Angel Haze defies binaries in “Same Love”

Angel Haze has been lauded as the future of hip-hop, the second coming of rap. Whether you agree with that assertion or not, it’s hard to deny that her career has certainly been groundbreaking. The 22-year-old who, by her own admission, was raised in a “cult” and not allowed to listen to music as a kid, didn’t hear her first rap beat until she was 16 years old.  Yet, four years later she was spitting out rhymes like she had been weaned on Shade 45 and mix tapes.

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Because she’s one of the few women in the hip-hop game, she is often compared to Nicki Minaj and Azaela Banks, a bisexual rapper/vocalist whom Haze had a feud with over her song, “New York.” In terms of lyrics, however, Haze is in a completely different world than the other two women. Angel Haze’s lyrics are raw. Visceral.  Often, deeply personal.

One of her latest tracks, a remix of Macklemore’s “Same Love,” dropped last month and included the following verse:

At age 13, my mother knew I wasn’t straight

She didn’t understand, but she had so much to say


She sat me on the couch, looked me straight in my face


And said you’ll burn in hell or probably die of AIDS


It’s funny now, but at thirteen it was pain


To be almost sure of who you are and have it ripped away

And I’m sorry if it’s too real for some of you to fathom


But hate for who you love is not exactly what you’d imagine


And I guess it was disastrous


Because everything that happened afterwards was just madness


Locked away for two years to keep me on the inside


Because she’d rather see a part of me die than me thrive


And it’s tougher when it’s something you can’t deny

And ignorance teaches us it’s something you decide


You’re driven by your choices, an optical illusion


Here’s to understanding it’s not always confusion


It is perhaps that transparency, that vulnerability she often displays- juxtaposed with rough beats and an arrogant swagger-that draws in her fans.  Or, it maybe it’s the refreshing way in which she talks about her sexuality. Although Haze prefers not to use labels at all, if pressed, she identifies as pansexual.

“Love is Love” is her constant refrain, both in her lyrics and on her Instagram page.

Like Macklemore, Haze raps about the pain and isolation often caused by religion as it relates to sexuality. She gives hope to bullied teens, promising them that things do change. She shows her support for same-sex love and by extension, same-sex marriage. But what is most  inspiring is what she does at the end of the track.

In her remix of “Same Love” she makes it clear:

No, I’m not gay

No, I’m not straight

And I’m sure as hell am not bisexual

Damn it, I am whoever I am when I am it

By talking freely about the way she views love and relationships on media outlets like Fusion TV, Haze is not only problematizing the relationship between hip-hop and sexuality, but she is also bringing to light issues we have as a society with labeling people or restricting them to binaries: Man. Woman. Gay. Straight.

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The prefix of bisexual, “bi,” means two. Therefore the definition of bisexuality is someone who is attracted to more than one, but not all genders.  On the other hand, the prefix “pan” means all, and can be used by people who are attracted to men, women, transmen,  transwomen, genderqueer folks, and  those who don’t identify with any labels.  Although many prefer the term “pansexual” because they consider it a more inclusive term, others are confused by it. Let’s face it, people, gay and straight alike, have trouble accepting that bisexuality exists. Pansexuality is an even bigger leap.

When I came out six years ago, I did so as pansexual.  People were befuddled. One friend I came out to even joked that being pansexual was equal to being a “trysexual”—someone with no standards who is willing to try anything.  I tried to explain. I even did a presentation on bisexuality and pansexuality for a regional conference in higher education. But ultimately, frustrated with the lack of understanding or thoughtless dismissals, I gave up and started calling myself bisexual. It didn’t fully explain who and how I love, but at least that was a term that people understood.

Now, with the rise of this young hip-hop star, pansexuality is getting some press. Hip-hop heads are talking about it in the comment section of Haze’s Youtube videos. Fans are being schooled about it on her facebook page. Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and ELIXHER are all tweeting about it. And for the first time in six years, I can use the term “pansexual” and not get bewildered looks. More importantly, I feel that there is finally a black woman in the public eye that represents me, my sexuality and the way I love and relate to other people.

In her song “No Bueno,” Haze expresses that she’s so ahead in the game that other MCs are “shadow chasing” and just trying to catch up to her.  In “Werkin Girls” she claims that her “tongue is the fucking rapture.”  Now, I am not a hip-hop scholar.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on rap. I don’t know if Angel Haze is the future or the second coming, but I sure do hope so.

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