Angel Haze first caught my attention last year when her Eminem reworking “Cleaning Out My Closet” hit the cybersphere. It was terrible and beautiful and at times unbearably sad. What stood out about Angel Haze was the power her words yielded. When she spoke, I felt. What I was feeling wasn’t my own, but rather Angel Haze actually evoking the emotional reaction that all artists hope to create but very few can.
Her power doesn’t just come from vivid visuals in her lyricism or incredibly intense subject matter—it comes from her delivery. When I listen to “Cleaning Out My Closet,” I feel a rare window into another person’s human experience, and therein lies the power of Angel Haze: She can make you feel it. Sometimes the feelings Angel Haze expresses and transfers to her audience are relatively mild—ambition, cockiness, disgust, disinterest, greed, or disdain. It’s very enjoyable and clever but doesn’t show much depth. I get it—depth is unsuited for a hit single.
What really interests me about Angel Haze, however, is those magnetic instances when she throws every ounce of feeling into a phrase or verse and I find myself momentarily immersed in the sheer strength of her expression. Angel Haze is in every sense an artist.
Born and raised in Detroit, Angel Haze grew up on 7 Mile, a stone’s throw from the 8 Mile that fellow Detroit native Eminem made infamous. “I downloaded every single Eminem album ever,” she told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “I spent most of my childhood wanting to be married to him… Dude, I’m from 7 Mile. He’s from 8 Mile. I’m like ‘Yo, we’re meant to be.” That influence led to Angel Haze releasing her own take on “Cleaning Out My Closet,” the brutal trip through a terrible youth that propelled Angel Haze to internet, and then real world acclaim. You see from the age of seven, Angel Haze endured rape.
Sexual abuse breaks a lot of children. Angel Haze wasn’t broken, she was burning, and channeled every ounce of rage into music. Wonderful, haunting, elating rap music. In 2012 Angel released a series of mixtapes that sparked worldwide interest in this new young female rapper. Only weeks after the July 2012 release of Reservation (a nod to her Native American heritage) Angel Haze had her choice of major record labels. Haze told The Observer she signed to Universal because of “their statistics, their success rate and the fact that I got a pretty damn good deal out of them.” Universal proved to be a wise choice when Angel’s next mixtape, October 2012’s Classick, established Angel Haze as equal of other upcoming female rappers. “Cleaning Out My Closet,” which was on Classick’, made massive waves through the blogospeare and catching the eyes of music magazines around the world.
By 2013, Angel’s time had come. She recorded Dirty Gold, her first full-length album, over three months in the spring. By establishing herself first through mixtapes, Angel Haze set herself up to have the very best of the best produce her album tracks. Mike Dean, Greg Kurstin, and Markus Dravs all worked on tracks for Dirty Gold. Angel also got to collaborate with some amazing talent, including Sia. “She’s one of my favorite artists in the world,” Haze told Rolling Stone, “To work with her was just like… Let’s just say I’ll die a happy person.”
By June, Dirty Gold was finished and set with a release date of early 2014. In the meantime, Angel Haze will release a series of singles over the next few months, the first entitled “Echelon.” She was also the only woman to be featured on XXL Magazine’s 2013 Freshman Cover, a major coup for any young rapper.
In addition to her unmistakable talent, Angel Haze is remarkable for being an openly not straight female artist in the hip-hop industry. She describes herself as “pansexual” and regularly references attraction to and sleeping with women in raps. This isn’t unusual for women in rap — female attention is seen as a form of currency to straight men and female rappers alike, and many seriously hetero female rappers regularly rap about getting with bitches and whatnot. Unlike those women (cough cough Nicki Minaj), Angel Haze is being real.
“Love is boundary-less,” Haze has said. “If you can make me feel, if you can make me laugh—and that’s hard—then I can be with you. I don’t care if you have a vagina or if you’re a hermaphrodite or whatever.” You know when you just look at someone and are like “damn, that girl likes girls?” That’s how I feel about Angel Haze.
Regardless of her sexuality, Haze represents the New American Dream, a dream of started in the dregs and ending up in a jet for above the 99%. Where the old American dream was rising out of the working class to the upper middle class, the new American dream is literally about starting from the bottom and ending up at the tippy, tippy top. It’s about rising out of the America that we live in, a shitty ungolden country that isn’t the land of plenty we read about in textbooks.