / Same scale we’re not changin’ numerical / You tryna beat ’em n****s that’s embarrassing, damn.” There is no question that redveil understands his place and his mission, and will be unyielding in fighting for what he believes in.
Niagara does not sound like the thoughts of a sixteen year old; the introspection, passion, external consciousness and internal vulnerability displayed by redveil come across as if he has yeas, if not decades of experience dealing with personal and societal problems. The lyrical display is immaculate, the myriad of flows and production gives fresh variety on every track, and the themes explored by redveil are as profound as they are important. All this considered, this album is certainly one of the strongest hip hop albums of the year, despite redveil’s lake of fame or exposure among mainstream fans. redveil is proving, as indie artists often do before they make it big, that true art is often found in unlikely places.
If you don’t know redveil or his music, now is the time to become initiated. You may be able to say years from now that you were listening to him while he was still a teenager. There are no guarantees for mainstream success for anyone, and redveil’s lyrics have shown that he’s not one to seek out fame. But content like Niagara simply cannot be ignored, and if redveil maintains his trajectory, the sky truly will be the limit for his ambitions.
Listen to redveil’s Niagara below:
I have just completed my senior year at the University of Michigan majoring in international studies with an emphasis in political economics and development, with a minor in Chinese language and culture, and I have recently been accepted into the Berklee School of Music’s masters of music business program. Although economics, politics and history are all academic interests of mine, I consider music to be my true passion.
Music has always been my passion, and it is a driving force for the way I think, act, and conduct myself on a daily basis. I have been playing the clarinet and saxophone since the age of ten, and the ability to play music at a high level has allowed me to embrace music on a multitude of levels. I am both an avid player and listener of music, and I find myself constantly in search of new artists who bring something new and different to the art form, and writing about new music has become a new outlet for me to explore what is going on in the musical world.