Oakland rapper-producer ovrkast. thrives on elegant beats that split the difference between hazy, traditionalist boom-bap and the wavy, loop-based production that’s taken the rap underground by storm since Madlib’s Quasimoto days. After years of Bandcamp beat tapes and a production credit on Earl Sweatshirt’s Feet of Clay, his self-produced 2020 debut Try Again put a spotlight on his anxious and observational rapping. Though often delivered in monotone, his bars were vivid and nervy, tapping into a tension between perseverance and ennui that endeared him to peers (and old friends) like Mavi and Pink Siifu. When he pondered his mother’s advice and the mystery of a higher power beneath layers of keyboards and drums on “AllPraise,” his casual, free-associative style sounded pensive and expansive at once.

Kast describes RESET!, his first project in three years, as a palate cleanser, and the atmosphere is certainly livelier. Earlier beats had chunky loops that sometimes absorbed his vocals like a sneaker in mud, but RESET! is spare and sprightly, favoring propulsion over immersion. Opener “Seamless” glides in on a sour horn squawk, wind chimes, and a soft drum fill that Kast trots over gracefully. Once muted and distant on the mic, he’s now more likely to modulate his vocals, communicating the clash of introspection and catharsis in his words. The uncharacteristic bark and snappy bounce of a song like “SHUTUP!” plays well against the sarcastic melancholy at the core of “TBH!”: “I just owe all my feelings a break.”

RESET! becomes more potent when he mixes these emotions together. Kast’s writing still includes plenty of autobiographical soul-searching, but the uncertainty of past songs like “Face” and “Church” isn’t the focus anymore. He’s charting growth instead of fighting to keep his head above water, and the beats have more space to breathe too. It’s most evident on the title track: Floating over a flute loop and trilling hand drums, Kast raps quietly about nerves shredded by shootings outside his school, grateful to have picked up writing and beatmaking instead of a gun. A beat switch ushers in a chipmunk vocal loop as his voice gets louder and his bars become bolder; by the time a rickety drum break kicks in, he’s rapping like he made it to the top of a mountain.

The only problem with RESET! is that there isn’t more of it: only six songs, most under two minutes. None sound labored, and it’s nice to hear him rapping with more confidence. The mood shifts from chill to amped on a dime; the way he spits “I could use this beat in seven years and it’ll still be hot” on “Seamless” could toast an ice cube. He’s drawing from the same anxiety-busting coming-of-age experience as redveil’s learn 2 swim but on a subtler scale. RESET! isn’t a grand splash—just the sound of one of the underground’s most promising stars breaching the surface.