Exclusive: The fiery upstart discusses the details of the past year, her love for well-written lyrics and giving competition a run for their money.
Angel Haze has only been rapping for about three years and already she’s created a buzz that could deafen the most critical blogger. The 21 year-old took her time creating a style- with some help from the Internet, granted- but she presents a skill set stronger than most newcomers. The omnipresent issue of gender is bound to rear its head but Haze is beyond being boxed in. Her latest project Reservation has proven her worth and her ferocious flow scored her a deal with Universal Republic Records in August. She’s nearly done with an EP slated for an October release and she’ll be doing spot dates fairly soon. Haze is different. She’s from everywhere and nowhere, part Native American, and the only physical label she’ll cop to is “androgynistic.” Hip Hop could use a little variety, especially from a new artist willing (and quite possibly able) to go at the head of anyone holding a mic.
HipHopDX spoke with Angel Haze recently about her beginnings, the Universal signing and making time for Missy Elliott.
HipHopDX: Congratulations on your recent signing to Universal. Can you talk about how it came about?
Angel Haze: What happened was that we started the album and I threw a party at Santo’s [Party House] and afterwards, I was non-stop flying. I met with every major label out, including Interscope [Records], but other than that I was flying around the world meeting everybody. Universal [Republic Records] I felt was the strongest candidate. Due to numbers and statistics, their track record or whatever was obvious. So for me, I did the deal in a way like, "Uh, I don’t want anyone to sit in the office, ‘cause I’m not an option. You don’t bid on me." [Laughs] Like, I chose the label I wanted to go with, had my lawyer send an email to the rest of them, saying that we weren’t going to accept the offers and thanking them for the time. I don’t know it’s like, in the moment I didn’t really capture it but now I’m really nostalgic. When I signed I was like, "Holy shit, dude. This shit happened." It’s so crazy that it all happened in such a short amount of time but I’m super stoked and super grateful.
DX: I read somewhere that you were inspired by people like Nicki Minaj and Drake around the time you started.
Angel Haze: Yeah! My inspiration is really great songwriters, like I love Lauryn Hill. I love Drake and Nicki Minaj because they kinda came out around the same time and they were still fresh: the old Nicki Minaj on the stoop and the old Drake from Toronto and also raw. When artists start off they give you the real them and then they evolve into whatever they have to be or whatever they’re destined to be. So for me Jason Mraz and Train and all of those people who really write good music.
DX: You sound like someone who’s been in this industry for a while but it’s only been a couple years. You seem well-seasoned.
Angel Haze: My thing is that I like to be a person that is well-versed so I literally did my research not as far or as deep as listening to music but I like to know the technicalities of everything. So I sound a lot more intelligent than I probably am. [Laughs]
DX: This is what’s funny about you saying that Nicki and Drake inspired you- people are probably thinking of Nicki and Drake today, not Comeback Season Drake, not the Nicki who was rocking in the project stairwell.
Angel Haze: Oh my God!
DX: “That” Nicki and the present one are totally different for the most part.
Angel Haze: I love Nicki Minaj though. I love her now, as she was before… For me, to appreciate an artist, you have to see the entire scope. Their range and everything.
DX: You know the comparisons to other women are coming, right? Do you ever push to be different or just flow and let things happen?
Angel Haze: Yeah [the latter]. At the end of the day, I still get comparisions no matter how odd or absurd they may be. But I’ve seen so many great people come up and they were all being compared to people before they actually got in the game to be just them. Like with Nicki Minaj with Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown before she was actually "Nicki Minaj," so you have to go through that as a sort of initiation, rite of passage sort of thing, until you are there enough to be yourself. I’m just pacing myself, you know?
DX: Recently, you took to Twitter in an effort to find a female deejay. Why is it significant for you to hire a woman?
Angel Haze: For me, it was really, really important that I have a female deejay because I don’t feel that females in any industry - being in the work industry - I feel they don’t really get the chance to shine in the same way males do. And I want that girls’ bond. I don’t want a male behind me every step of the way. For me, girl deejays are fucking awesome, Dana Sax or my friend [Kinky? Chinky?] They’re all very good and I just wanted a chance to put one out there like that and I still need a girl deejay. They’re a lot harder to find than I thought they would be. [laughs] But then again, there’s a whole science to it, so…
DX: So I heard that you were born in Michigan, but you live in California and you sound like you’re from New York [Laughs]. Where is Angel Haze from?
Angel Haze: I’m actually not from anywhere. I was born in Michigan then moved to Long Beach shortly after. Then back to Michigan, then to New York, then to New Jersey, then all over the place. So it’s like, I’m really bi-coastal but I’m from everywhere- everywhere I’ve ever been, I can’t just pinpoint one place.
DX: What’s your family’s reaction been to how fast your things have been moving?
Angel Haze: I don’t have a family. I have a mom and I have a brother and they’re as supportive as they can be. They tell me when I’m being stupid, they tell me when I’m saying the wrong things, pretty much just trying to keep me in line and grounded. So I’m just pretty happy to have people like that in my corner.
DX: At what point do you think you can look at your fledging rap career and say, "I think I’ve made the right decision, going this route…"?
Angel Haze: Aw shit. I think it would have to be like when my album drops next year, when I go whatever, gold, platinum… Copper? [Laughs] No, I’m kidding. But whatever happens, to just be like, "Damn, I really did this." It’s amazing to even have this experience. I’m super humbled.
DX: You started off writing poetry and it was a friend who suggested that you try rapping. Was there ever a point where you wondered "Do I even know what I’m doing?" or…
Angel Haze: Hell yeah!
DX: Or was it like you just came in slaughtering emcees?
Angel Haze: No. No. Hell no. I had to research metaphors and wordplay and actually give myself lessons. I had to take lessons from other people on doing it and waiting to develop it. And just doing a lot of reading up on everything. Like, I did this forum RapBattles.com, where they teach you these things so for me it was really a learning process. Just cultivating and crafting completely.
DX: Knowing what you know now, does Angel Haze believe she can kill anyone out here, lyrically?
Angel Haze: Mmm hmm. Yeah, Hell yeah.
DX: [Laughs] I love it. With Reservation garnering such a huge positive response, do you ever wonder if you’ll be able to outdo it?
Angel Haze: Hmm, no. I think that whenever people try and outdo themselves, they start making really shitty music so my thing was to always be doing something new. I’m never trying to outdo myself because I can’t outdo what I’ve done already. There’s not gonna be a Reservation Part 2, there’s not gonna be an exact replica or anything like that. There’s just nowhere to go but up and moving forward, so I’m just only trying to do new shit.
DX: Will the upcoming EP be based on a specific structure or just as it flows?
Angel Haze: I have not a clue yet.
DX: How far along are you with it?
Angel Haze: I think I’m done. [Laughs]
DX: Have you ever worried about withholding certain things about yourself in regards to marketing? Figuring out what you want to tell and what you want to keep to yourself?
Angel Haze: Yeah, sometimes. My main goal though is to be as open and honest as possible, but it’s really hard to do that when you’re as open as I am, so I guess at some point in the near future I have to learn to withhold and shit. So for now, I’m not telling niggas shit.
DX: Missy has been credited as one of your inspirations also. Have you gotten a chance to meet her yet?
Angel Haze: I love Missy Elliott man. I’ve not gotten to meet her yet. The thing is, I’ve not gotten to get in the studio yet with the people that I love most yet because I’ve been so fucking busy. Like, I’ve just met Childish Gambino and I was supposed to meet him two times ago and shit like that. I don’t wanna do that to Missy Elliott man. I wanna meet her and be able to do it, because I’m a super fan of hers, so when I get to I’m totally stoked. I’m up for it.