As some may look at Redveil as just a 16-year-old kid from Prince George's County, Maryland with potential, he is much more than that. Redveil is not a rookie in any sense of the word. He is a four-year vet that has been perfecting his sound year by year.
Whether he is cooped up in his home studio bringing ideas to life or dropping freestyles during quarantine, Redveil is giving the rap game everything he has until there's nothing left. When an idea comes to mind, Redveil wants nothing more than perfection; it shows in his music.
Redveil started to gain major traction after his "SoulFood" music video was retweeted and praised by the hip-hop account Shrek Knows Rap. From there, Redveil's career has skyrocketed and gained an underground cult following. His beautiful wordplay and complex instrumentals are astonishing. It is hard to think that someone so young could have music so well-polished. Oh, and by the way, his debut album Bittersweet Cry is completely self-produced.
Today, we sit down with Redveil to talk about Prince George County, his musical process, metaphors and his upcoming album.
Marty Gross: Could you just give a little bit of background about yourself?
Redveil: "I’m from PG (Prince George) County, Maryland. I’m 16, and I started rapping when I was 12, just putting up little 10-track mixtapes and stuff."
Where would you drop the music on?
"I would drop it on Soundcloud. I would actually say that was the peak of Soundcloud."
How you got the name Redveil?
"The thing about Redveil is that it actually doesn't really mean anything. I was just trying to change my name from what it was before and I wanted to change it to something that had a ring to it. It was either going to be Redveil or Whiteveil, so I chose Redveil."
Where do you make most of your music at?
"I make all my music in my room."
Would you say that helps your creative process by being in an environment that you're used to?
"Definitely, that convenience makes it easier for me to put out ideas when I first have them. I don't have to go to a studio, I can just go to my room."
I feel like if you have an idea, you don't have to go all the way to the studio and then think about it. You can just have an idea and go right into making it.
When making a song, what is your creative process? Does your creative musical process differ from song to song, or is it pretty much the same?
"It depends on the song. Some songs, I'll sit down and I'll make the whole thing in a few days. For example, "SoulFood,” which is my biggest song now, took maybe two or three days. But, that was also because I got the beat from somewhere else, whereas the songs I produced myself, I’ll tweak and I'll craft the beat around what I'm saying. So, sometimes I’ll work on one song for months at a time. It just depends on the song."
I noticed on “SoulFood,” there's a sample from Anderson.Paak track “What More Can I Say?”. I know it's produced by Tom from Mars, but how did you guys get in contact? Were you familiar with the sample?
"I actually didn’t know the Anderson.Paak song existed until after “SoulFood”. So, when it came out, people were saying that I sampled the song. But actually, it was a sample of a song called “What More Can I Say?” by The Notations. So, it was just the same sample that Anderson.Paak used.
Tom from Mars is a really cool dude. He reached out to me via Instagram DM’s. He sent me beats, so I sent him my email and I remember hearing the “SoulFood” beat and I was like, “yes, this is the one.”
Speaking about producing, what would you say you enjoy more - producing or writing?
"That's actually a really hard question. I would say, I can be more direct with my expression via writing, but producing, there are way more forms that I can express myself in. So, I don't know if I can choose really. I don't know."
Do you keep your music lowkey, close to your friends and family, or are you known as the rapper at your high school?
"Not really. All my friends know that I rap, but I wouldn’t say that I'm known as the rapper at my school. The rap that is most popular in my school and in my area sounds very different from me. I would say if anything, more of that hype and traction comes from the internet."
After high school, if you have the opportunity to continue rapping full time - would you do it, or do you have any other post-high school plans?
"I definitely would pursue it full time."
Do you think there's a possibility that new listeners might not take you as seriously when they find out your age?
"If anything, it's been the opposite. When they listen to it, they think my age is more of an impressive factor rather than something that turns some off to my music."
What artists are your biggest influences?
"I would say Tyler, the Creator, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole."
I noticed in the “Quarantine Freestyle” music video, you had a ton of Golf Wang and Zumiez clothing bags in the background. Would you call yourself a clothing fanatic? Or are you just a fan of those brands?
"I wouldn’t say that I’m a fanatic, but I'm definitely into it. I have clothes from a few brands, but that interest in fashion is something I want to explore. Because it's an expensive thing to get into, I'll explore that when I get some money."
Do you have any ideas, or are you going to create a clothing line coming soon?
"I'm not going to make “Redveil” merch per se, but I'm going to have a clothing brand that I'm going to make as Redveil. The clothing brand is something that I've been tweaking and working on for years. I’ve been making all these different clothing designs. I'm kind of just trying to flesh out my best ideas right now and put out something solid."
How long did you work on Bittersweet Cry for?
"I started working on that album around May of last year. I worked on it during the summer of 2019, and I finished it around December of that year. I worked on it for just over six months."
How did you come up with the name?
"The name came to me randomly. Honestly, I was reading or listening to something that had to do with the idea of Bittersweet Cry, but it wasn't in that phrase. Once I heard or read it, the phrase came in my head and I realized that it was really catchy, so I immediately went to the computer to rename the album. Actually, before the name change, it was actually going to be called Don’t Cry Wolf."
In many songs on Bittersweet Cry, you mention your love for Prince George County. How has being a part of that area and culture influenced your music and musical process?
"From a musical standpoint, it has influenced more of the music that I listen to compared to the music I make. The PG and DMV sound, which is DC, Maryland, and Virginia, hasn’t bled into my music per se, but it's kind of just a part of living here."
I realized that the album was very diverse. There are songs like “Luck” that are definitely more upbeat, and then there are songs like “Backseat” that have a little bit more of a dreary and conscious tone. Do you enjoy making sad and conscious music, or would you say you enjoy making something you go to bump at a party?
"Oh, I guess I don’t think I have ever tried to make party music. I guess you could hear it at a party, but I just try to make music that shows how I’m feeling. When I make a song, it depends on what I’m feeling or what kind of sound inspires me at that time. So, for “Backseat,” the way that sample goes, it just made sense to go in that type of tone. The sample inspired me from a writing standpoint to put a little bit of a dreary tone to it. Whereas when I was making “Luck,” the instrumental was bright and upbeat, so I had to match the energy on the song."
Do you ever write your lyrics before you produce a beat?
"I basically never write before I have a beat. So, for Bittersweet Cry, I produced the whole thing, so when I wrote it, I could adjust to what I was writing. Sometimes, I'll do both writing and producing at the same time, but I never write something completely before the beat. Just because I feel like to have a cohesive song, the lyrics have to come from the beat and really fit from the beat, instead of coming before the beat. Because a lot of times, they end up not matching."
One more question about a Bittersweet Cry. When I was listening, I heard a lot of motifs and metaphors that involved death and graves or even the afterlife. In the song “Lonicera,” you open the song with “It's been a minute since I stumbled out my grave” or even naming one song “My Grave in Largo”. Is this purposeful?
"I guess the references to graves from those two songs are from two completely different places. So basically, when I restarted the whole rap thing and I changed my name to Redveil, “Lonicera” was the first song on the album and it was the first song as Redveil that I really had that complete hip-hop kind of approach to a sample and just me rapping.
So, that's why I say, “It's been a minute since I stumbled out my grave,” because it was referring to music I made in the past. “My Grave in Largo” is from a place of me seeing my future. But none of those references come from a dreary place at all."
We noticed on the “Quarantine Freestyle” that there was a new project on the way, is this true?
Was there a moment of clarity when you realized you were going to make this next project?
"I’m going to just attribute this to the work ethic I have, but I'm basically always working on a project. So, Bittersweet Cry - I was still making music, but I was trying to figure out how I wanted to release it. I was doing some singles after Bittersweet Cry, but couldn’t think of a full project quite yet. I had the most clear vision for the project after “SoulFood” came out and I saw the response to that type of sound I was making. I had a more clear vision of what direction I wanted to go in and what the tracklist would look like."
What would you say fans should expect on the upcoming project? Is it different from Bittersweet Cry or does it have the same flow?
"No, it's not the same. I would say it sounds more like “SoulFood” and “Quarantine Freestyle”. There are not many songs that sound like “Luck” or “Run It Back” on there."
For the new project, did you predetermine the number of songs on it, or did you just kind of go with what felt right?
"There's 10 songs on it now, but I wanted to have seven or eight before because I don't like making long projects. I think people don't listen to them and I think the way people's attention spans are now, it's not realistic to want them to listen to a 15-track project unless you're Drake or someone like that.
Even though that album has 15 tracks on it, it is still amazing. That album kind of made me realize the importance of brevity on albums, and how that can actually be a more effective way to get your point across than trying to make a long project."
Is there anything about the new project that's special to you personally?
"I would say I really like it. I really like the tone of it and I feel like it's reflective of where I'm at now in life and I think I'm going to look back on it and have a big appreciation for it. Just the fact that I was able to put out that feeling in music form and make it pretty unfiltered."
Follow Redveil on Social Media