Angel Haze: The Firestarter
Turning her back to an upbringing that banned her from listening to secular music and taking the risk to leak her own album at one of the most dangerous times of the year, rapper Angel Haze is more than your standard singer/songwriter, she's the epitome of a fresh-faced and unconventional artist who is not afraid of pushing the envelope in a move to master her art. Having first captivated fans by releasing music so personal it acted almost as an extension of her self, Haze has built up a signature sound that is both fiery and powerful, yet detailed with lyrics so delicate that they could only form through years and years of passion for poetry. Despite her hard-hitting rap flow and undeniable edge, Haze admits there's a soft side at the center of her fiery musical passion, a core that was hungry to learn from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and Eminem and is now joining them in a move to push hip-hop to the next level. A female rapper here to make an impact, we caught up with Haze to discuss her transition from poet to rapper, her thoughts on the growth of female artists within hip-hop, and how melting genres and burning conventions has already ignited a promising year for Angel Haze.
How did you discover your talent as a rapper/singer and how did you move to pursue it further? Did you dabble with any other musical forms before settling as a vocalist?
No, actually, I was just a writer before I was a musician. The only reason I became as decent at rap as I am right now is because of practice, when I started off I was really bad - recently a reporter went back and found some of my old mixtapes, and he was like “woah” and I was like, “yeah, there you have it.” Practice makes permanent or perfect, however you want to say it, it’s always been about work ethic. When I was in High School I met a kid who told me I should turn my poetry in to rap, and man it was bad, but by just practicing I realized I could actually do something with it.
Who would you say was an inspiration during this time? Any faces, perhaps some who are also in the female rap category, that stand out as inspirational figures?
Kanye, Eminem, there’s so many different people. As far as being an artist as a whole, my inspirations range from Sia to Train to New Radicals to Coldplay, to writers and literary works. As for female rappers, I love Nicki Minaj. I didn’t know anything about [the build up of female rappers] because I wasn’t allowed to listen to music till I was about 16, so the time I discovered Nicki Minaj was around the same time I discovered Lauryn Hill, they’re obviously very different artists but they’re both so good and they both go so hard.
What do you think is the position for female rappers in hip-hop at the moment?
It’s really crazy, it’s shifting, it’s like some weird cosmic shi*t is happening where there’s more female rappers than there have been in previous years, and it’s all about having [the scene] expand so far that more girls now realize you can do it all at one time without being the same as one another. Like there’s nothing remotely similar between me, Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj - I’m on one side, Iggy’s on another, Nicki’s on another - it’s just crazy and there’s so much variety.
You have been known to work with Iggy Azalea in the past - what can you tell us about your previous collaborations and are there any partnered projects set for the near future?
Possibly, I can’t speak on it though because that’s all her. As for our previous collaborations, we’re under the same tent basically, so I met with SSB’s Sarah Stennett and we met - Iggy and I - at a show, and she was like you know it would be really cool if we went out and we did this. Basically she came on stage and she killed it and she gave us a really empowering speech afterwards, I couldn’t even think about where that came from, she’s an awesome girl and she’s super talented.
You are associated with UK drum & bass outfit Rudimental, what's your relationship with drum & bass and how does work with Rudimental coincide with your own musical foray?
Rudimental basically taught me about drum and bass and it was cool because I didn’t know much about what house music really was until I started hanging out with those guys. When it came to actually working on “Hell Could Freeze” together, I initially just approached it like I would any other rap track, but after they built the beat it was crazy and I was like “what the f*ck is this” and it really opened my eyes. I like grime music, I like really minimal things that bring out a more ferocious side of a rapper, and we worked together on a track that’s on my debut album called “Crown” the same day that we did “Hell Could Freeze” and it’s so crazy because [the two tracks] are such a stark contrast from one another. It’s like house-slash-drum-and-bass with grime-slash-Missy-Elliot style stuff, and it just works.
What are your personal highlights from this year's GRAMMY Awards? Where do you see Macklemore's position within hip-hop today?
My favourite from the GRAMMY’s would have to be Kendrick Lamar’s “Radioactive” performance - Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar together was just so sick, like that was the best performance I’ve ever seen on The GRAMMY’s, period. I don’t know if I’ve ever considered Macklemore a hip-hop artist as much as an alternative one because I think he transcends any specific genre or sound, so I think he’s had his moment where he’s been very hip-hop and then in this recent year he’s been on every pop station. In regards to hip-hop and The GRAMMY’s, I’ve been following him (Macklemore) for four years and I know his story and I know his journey, and it’s great to see him win big, he deserves everything but Kendrick Lamar definitely made a rap album, like something that was specifically a rap album.
You have a history of covering other artist's music (ie Beyonce's "Drunk In Love," and Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness") How did this come about and how you decide what song you cover and how do you approach it?
It initially began when I was starting off and trying to get recognition, I would pick songs that were big at the time and select the ones that were most relevant and go “okay, Nicki did this, Kanye made that” take it, make my own shit, put it out and let it fester for a while before doing it again. Then came the Dirty Gold series where it was more about showing off the duality behind my talent, with a bit of singing and rapping, so that the album wouldn’t come as a surprise to people. If I had to pick a favorite from these covers, at the moment, it would have to be my rework of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love.”
It’s been over a month now that you leaked your album. In hindsight, do you think it was the right decision?
Definitely. Off the back of leaking my album I got offered a spot at Wireless Fest, and I might not have ever gotten that if I was still releasing my album in March. So many good things have been happening for me - I had the craziest debut where I leaked an album, it exploded, my label basically called me and told me no new artist is brave enough to put out their album in the last week of the year because only people like Drake really sell. It was cool because I put my best foot forward and my efforts were just kind of flowing, and of course I have a whole f*cking year to sell an album now which is great. The label was cool about it, it came up as more of an “okay, we get why the f*ck you’re doing this, you have to respect that there are deadlines and there’s reasons for this type of stuff, but like if you believe in your art and you’re so passionate about it that you’re willing to do this then we’ll stand behind you.” That could have gone any other way because I just learned about Death Grips and how they’re being sued to f*ck by their label because they leaked their album online just recently, I could have been that person, but overall it was a pretty big turn out for me.
Whats the biggest misconception people have about you? Is there any rumor about you that you'd like to see disappear?
A lot of people think I’m really b*tchy, which is strange, because they’ll turn to me and say “I thought you’d be a b*tch, you’re a lot nicer than I expected” and I’m just like, oh? I don’t know if I come across as an overly confident or cocky person but it’s not in my nature, I suppose that since my music means so much to me I put all of myself in to it, and it epitomizes who I am but I’m not a b*tch. I don’t know where that comes from.
Where do you go to look for new music and fresh artists, and what are your thoughts on today’s market for music streaming (Spotify, Beats Music, etc)?
I used to use this website called Spinner.com, they put up mp3’s of the day and bran new brands and rappers you could listen to. AOL discontinued that for some reason so now it’s up to me to go out in to the world and find new bands playing on the street - I actually found this new jazz band playing outside of my house one day which is really f*cking cool - and by listening to my fans when they say someone’s really good, I’ll check it out, like I found out who Banks was just by way of communicating with people. As for Spotify, I didn’t know that every time someone plays a song on their Spotify it counts as a radio play, everything’s becoming so technologically advanced that now no one listens to the radio and there’s new ways to have radio plays. But I think it’s cool, it gives everyone a platform to listen to their music on.
Any final words of wisdom?
There is no pain without progress that becomes prosperity. If you want something go for it until you get it because nothing in the world can stop you but you.
Interview & Photography: Ravi Sidhu/HYPETRAK