Feisty female rapper Angel Haze dropped her debut album almost three months ago. Its first appearance in the public domain wasn’t by official release however — rather a leak on her Soundcloud apparently in retaliation to label bosses sitting on the project for too long. The end result being the album rushed to stores two weeks later reportedly generating very few sales.
Although Haze remains defiant in claims she did the right thing, ‘I do this for the music, not the money’ type of rhetoric, the more I listen to the album, the more I understand the label’s fears around marketability etc.
The 22-year-old with a complicated back story earned herself an army of fans off the back of her mixtape catalogue, and received critical acclaim for her version of Cleaning Out My Closet in which she detailed sexual abuse suffered as a child.
Her first studio album was therefore expected to be nothing short of good. Haze with lyrics sharper than a knife’s edge, and flying the flag for female rappers flaunting rhymes and wit instead of butts and tits was surely going to hit the ball out the park with this one; especially with the help of the top drawer producers she recruited.
Mike Dean (Jay Z, Kanye West), Markus Dravs (Coldplay) and Malay (Alicia Keys) and even Rudimental all drop by to deliver a range of instrumentals that would ultimately become the backdrop for Haze’s story of triumph over adversity and being in control of your own life.
Kudos to Haze for daring to tell a tale other than sex appeal and a gangstress state of mind – the genre conventions that unfortunately entrap many successful lady MC’s. Although, if your introduction to Haze was via lead Single Echelon (It’s my way), you would be mistaken for thinking that was what you were going to get. Rapping about being with ‘baddies’ in the latest clothes and getting high and dancing alone at home all set the scene for an ego and swag fuelled record, when the reality is much more somber.
Questioning the need for religion (Black Synagogue), music getting you through your pain (Angels and Airwaves), and ‘dear mama’ track (Black Dahlia) more accurately depict the overall vibe of the record.
Of course there are a few songs where the issue of love is explored. But despite Haze’s lyrical prowess, through tracks like Vinyl and Deep Sea Diver she is unable to convey feelings of love as authentically as she does pain.
Interestingly, some of the more expertly executed songs deal with neither her pain nor her love.
Standout track is most certainly White Lilies/ White Lies. A song about a strip club is not out of place in rap, but exploring the emotions rather than the motions of a stripper is not so common place. New York sees Haze take a break from righting wrongs and just having a good time on the mic which is what you really want from an MC of Haze’s caliber.
Dirty Gold is an OK effort, and while I was initially impressed, the more I listened to it the more the gold started to tarnish. In what I am assuming was an attempt to display her many musical tastes, the album as a whole is not as cohesive as it should be. Lurching from hip-pop to emo rap and of course the obligatory ‘I run things’ songs, the album has no real place to call its home, which could be why the label were taking their time figuring out how to pitch this one. Perhaps if producers with a background more rooted in hip hop had been involved, Dirty Gold would have ended up being a rap album with mainstream crossover appeal, rather than a pop offering meddling in rap.
It will be interesting to see how Haze progresses from here. There is no denying that she is super talented and could probably go toe to toe with many male rappers enjoying commercial success right now. Haze has explored her childhood through music extensively, so maybe a new project will signal the start of the portrayal of her adult self. This combined with a team that can help her focus her creative vision might help elevate her from dirty gold to platinum status.