Music

2.23.2016

Angel Haze: "I Fascinate People Because I’m Not A Fucking Girl Or A Boy"

“I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to do a whole lot fucking better than that,” were the first words I heard from Angel Haze. This kind of phrase is often heard at concerts to amp up the crowd, but the razor-sharp severity with which Haze introduced themselves (their preferred pronoun) to the crowd of hysterically excited Berliners was like a force of nature. They motioned to their beat-master to introduce them again, though they remained unsatisfied. “Germany, I thought you were ready for this, but I don’t believe this shit. You need to show me right now that you’re fucking ready for this.”

It’s safe to say no one was ready for the two hours of crushingly monstrous rap that followed, but we should have known better. Angel Haze is an intense rapper; an emcee that takes no prisoners in their tone, their talent, and the sheer intensity of their persona. For instance, their breakout single, “Cleaning Out My Closet,” is a brutally honest account of their childhood abuse, delivered without fuss or glamor and with a speed that would make Busta Rhymes green with envy.

Haze is only 23 years old, yet they are on the verge of releasing their yet-to-be-titled, second full length record, a follow up to this past fall’s mixtape Back to the Woods. What is perhaps more impressive is that they reached success so quickly after escaping their childhood home; Haze was raised in an oppressively religious cult, a house where they were banned from listening to music entirely. We caught up with Angel to discuss the incredible obstacles they’ve overcome, the persistent conversation surrounding their gender identity, and the kind of furniture that would accompany an orgy of their choosing.

So many people refer to you in regards to your views on gender and sexuality, but what do they actually mean to you?

I don’t really understand it, I feel like my music is without gender, it’s androgynous. I’m not giving any pronouns or pointing any fingers, I’m just describing a feeling, a feeling that’s universal. If people get to understand feelings as a universal concept, they’re forced to pay attention to gender less. I fascinate people because I’m not a fucking girl or a boy; I’m an experience. You have to know me to get that. I don’t want to be a label, I don’t want to be a color. I want to be a rainbow.

Why do you think people obsess over labels so much?

People have a horrible fascination with roles. If you didn’t have anyone to instruct you, you would be horribly lost. And I’ve spent most of my life being horribly lost. The reality of the world is not about gender; it’s about nature. At the end of the day, my body is a show, I’m just a brain. It’s weird that people can’t understand that. It’s nice that people want to be called agendered or transgendered, but if people understood the remoteness of true freedom from that structure, it would be a real different world. “Freedom” from gender is a fucking vague ass concept right now. If you think about freedom—most people think of the pledge of allegiance. If you knew what it would take to be truly free without labels or bounds, it doesn’t work.

What do you think is your greatest strength as an artist? And do you have a weakness?

My weakness is my obsession with technicality and perfection, my strength is my vulnerability. It’s interesting to see me as a person and I’m kind of dark and brooding and weird looking and emotionally diverse and opening palpable creature, that’s an energy instead of some weird girl writing in front of you. That’s a strength at the end of the day, as long as I’m open and ripping all of the shit from my cardiovascular system, this is how we live, this is how my heart beats. It’s art and it’s dope and it’s something I’m proud of.

Do you push yourself to be vulnerable or does it come by itself?

It comes very naturally. I don’t try to define it, everything happens for a reason and I embrace it as such, especially in my music. It’s really changed my music, it’s so different now, but it’s still very personal. There’s vulnerability there, but it’s not about pain, it’s about warmth and connection.

Do you ever feel worried or nervous about the work that you’ve put into the world?

Yes, absolutely I did. When my manager told me I should put out “Cleaning Out My Closet,” my first thought was like, “No, I’m not fucking doing that.” It took some days to convince me to release that track. That was the hardest for me; I didn’t’ really want to go that dark but, obviously, I did. It was weird; I couldn’t be in the recording booth alone. It was conjuring memories I wasn’t comfortable with. I had to have someone hold my hand the whole way through otherwise I would’ve floated away. When you’re telling something that you can’t control, it comes out the way it wants to, almost prophetically if you think about it. I didn’t anticipate it at all. And I still get a lot of response from it. But oh shit, I totally didn’t want to make that.

“If I could host an orgy you best believe it would be on some fine Versace dining table shit.”

Would you ever host an orgy? If so, how many people is the limit?

If I could host an orgy you best believe it would be on some fine Versace dining table shit. And in terms of guests, the sky is the limit, baby. I want everyone there.

Given your incredibly strict upbringing, how and when did you have access to the world of rapping?

I wasn’t allowed to listen to music at all, but it happened very early. l fell in love with rap music when I was 13. I lived in New Jersey for a little bit, and I met a downstairs neighbor named Benjamin who gave me a Walkman. And he gave me these incredible songs, I would stay up listening to records when my family was in bed. I would beg him to give me more music whenever he could. So I started to hear rap then, but I didn’t quite understand it. I was 17 or 18 when I started rapping for real. Basically he taught me what I know, but I did all that shit by myself .

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That’s incredible. You’ve come such a long way in, what, five years?

Honestly, it’s not fast enough me for me. I would’ve liked to have all my shit figured out when I was 21. I’m two years too late.

If you were starting a political party, what issues would be on your platform?

My platform would run on blackness in America and sexism in music. But I’m more of a musical person. If I were political I would be like Donald Trump, I would just say stupid shit and then insert my own opinion over everyone else’s. I’m very narcissistic.

From what I understand, you have a lot of alter egos that come out in your music. What is your creative process? How do these alter egos manifest?

Oh you better believe I have alter egos. I got this crazy girl named Rain Rose, she’s a ruthless part of me where I don’t care about anything. I was diagnosed with a lot of crazy shit early on, and so learning to cope with the various mental illnesses of my personality…there’s a weird, intense sort of freedom in saying shit I know I shouldn’t say. I don’t have any bad feelings or filters and that’s why everyone calls me ruthless. But that’s who I’m being right now. The thoughtful part of me where I’m over-contemplating and having an existential crisis is Angel Haze, and that’s who I’ve been since the jump. That’s the person who is fighting against the other personas.

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When was the last time you thought, “Holy shit, I can’t believe I did that?”

I think I have that thought whenever I’m touring. Especially fucking being out here in Europe, I’m playing sold out shows every night. I become someone else on stage, and I can never believe whatever is happening. But it’s truly crazy, I can’t believe half the shit I did in the past year. I put out a record on my own, you know?

Stay tuned to Milk for more titillating features.

 

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