In the last few years, we’ve seen a string of young female MCs climb from the underground. The “rap brats,” as some have coined them, are fierce, in their early 20s, and drop verses that are overtly sexual, bossy and cheeky as hell.
When you’re part of a new trend, it’s easy to be bunched together with similar artists as your star begins to rise, but 21-year-old Angel Haze makes it very clear that “she doesn’t worry about what the next bitch is doing” and says all the comparisons and titles are just that and nothing more. “I’ve been compared to every chick there is, been called a brat; it’s all the same shit to me,” she says with a laugh. “I’m that chick you’re either gonna love or hate. As long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, you can call it what you want.”
Born in Michigan, Haze has been through a lot in her young life. Her family fled Detroit to escape a strict religious cult. “My mom got introduced to the cult when I was about five years old. I can’t really discuss cult activity, but I can say that things got really fucked up and we had to go right away,” she says. “I’ve lived everywhere, man. My most recent move was from Virginia to New York. I’m still settling into it, but now things are blowing up for me. It’s crazy.”
Haze has released a few mixtapes over the years and is known for rapping over other artists’ beats and putting the tracks on her YouTube page. One artist in particular, Drake, is the inspiration behind her deadly rap-R&B hybrid, showcased on her first EP, Voice. Similar to JoJo’s cover of “Marvin’s Room,” Haze transforms two of the Toronto rapper’s hottest songs (“Practice” and “Trust Issues”) into unforgettable covers. “Drake makes music for the ladies, and I think that’s why it’s so easy to jump on his shit and fucking kill it,” she says. “Drake made me realize you can sing and rap but still be cool with it. I really love him for that.”
While Voice solidified her as a female in a lane all her own, Haze’s latest EP, Reservation, sees her take great leaps in production and guest appearances, and she delves deeper into her strict religious upbringing, depression and her sexuality on “Hot Like Fire” and “Gypsy Letters.” “I’m all about being real with my music, but there’s also some things I feel need to be private,” she says. “I don’t like labels. If I happen to fall for you, regardless of what you are, that’s what I’m about.”
After years of hustling and heartfelt lyrics, Haze is now starting to reap the benefits. Recently, she announced she’d signed with Universal/Island Records, with a debut LP likely to drop sometime next year.
In hip hop today, we look for reinvention. Someone who isn’t afraid to redefine realness. If a 21-year-old with the life experience of Angel Haze can make music that delivers such emotion and visceral imagery, it’s very likely we’re on the verge of reaching a plateau where any artist, of any gender or sexual preference, can tell his or her story freely. Haze believes hip hop is on the right track but thinks the community still has a lot of growing to do. “Hip hop is a very hard genre to be yourself in. I think it’s easier for girls because men glorify the idea of girls with other girls, but if you’re a gay man rapping about gay things, chances are you’ll still be called a bitch or a faggot,” she says. “I’d like to think that one day there could be a successful gay male rapper. We may not find one until 2058, with this crazy fucking world we live in." — Max Mohenu consistently defies the concept of realness.