Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
These days, the female rap game is full of Barbie-fetishizing fluff, but internet-born Angel Haze’s raw and ferocious lyrics prove she’s not into playing with dolls. Born in Michigan to a strict family that was involved in an almost draconian faith, the 21-year-old standout loaded up on verses and poetry as her chosen form of atonement during her childhood. And in her just-released 14-track EP, Reservation, Haze splits her time between contentiously announcing her arrival and wading through her own horrid memories.
The female MC has been trying to breakthrough for years, but it wasn’t until the EP’s release party at Santos Party House in Manhattan in July that it felt real. “We sold out, and I was like ‘Damn, bro, I f*cking did it.’”
HOMETOWN: Born in Michigan, the unsigned rapper now calls New York home.
STAGE NAME EXPLAINED: “I chose it because it’s metaphorical — means ‘high’ in like every sense of the word.”
SOUNDS LIKE: Her brash, sharp flows are reminiscent of Azealia Banks, but her delivery is straight Twista.
INFLUENCED BY: Angel paid tribute to one of her biggest influences, Drake, on a freestyle over “I’m Single.” She says of the Young Money rapper: “My love for Drake was mostly because he showed me that you can talk or rap about your emotions and still be cool.” She’s also heavily swayed by Jason Mraz, American-Canadian artist Justin Nozuka and Sia.
PLAY ON THE DARK SIDE: Don’t be fooled by her deceptively calm flow. Listen closely and you’ll hear her doom-rap rhymes go to some deep-down places. On “Wicked Moon” (feat. Nicole Wray) — which she describes as her most revealing song on the mixtape — Angel breathes: And I pick that blade, (pick it up now) pick that blade / Don’t drip put it onto your skin/ You can slowly stick it in.
The EP’s opener “This Is Me” takes a chilling nose-dive into the ugly pit of the cultish church of her youth and her family’s attempt to just hang tight. The track may be a solemn sob penned to her siblings, with Haze rapping: We seen a lot of shit that some kids should never see / like the shelter / and every night we starved ourselves to sleep. Later, she attacks self-doubt, her bisexuality and anything else that might get in the way of her success.
The Gil Scott-Heron-sampled “New York” (produced by The 83rd) is a cocky, ready-for-radio track with an impossibly fast flow set over scattered claps. Lyrically, Haze touches on her religious roots while basically telling everyone to step off: I’m Satan, and I’mma take your ass to church now / Running my fields and you midgets on your first down / I love it, when these bitches know I’m better than them / Cause I don’t hear, not a word or a letter from them.
Angel Haze, “New York”
The smack talk continues on “Werkin’ Girls” — produced by Tk Kayembe — where she explodes over the beat, calling people out at a fleeting pace. I am multifaceted, bitch I do a ton of shit / Like I’m diarrhea or whatever sitting under it.
INTERNET FAMOUS: Blown away by Haze’s wordplay, fans have taken it upon themselves to transcribe her heavy-handed verses. (For years, she’s been sharing her self-produced tracks and freestyling over the likes of Kanye West and Drake on her YouTube channel). And she knows people can’t keep up, either. “It’s like dodge ball between the biggest bully in the school and the most feeble nerd,” she says.
Angel Haze, “Theraflu” Freestyle
Some have called Haze an internet brat, but she isn’t fazed. “I still don’t know what that means, aside from an obvious attack on my young age, but I don’t care what anyone calls me,” she says. What would she rather be called? “Quing,” she says, a portmanteau of king and queen, since she can fill both roles at once.
ALL ABOUT AZEALIA: “People compare me to Azealia Banks and Nicki Minaj because they have no one else to compare me to,” she says. Rumors of a collaboration between the newbie and Banks have been floating around for some time, and while she has yet to confirm it, it’s certainly something she’d consider. “I don’t know how the collaboration would turn out, we’ll just hope it’s good.” And if the chance to work with the Harlem-born rapper doesn’t surface, she’s also got her eyes on Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li.
— Photo by Adrienne Nicole