s“Crazy how an 18-year-old got AOTY” Redveil tweeted recently. It’s a bold proclamation to make in such a stacked year, where some of the world’s biggest megastars have delivered career-highlight moments. But upon listening to learn 2 swim, it’s almost impossible to argue this young rapper/producer’s place in the conversation.
Serving as a direct evolution of his prior projects Niagara and Bittersweet Cry, learn 2 swim is Redveil treading water in the deep ends of adulthood. Every track on here finds him reflecting, with every stroke of lyricism splashing with a sense of vulnerability. The coming of age story is articulated in a way that’s beyond his age, delivering every piece of knowledge he gains in this internal journey with a relatable, mature articulation. The ocean in which he swims was created by himself, backing every diary entry-like confessional with soulful, summer-soaked production that symbolises the fact that even in the uncharted waters, you can weather the unknown, and paddle with perspective.
So how did someone at such a young age create an AOTY contender? That’s what I aimed to find out in our Zoom call together. He checked in from the tour van, on the way to the next location of his tour supporting Freddie Gibbs, and talked me through how learn 2 swim became a journey of scenic solace.
You’ve been on tour with Freddie Gibbs recently. How has that been?
It’s been a great experience so far. It’s given me a lot of things to improve on. Being able to talk to people that just listen to me rap for 30 minutes has been great. We get to see parts of the country that we’ve never been in before. We’ve been in the mountains of Colorado, we’ve been to Atlanta. I’d never been to Atlanta before.
This tour has come right after your newly released album learn 2 swim. How have you felt about the reception so far?
One thing that’s been really cool to me is that people are receiving it and understanding it almost exactly how I intended, so it’s a great feeling. I think people are liking it. The cool thing about the shows is that every night, it’s a new group of folks that are put onto it. They go home, and they’re checking it out.
What are the waters you feel like you’ve had to navigate in your life and career to this point?
It’s a few different things. One thing recently is that I’ve come to the understanding that I have to stay consistent with the improvement in my life. Whether that’s thinking about things differently, or trying to be more vulnerable with people. At the same time, I’ve become more grateful for the opportunity to make music and perform in front of people. It’s all essentially lined up with me going into adulthood. I’m also navigating the journey I have to keep taking to get closer to this dream I’ve had since I was nine. It’s learning to swim, and in that, learning to be comfortable with how my life is going.
On ‘together’ you rap “See I hit that stream of water, now I’m at the bottom drenched.” In this process of learning, what made you want to start in the deep end?
I think the deep end is the best teacher because you’re forced to learn how to survive. One thing about me is that I always learn the best from just doing something. Listening and reading are one thing, but real-life application is always the way to go.
In terms of that real-life application, was there a moment where you felt submerged in the water, and realised you needed to swim better?
I always refer back to the context of my project Niagara, because that was the first time in my life where I felt I could be free, optimistic, and comfortable, especially when it came to some of the anxieties and mental health stuff I had been dealing with throughout my life. After that era was over, I started to mature and get older, realising what I had to do to maintain that freedom I felt on Niagara. learn 2 swim is me putting in the effort to make sure I can stay in that scenery.
When you’re swimming in Niagara, appreciating the scenery of comfort around you, does it ever start to become exhausting?
For sure. I think swimming is what makes me appreciate it more. I think it solidifies how important it is to do the work on myself at all times. If I do that, I can appreciate the beauty.
This album is something that mirrors real-life growth and introspection. Did you ever feel the need to separate yourself from the music at any point during the creation of this project?
I try to do that as little as possible because I think for how my music is and what I think my lane is, I need to be personal. I try to make every album feel like a marking point of where I am at in my life. If I tried to separate it, I don’t think it would work.
Does it ever get too heavy, where your art and personal life share little-to-no difference?
It can be, but there are a few little details I keep from the music, just so I do have something to myself. But it’s important to learn how to bear your feelings and emotions on a track, so you get more comfortable talking about it to people.
Turning 18 is always a big moment in life. In celebration of reaching that age, you put together a video with the likes of Saba, Denzel Curry, and more telling you what they wish they knew when they came of age. What piece stood out to you the most?
Everybody’s words had an impact on me. One point that stood out was when Saba was talking about learning, and at that moment, I didn’t present him with the idea of learn 2 Swim as an album. I was just seeking how they felt when they reached 18 because it is a huge coming of age moment for people. It’s a really beautiful thing, and it all naturally comes back to that. A few of them also said that although they’re older than 18 now, they still feel 18 in the sense of learning new stuff every day, which is interesting to me.
I feel like as we get older, we all come across things we wish we knew at the age of 18. Do you ever feel like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to know everything now?
I think that I would have if I didn’t correct it. I think a big part of learning is accepting the unknown. I think that’s the best thing you can do in life because learning never stops.
On ‘morphine’ you rap “I’m holding that lens close ’cause I spoke through my sins, I told myself I’m holding my chin to where the ocean begins.” Can you elaborate on what you meant with that line?
In life, the lens of judgment constantly surrounds you, but what I’ve learned is that it’s beneficial to hold the lens yourself, and point it internally. In the reflection of it, I reflect on all my mistakes and wrongdoings in the past. The ocean is about me, so I’m holding my chin to it.
When you’re being this vulnerable in your art, is there ever a point of disheartenment, where you know your confessionals are bound to be wrapped up in the public discourse of reviews, sales, and the commerce of streaming?
Yeah, that’s where I think the separation you mentioned before exists. There’s one side where you’re gaining monetary benefit from pain that is very real, and other people are as well. But then also people are hearing it, relating to it, and finding their own comfort and solace. The latter is the part that’s particularly important to me, so you have to get to a place where you’re ready to share the vulnerable stuff.
The final track on learn 2 swim ‘Working On It’ finds you envisioning reaching land in your swimming journey. What represents the shore for you in this quest?
I think the shore lies within the knowledge that no matter where I land, there are further places that I can reach. I can press on because there’s always something to work on. The shore is never a specific place because the answer exists within the journey.