This mix tape from Brooklyn rapper Angel Haze is ambitious and bold to say the least; mainly due to the use of complete hip hop anthems as its backing: ‘Doo Wop’ from Lauryn Hill, Jay –Z’s ‘Song Cry’, Missy Elliot and of course the tape’s leading and most controversial track spat over Eminem’s harrowing ‘Cleaning Out my Closet’. It takes some sense of self-worth to shamelessly put your own mark over such classic hip hop tunes, but as the title suggests, Haze is embracing this without hesitation. It reminds me of the ballsy confidence we saw from artists like J.Cole, on his mixtape ‘The Come Up‘- difference is he was already signed by Jay-Z . But, what could be an epic fail from Angel Haze actually turns, predominantly, into something very successful.
Yet initially, for the first few moments, I wasn’t convinced: was this not just an Azealia Banks copy cat? The tone of voice, the attitude seemingly so- except it only took about half way through the first track ‘Bitch Bad’ to realise that Angel Haze was a cut above. Her flow, language and damn right confidence were to be admired: FINALLY! A female emcee that could stand her ground in terms of lyrical delivery against the boys. My most hated trend is this new Nikki Minaj type rapping- or speaking more like, and it has become, for some reason semi-accepted as how girls should spit. Angel Haze jumps on the mic with actual emotion, passion and lyrical prowess. By the end of the first track she’s already chucking out a few Goosebumps along with a moral lesson and a hook that is surprisingly catchy.
“In that moment he understands: Woman should never be hurt by words or hands. And just like that, that little boy becomes a man”
The tape progresses rapidly with the same aggressive but bouncy tone which makes you feel like some of these tracks are ultimately best listened to through headphones walking down the street. About 2 minutes into ‘Gossip Folks’, Haze drops into a few seconds of almost acappella; again exposing the strength of her flow. ‘Song Cry’ perhaps rides slightly too much on the hook of Jay-Z’s original, although again credit due- it takes a lot to rap over something so well known, especially to cover a voice like Jay Z’s and it not to sound simply wrong. The same for the Lauryn Hill version; I can’t help enjoy it, and actually maybe enjoy Haze’s voice most on this track, but is this not simply because I loved the original track? The inclusion of Erykah Badu’s ‘Love of my Life’ with minimal featuring from Angel Haze herself I take as an appreciation of the strength of Erykah as a female artist in hip hop; and think works as a welcome break from what is otherwise a continuum of quite angry and gritty tracks.
Finally, the mix tape concludes with the one piece I was wary writing about. It tells the story of the rapper’s sexually-abused filled childhood, and it tells this vividly and explicitly to the point where it’s almost too sickening to digest. It’s difficult because whilst music, and hip hop should surely be something to be enjoyed, and this definitely can’t be, it has the same pull that the world felt from Eminem. And this is where I have to give Angel Haze most respect. Because as hard as the lyrics are to listen too, and whether it is a clever use of shock-tactic which is a common tactic these days to gain attention, it undeniably does justice to a track which was originally an incredibly powerful piece of storytelling from an artist who was arguably one of the most important lyricists in hip hop. It is nasty, it’s fucking dark as fuck, but just like Eminem, it’s weirdly compelling. It draws you in, and leaves you like…really feeling? A feat that is, as far as I’m concerned, a serious achievement for a mix tape.
‘Classick’ is well worth a listen, and I found myself returning to it again and again this past week; it definitely lacks some fine-tuning and I think Angel Haze has a vast amount more to offer. Thing is though, I’m left with a set of lyrics which have very much stayed with me, and the personal, intimate nature of this tape is what sets it apart.
If you do nothing else seriously check out the ‘King Krule Rework’ of Angel Haze track ‘New York’ available on Soundcloud; which fuses Haze’s flow with some smoother production to give us, personally, a glimpse of where I think this artist could go.
Review By Kenza Marland