Interview: $ister $ounds speaks to Angel Haze
Words: Jade French
Angel Haze is making music for herself. It just so happens that her tracks are so catchy, her lyrics so witty and her flow so honed that you want to listen too. Her tracks run from tender poignancy to hard-hitting, fast-paced declarations of her awesomeness and she dissects the world around her with simple, smart beats and lyrics that hit you in the jaw. We chatted about making it in the game and what happens when you unleash five Justin Biebers into the world…
HAZE’S SINGLE <NO BUENO>
Is gender going to play a lot into what you do? There are a lot of emerging female rappers who seem to just conform to the stereotypical – is that something you want to challenge?
That’s what I’m going for. I don’t want to intentionally overstep the stereotype- if you want to be a stereotypical rapper then that’s cool, you’re just doing you but for me I’m not going that route. I just want to be natural; me. Before I did the natural thing I was trying to be like other things that are out there but when I started making the music I wanted to make then everything got easier. It took a tonne of pressure off me.
Are you going to be able to keep that organic, natural self within the music industry?
Yeah, you keep it. I look at it this way- a lot of the tastemakers are that way because they stuck to their guns and, like, I don’t want to sell out and I don’t want to be like everyone else out there right now. It’s important for me to make my own lane and occupy it.
One of the things I think makes you different from the other rappers mentioned is your lyrical content. A lot of the flow is based around word play and rhythm- do you view lyrics as poetry?
I like to write. I’m really into creative writing as a whole- but for me to do a song it’s almost like a painting and everything I think in my brain is the pallet. When I do poetry it’s always really intricate and I submit most to my emotions, and then when I do regular brag-boast bullshit its more about all the crazy shit going on in my head right now.
When you perform do you stick to more fast tracks or do you slip in some of the softer stuff like ‘My Heart’?
It all depends on the crowd for me, and the setting and the environment. Some people come out to get super, super hyped and I can always feel that. When I do bigger venues and shows that are 90 minutes long, when I can actually get into it, I’ll be the artist that they know me as and I’ll totally do those kind of songs. But right now, club appearances and stuff like that- I mean, people don’t come to clubs to hear my sad ass life. They’d be like ‘get this bitch off the stage’. I actually like spoken word, I might do some of that stuff at this poetry club in New York.
Your video for ‘Werkin Girls’ had quite a crazy response when it came out last year, what do you think about that?
‘Werkin Girls’ is great, I don’t know there were a lot of misinterpretations going around about what the video is about, like it’s a comment on human trafficking and other stuff. I feel like it’s more about how I like ‘Freddie Kreuger’ and Halloween. But people are going to make of it what they will. It’s fun to see it get so much attention though!
Yeah, do you think that’s because the video for ‘New York’ was quite evocative?
Yeah, but I’m actually going to put out a new video for that track. It’s going to be really… I guess it’s going to be worse actually! I have a really dark mind so whenever I go to write the __ for my videos I always go to the darkest place. I can’t write a happy, sunshiney Mika ‘Grace Kelly’ type of video. So, when I go there- I do dark. A lot of people misinterpret that for satanic or Illuminati or whatever. But that’s not the case.
You have that line ‘Sorry if I’m not bitch enough for you’- what does that mean?
I guess with that, I meant I’m sorry if I’m not soft enough for you. In the way that little girls cry over bruised knees but I stand up and but a fucking band-aid on and move on. I guess it’s saying sorry if I’m not emotional enough or sensitive enough.
Where do you think your strength comes from?
I created it. It’s something you need but you find it from whatever source you can get it from, mostly experience I suppose. I’ve never really spoken to anyone about [my childhood] in its entirety and a lot of people just run with shit, without having the full story and make more shit up. I’ll sit down one day with Oprah on her network and explain my whole entire life to her and then everyone will know, but until then I don’t have any limits on what I talk about with people because I’m open. It might come and bite my ass but whatever.
Yeah, I felt that with some of the tracks on the mixed tapes. You could almost listen without the beats.
That’s what I want it to be! I feel like lyricism is really an important part of music as a whole. Not just hip-hop but music as a whole. If you take away some of the beats from these pop songs and listen to then you wonder ‘What’s this dumb shit I’m listening too’ but you sing along because the beat is nice and the hook is great. So, I want my music to always mean something.
So, you covered ‘Romans Revenge’ [by Nicki Minaj] but how does it feel to be covered or remixed yourself? That Jamie XX/ Gil Scott Heron 83rd remix really changes up the tempo of ‘New York’ – are you okay with that?
I think that’s cool. It kind of give me insight to how many people I’m reaching and how they react to the songs. Even if they don’t like it they alter it enough to like it, so it kinda works! The only thing that bothers me is when these fake fucks Tweet like ‘***Official New York remix featuring Angel Haze***’- like, no you fuck boys.
Do you think people are fed what they should listen to? Are you trying to change that?
I feel like in America mostly because I’m not sure how the culture works over here. From what I’ve seen over here you guys either go with something or you don’t and you play what you like. In America you pay to be on the radio- you have pay like 20,000 for two weeks of spins and when it gets popular and other people start playing it. You’re paying them for the music—so this shit clouds the airwaves and then you don’t know if you want to be popular in the US because everyone just says ‘Oh, your label paid for this shit, you’re just a mainstream douchebag’.
Yeah- I heard this thing where it only takes three listens of a song to recognise it and then your brain starts thinking you like it. I don’t know about freedom of choice in the UK either- I mean One Direction have hit it on both sides of the pond. I always have them in my head!
Yeah I hate that. And One Direction man: “You don’t know-oh-oh-oh”. I like that song, they’re catchy and all cute. I think Harry looks the most like a male Barbie doll. Ken. Like five Justin Beibers in one.
Oh god, that’s quite scary. That could be a horror film. Do you feel then, with that kind of atmosphere in the American music industry, that you have to enter into that rap ‘game’? Is it competitive?
The industry I’m in works in a competitive way- everyone wants to be the best and the more you have that type of attitude the more people listen to you to compare you to other people. Then you get that whole playground ‘my favourite artist is better than yours because X, Y, Z’ and it’s more part of the culture of hip-hop as a whole. I think people might believe they’re the best, for me I just feel ‘I’m better than you’.