Redveil: Playing W/ Fire EP

redveil used to daydream about future stardom in the middle of class. “Writing out this pain, nigga, that's the best solution, it's really all we got/I manifest this shit then watch it bloom like I'm on top,” the then-16-year-old rapper announced on his 2020 album Niagara—and his wishes seemed to be coming true after Niagara caught the attention of one of his inspirations Tyler, the Creator. On his 18th birthday, he released his breakthrough album, learn 2 swim, while preparing to tour with hip-hop veterans twice his age. learn 2 swim put the pandemonium of redveil’s teenage years on full display: On it, he tangled with growing pains and the pressure of newfound recognition, emerging ready for the next phase.

The Maryland rapper-producer’s boisterous new EP, playing w/ fire, walks back any hesitance that he might have faced. Opener “stuck” sounds like a homecoming king’s coronation, with blaring horns imitating a marching band; redveil whoops and hollers (“Bitch it’s up! Bitch it’s up! … And it’s stuck, bitch”) as a diva hits money notes like she’s belting the national anthem. The triumphant mood carries over to “giftbag,” a laidback pop-trap track in which redveil revels in his spoils and wards off suspects angling for a peek: “Nigga get off my dick/Then get out my gift bag,” he commands.

Often, the EP’s lyrics leave something to be desired. redveil’s taunts can seem juvenile: “I ain’t come in to chit chat/I been on hunt for chips,” he asserts, then continues, “Brody done lost his bitch/Nigga come get your lick back.” The plot’s all muddled here. Who is he brushing off? What’s a girl have to do with this? He rarely offers enough detail to elevate his boasts: While Tyler name-drops enough luxury brands that you’ll want to start planning a heist, redveil can’t even muster a Louis Vuitton reference, flexing on “captain” that he “just threw on this fashion for real.”

While the EP loses the concrete intimacy of redveil’s prior work, it reinforces his skill for arrangements. He amps up the BPM for a brighter and noisier palette, rocking out with JPEGMAFIA on “black enuff” as the hectic sound of clashing drums and detuned guitar pulls limbs in every direction. “captain” recreates the liveliness of a block party with its booming bass and rowdy chorus of voices. One of the EP’s highlights is the frenetic closer “pwf”: A robotic sample twitches in and out of place as redveil dismisses detractors trying to shit talk through screens (“Let them finger coils do what they do”). It delivers the best balance of flashiness and specificity, making the teenager sound less like a freshman.