Release Date: Sep 14, 2015
Record label: N/A
After the commercial and creative disaster of 2013 major-label debut Dirty Gold, Angel Haze has reignited her passion. The bullish, self-released Back to the Woods – produced by the up-and-coming Tk Kayembe – eschews the smooth edges of commercial appeal in favour of the emotional rawness that made her early EPs so electrifying. “I’ve got my middle finger up to white America for trying to whitewash my blackness” she spits on the metallic clank of Impossible, while The Wolves embeds her rapid-fire delivery in the sort of experimental setting Timbaland used to create with Missy.
Note: In February this year, Angel Haze came out as agender, stating they prefer to be described using gender-neutral pronouns, which is respected in the following review. About the second single to come off ‘Back To The Woods’, Angel Haze recently said, “‘Babe Ruthless’ is my Machiavelli… It’s me becoming Super Saiyan. It’s me becoming something you can’t label or contain and being better at it than all the versions of myself who’ve stepped up to bat before me.
Angel Haze doesn’t just write music about survival — for the 23-year-old rapper and singer, music is survival. On the 2012 mixtapes Reservation and Classick, Haze emerged as a ferocious young voice as they chronicled the trauma that made their music so urgent. “Cleaning Out my Closet” detailed Raee’n Roes Wilson’s rape by a trusted family friend, and while none of their songs since have been quite so specific, the shadow of that ongoing horror looms large over the rest of their work.
As a military brat who just survived the breakup of a long-term relationship, it’s only appropriate that rap’s iconoclastic lone wolf Angel Haze title her second album Back To The Woods. The title is exactly where she’s headed in order to commune with her growing pack of faithful followers. In 13 tracks, rising producer Tk Kayembe(who produced her breakout track “Werkin Girls”) proves himself willing to work hard to meet the arduous task of bearing the emotional gravitas of one of hip-hop culture’s most direct, aware and stentorian voices.
Despite hip-hop being heavily rooted in hard knock, visceral honesty—about the hustle, the fear of not making it or even the spoils of success—many of today’s popular acts in the genre lack this relatable virtue. But fresh off a psychedelic mushroom trip with a longtime friend and producer, Angel Haze isn’t concerned with what’s popular. That’s why their newest EP, Back To The Woods, is a breath of fresh air.