Release Date: Dec 30, 2013
Record label: Republic
Genre(s): Rap, Underground Rap
Hands up, who likes binaries! You can’t have a dialectic without a binary, and you can’t have a contradiction without a dialectic. It’s an old critical chestnut to point out that an artwork is contradictory, either in content or in interpretation, and then explain how it’s precisely this that makes it sophisticated — the audience member who identifies a position and responds with praise or blame is either naïve or reductive. Now, hold that thought, and let’s see if we can’t sublate it, too.
There may be more rash decisions made in the week before Christmas than at any other time of year: the gift bought in a sweaty panic; the final round of drinks that tips your hangover into the realms of complete existential collapse; offering your full and frank opinions at the work Christmas party, where exactly what you said proves impossible to recall the following day, but the expression on your superiors' faces as you said it remains burned into your memory in 3840x2160 Ultra HD. Something of the reckless spirit of the season seemed to grip the rapper Angel Haze, who, on the Wednesday before Christmas, metaphorically snuck into her boss's office, pressed her buttocks to his desktop scanner and emailed the PDF to his entire contact list. Frustrated at her label putting back the release of her debut album Dirty Gold from 2013 until March, she posted the whole thing on Soundcloud, with an accompanying series of Tweets: "sorry to Island/Republic Records but fuck you … you guys may just learn to KEEP YOUR FUCKING WORD.
A poet-turned-rapper who uses lyrics like "live every day like it's your last" and actually seems to mean them, Angel Haze's debut album sounds, at times, like the cerebral Mos Def and the sly Missy Elliot spliced into one MC (check the epic "Black Synagogue") while other times, it's a hooky-meets-old-school alternative affair, something like Digable Planets as a G-Unit-affiliated crew ("Echelon [It's My Way]" being the proof). Adding to this wild, inspired jumble is the Death Grips-like backstory where Dirty Gold was leaked early because Haze's label, Island Records, was dragging its feet, but there are poptacular moments here that sound born and bred for radio (for a killer hip-hop power-ballad sandwich, just place Haze's "Battle Cry" between B. o.
It all seemed to be going so smoothly for Angel Haze. 2013 was set to be her year, with the Detroit rapper finishing third in the BBC Sound of… poll following several acclaimed mixtapes. She even came out on top in a verbal joust with Azealia Banks, which resulted in Haze releasing two ‘diss’ tracks. However, just like Banks, the 22-year-old’s progress was significantly hindered by delays in the release of her debut album.
One thing is certain: No one does deliberately encouraging raps like Angel Haze. Most recently scheduled for a March release, the Brooklyn-via-Detroit rapper released her new Dirty Gold under less than ideal label circumstances. “So sorry to Island/Republic Records, but fuck you,” Haze wrote as she leaked the album via Twitter, fed up with delays that were evidently more business-related than artistic.
“I’m making it for people who just wanna get lost”, says Angel Haze in the very first sound to emerge from her debut album. If by “lost” she means confused and distracted, then mission accomplished. Dirty Gold, Haze’s debut album, attempts to be the next big hip-pop crossover record to sell an outrageous number of records and still seem cool.
Listening to Angel Haze's debut album often feels like sitting in on a therapy session with the 22-year-old rapper. Each account of her upbringing, romantic relationships and religious views is full of personal details and a hard-won wisdom that she delivers with unwavering confidence and cathartic fervour. The New York City-based MC has made a name with searing freestyles about sexual abuse and her mother's disapproval of her pansexuality - a subject she revisits in Black Dahlia.
When she’s not shooting out rapid-fire rhymes about her haters and her beef with religious fanatics, Angel Haze (born Raykeea Angel Wilson) is belting out rhythmical pop verses that blur the lines between hip-hop and pop. The detour toward hip-pop has also allowed other femcees like up and comer Azealia Banks and even rap’s current reigning queen Nicki Minaj, to evade hip-hop’s patriarchy while transcending underground cred for crossover appeal. But Haze is too proactive to wait on the sidelines for success—witness the way she leaked Dirty Gold at the end of December after a dispute with her label over the album’s release date.
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues Plain and simple, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is Against Me!'s best album since 2002's Reinventing Axl Rose. It's also their most emotionally-cutting. On the production side, the album is unrelentingly catchy and propulsive, like decades of angst and suppression unleashing itself in half an hour. Lyrically, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a powerhouse showing for Laura Jane Grace.
Angel Haze isn’t the first rap act to self-leak an album. That distinction goes to Death Grips, who notoriously kamikazed their contract with Epic Records by slapping a penis on the cover of 2012’s No Love Deep Web and tossing it to the Internet, ensuring the label would never make a dime from it. Haze’s leak of Dirty Gold, by comparison, wasn’t meant to burn bridges.
Decidedly class of ’94 in sensibility, Angel Haze’s 2012 mixtape Reservation featured an earthy production style that was, for want of a better word, real: tactile, naturalistic and unadorned. In this way it served as the perfect housing, affording the record a sense of honesty during Haze’s thoughtful confessionals (on which Eminem was a primary influence) and edge during its gritty street-level bangers. Haze’s debut proper Dirty Gold, however, takes a different approach.
Angel Haze has centered her young career around being a “voice for the voiceless.” Back in 2012, she built a cult following with her critically acclaimed Reservation EP that included promising songs like “Werkin’ Girls,” “New York” and “Hot Like Fire.” Fueled by her ability to tell her story with a visceral delivery, the Detroit-bred MC followed up with Classick that made waves for her deeply introspective rendition of “Cleaning Out My Closet” recounting sexual abuse. Haze’s major-label debut was slated to come out Mar. 3, but claiming she wanted to quit depriving her fans of new music—and throwing some choice words at Republic—Haze leaked the album in December.