EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Way Up High With Angel Haze

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*Note: Angel Haze goes by they/them pronouns*

My ears pop on the 49 floor elevator ride to Angel Haze’s penthouse in downtown, Los Angeles. The brilliant, blunt, and beautifully fierce 22 year old rapper/singer/artist caught my eye with 2011’s excruciatingly powerful take on “Cleaning Out My Closet” and held my attention with stunningly powerful pieces that evoke confidence, rage, pain, disdain and pride with equal force. Then they commenced an extensively documented relationship with statuesque model/celebuspawn Ireland Baldwin, took their love of reality tv to MTV, ditched the big label in favor of freedom, and announced a move from LA back to the east coast.

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Angel Haze and I share a home in Tumblr. They share poetry, art, feelings and advice. I write, and curate AfterEllen’s Tumblr presence. When they announced that they was leaving California, I shot them a message pitching an “LA Exit Interview,” and was surprised to see them promptly respond: “that sounds rad. yes.” 

A couple weeks later I’m in Angel’s half empty apartment and they’re like “I guess we could shoot on my helipad.” I shoot up the stairs to the rapper’s roof like a bat out of hell but with more pep.

We sit smack in the middle of an enormous red bulls eye, bask in the glorious California summer sun, and begin rummaging through the mind of the most original queer artist of my generation. Read below and watch the video for Angel’s thoughts on leaving Los Angeles, madness, passion, independence, relationships, and her new album dropping August 2015. Oh, and I got Angel Haze to freestyle just for you, me, and the helipad.

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“Yes,” I say. “That is precisely what I’d like.” I have never been on a helipad, or a helicopter. I set up the camera equipment and lay smack in the middle of the rooftop bulls eye, basking in the sun and my life and the excitement of getting a chance to rummage around the mind of one of the most fascinating artists of our time. I’m so happy, I could rhyme. We settle in and talk LA, the universe, and the new album Angel is dropping in August 2015. Read the first half of the interview below, then check out the second half on video for the whole high ass experience. All [notes] are added commentary from the writer.

AfterEllen: Why did you move to LA one year ago?

Angel Haze: To be perfectly honest, I’m a sucker for love. I was touring for months and living in New York when I met someone who lived here. When I was coming home from tour they were like, “Come to LA,” and since my mom and family live here too, I was like, “Why not?” Which is like, a shit story when you think about it.

 

AE: A lot of people who move to Los Angeles have a very idealized, LA LA land idea of what it’s going to be. What were you preconceptions about LA?

AH: I didn’t have many. I lived in Long Beach when I was a kid, before I could really understand what was going on, but I think once you come in contact with any energy in life, it familiarizes you. When my friends who are LA virgins come and are looking around like they’re in an LSD video, it’s all cool, I get it. There’s an appeal to LA, like a shiny new toy that’s not out of the plastic yet, and then when you get it out of the plastic it’s all broken. It doesn’t work.

 

AE: Do you think that makes LA more interesting?

AH: Yeah, I do. I also like the fact that LA is really spaced apart. When I want to see my family who live in Tarzana, that’s like 20 minutes away from here [downtown LA]. But they can never get here because of LA traffic. That’s amazing to me. I can avoid anyone here. It’s so cool.

 

AE: With the 50th floor penthouse and walk up helipad, you’ve kinda got a lair going on. Do you ever just like hibernate up here?

AH: I do, I really do. I sit on the helipad for hours and just think about stuff. I used to meditate, but I don’t do that much anymore. I’m afraid a helicopter will land on me.

 

AE: How do you think you’ve changed since moving to LA?

AH: Oh, do you want like the highlights?

 

AE: And the lowlights.

AH: Not the lowlights. Low lights mean I go off the ledge.

 

AE: I was thinking: this would be a terrible place to have a nervous breakdown.

AH: I feel like since I moved here, I had so many things happen to me that helped me find myself, and in turn a piece of my artistry.

 

AE: What piece?

AH: You know what? These days, a lot of people call me crazy.

 

AE: Like who?

AH: If you look at my phone, I don’t even bother checking my texts anymore, because there are like 300 saying “What the fuck are you talking about?” I feel like whenever I try to talk to people, I’m just on a different level of existence, and it’s just not on the same level as everyone else.

 

AE: Huh.

AH: Anyway, I think when you come into contact with spirituality and love and pain, all at the same time, the world does this thing where it’s almost like a power hub. Where it glows, and everything that you catch when it comes down from the sky, you get to keep! So, for me, I’m obviously like Sadboy3000 and I have a horrible heartache right now, but I have an insight and a musical ability that I didn’t have a year ago.

 

AE: Tell me more about this new music ability.

AH: I’ll have to just play you some new music afterwards and I guess it will better explain itself [they do, it does, words cannot describe so you’ll have to download the mix tape], but I feel like I was young [Angel is still like really young], like really young [really really young—fetusish], and when you’re young you don’t really know. You don’t know shit. Like even what you want to eat for dinner.

 

AE: Maybe we don’t ever really know what we want to eat for dinner.

AH: When I turned 21, I lost my shit. I was like “Oh my God—I never thought I would be, like, not a kid. This is gross.” Life gets weird, and you learn almost by accident. Like with music; I was put into so many boxes.

 

AE: What boxes were you put in?

AH: Well, you get hyper-sexualized. I’m very androgynous, and I have a lot of different issues in my own head that prevent me from—how do I say this without being a douche?

 

AE: You can be a douche, and then I’ll say something douchey so you don’t feel alone, but we’ll cut that part out so it’s just you sounding douchey in the end. Would that help?

AH: I can’t make eye contact with people when I talk.

 

AE: Oh, would you like me to not make eye contact with you?

AH: NO NO NO NO. Oh my God, no, that sounds so fucked up.

 

AE: Some stars [or the late dauphin] apparently do that.

AH: I have a severe dissociative identity disorder. Like I have a real inability to connect with people when they’re in immediate reality. So when I talk I can’t see people, I can only see sounds and colors. So I’m always looking off into the distance.

 

AE: It’s a great view.

AH: Anyways, back to what I’ve learned. Sometimes, when you stumble and fall, you see shit. Like I did shrooms in the desert, I went to Joshua Tree —

 

AE: EVERYONE DOES SHROOMS IN JOSHUA TREE EXCEPT FOR ME. Like, I’m literally the only one who hasn’t gone [this sounds as stupid as it reads, and rest knowing I am flinching through this transcription of giddy personal exclamations].

AH: All of them say it’s amazing, that’s human nature to LITERALLY [touché Angel] exaggerate. That shit was horrible. It was amazing in the way that like, on shrooms everything is vibrant and beautiful. Like I have pictures you wouldn’t believe.

 

AE: Try me.

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