Angel Haze’s “Back to the Woods” is one of the year’s best (and queerest) albums

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After a few years of struggling with record companies, Angel Haze has taken their music into their own hands, and fans are better off for it. Earlier this week, Angel released their new album, Back to the Woods, and it’s some of their best work so far. And that’s saying a lot—at 23, Angel is extremely prolific, having released Dirty Gold, her major label debut, as well as two EPs and four mix tapes. They’re never out of song fodder, either, with their relationships, addictions, vices and recoveries fueling her most incredible tracks, many of which appear on Back to the Woods.

Angel is out as pansexual and agender, which means that romance and lustful lyrics are frequently about women, a bonus for queer fans who are drawn to Angel’s openness, among other things. An emcee whose singing is just as powerful as their rapping (and fully embraced on Back to the Woods), songs about passionate misunderstandings and break-ups like “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Bruises” and “Detox” have Angel showing an emotional, reflective side that is so often missing from modern hip hop. 

Oh, I hurt all over, it’s the worst baby (You know I do)
Thinking ’bout the magic in your skirt, baby (You know we do)
Sorry, you bruised your knees, yeah
Running wild in the trees, yeah
Will you remember me, yeah 

-“Gods”

LA Pride 2015 By Christopher Street West

Angel went through a very public split with Ireland Baldwin, so there’s no doubt many will surmise songs like these are about the end of their relationship.

“There are so many different songs on there that are about so many different people,” Angel told Billboard. “But it doesn’t matter because they all sound like love songs. I think it’s cool because it makes it universal but it also gets me a catalyst to say what I need to about everyone in my life that I have feelings for. It might seem a little overbearing and bizarre, but that’s how I’ve learned to cope, I think.”

They don’t know nothing
Nothing about us
Nothing bout love or the fears that surround us
But you row the boat that I’m in
You know we both sink or swim
Baby, we’re drowning..wilting like flowers
Chasing the sun for the love that forgot us
And you know I’m breaking again
You know I’m caving again

-“Moonrise Kingdom”

If there’s anything to glean about their relationship from Back to the Woods, it’s that it was as intense as we imagined; possibly more than we could. If Ireland was a muse, then she was highly successful because the songs that are quite possibly inspired by her are soulful reflections on an all-too-brief moment in time where things were heavenly, making it that much harder to get over and move on from.

And I fall hard
When you love, sometimes you lose
When your love, sometimes it bruises
Now I live on my knees for you
Now my heart is bleeding you, you, you, you

-“Bruises”

During her show last night at the Echo in LA, Angel said they needed to bring “a pretty girl” up to the stage, but chose a male fan waving wildly in the front. “Fuck gender roles,” Angel said and then serenaded him. 

Angel Haze Performs At Birthdays In London

Angel’s androgynous appearance only adds to their appeal. Coupled with their self-professed “craziness” and lyrical poetry, Angel is a mysterious figure; an artist that fans crave to understand but are constantly left feeling like there’s more to uncover. Being a part of Angel’s “wolf pack” means howling on cue (“My wolves howl at the same moon / We from the same tribe, and I’m chief now”) and cheering them on as the big bad wolf they want to be. 

Going back to the woods and embracing the animalistic tendencies they find in themselves looks and sounds and feels right, at least for now. Give Angel another year and they’ll likely have something else equally compelling to share. 

“I think I’m a work in progress. I’m the wild face that everyone has in their life, but it feels very permanent to me right now,” Angel told Billboard. “Everything I put in my music, for some reason, music makes everything feel beautiful to me. It makes me feel uninhibited. It makes me feel completely boundless. There’s nothing in this life I can’t face, because it’s in my music and it’s great to me. So I think that I’m still in a really weird phase. I’m sort of trying to realize myself and actualize. But I’m pretty far f—king gone.”

Angel Haze Performs At Birthdays In London

Essentially fans are benefiting from Angel Haze’s self-actualization; the inevitable growth you go through not just as a musician but as a person; as a 23-year-old who finds that honesty in artistry is the only way to create, and self-medicate. Music serves dual purposes for Angel, and that transfers on to anyone who listens to Angel’s music or sees Angel live, should they be open to it. It seems most Angel Haze fans are, and the wolf pack is growing in members.

 

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