Here's the first single from the inimitable Angel Haze and her Dirty Gold album, as premiered on Zane Lowe last night.
This track is produced by Markus Dravs, a man who has worked with Arcade Fire and Coldplay. I recently met Angel Haze and had a chat. Here's what we talked about.
How have you found the last few months of critical acclaim, magazine spreads, awards and so on?
It’s been great. I’m humbled by it. I feel like I don’t necessarily see myself in the same way that other people see me. I’m still at 10 but I need to be pushing towards 20 and from there head to a 100. I’m just working my ass off.
Who are you working with on your debut album, Dirty Gold?
I’m working with Mele, Amir Amor, Mike Dean. Mike f*cking Dean! I even have friends of mine, like legitimate friends, produce for the album. We’re just taking it one step at a time. We’ve recorded so much sh*t though. We need to stop recording and just say ‘Here, have it’. I have to make everything really, really perfect. I’m nervous.
Not to be cocky or anything but I’ve slaved my ass off and I’ve learnt so much about myself.
You've been working with Sia too, right?
She’s my knight in shining armour. Sia is amazing because she’s more like a mentor to me. She tells me when something sucks and when something doesn’t. I’ve been working with Markus Dravs too of course. The album though? Sonically it’s so different from anything I’ve ever done. Lyrically, it’s so different from anything I’ve ever done. If you’re looking for confessional, it’s there, if you’re looking for something to dance to, it’s there. It’s like a 5-star hotel. It’s pretty cool. Not to be cocky or anything but I’ve slaved my ass off and I’ve learnt so much about myself. I’ve learnt how to diversify myself. It’s not always about rapping really hard and being brash and confessional, sometimes honesty can make you cringe. But delicacy conjoined with honesty is something that’s bearable. That way you can sit back and think about and say ‘Wow, this is really touching’. So it was a lot to learn. I’ve had Markus and Sia and my managers and my label standing behind me and saying ‘Be who you are, but be the best version of yourself'. So if that means letting go of whatever the f*ck you’re used to and trying new things, do it. So that’s what I’ve been doing (laughs).
Do you look back and cringe at some of your old stuff?
I do! God, so much. Especially listening to my new stuff, I f*cking hate Reservation. I hate it. Like ‘You suck'! You think you’re so good when you’re back wherever, but in hindsight, you’re like ‘You suck’. Right now, I feel like I’m doing something good but then I do something new and with hindsight… it’s always that way. Especially as an artist, I’m never satisfied. Those things were good for what I was at the time and every single time I’m looking to evolve more.
I hate my old stuff. Like ‘You suck'! I’m never satisfied. Every single time I’m looking to evolve more.
What are your thoughts on Hip Hop right now?
I think it’s all really up in arms. It’s all thrown up in the air and when it lands it might be something different when everyone figures out what they want to do and what they want to say and who they want to be and how they want to convey themselves, then it might be something different. Kendrick Lamar was an excellent example. A year ago no one would have thought he would be anything. It was like ‘Oh he sucks, he’s just rapping all this positive shit’ and then his album drops and he goes platinum in two weeks. Amazing. Commend him because his album has substance. I listened to it straight through and the story, everything, is so impeccably done on that album, it’s amazing. It feels like concepts are a lost art in hip hop. He had a vision and it was executed brilliantly
And where do you fit into that?
My album is epic (laughs). Just kidding! I just want to be wholly me. For me, it’s important to represent the people who don’t have a voice. Like, Kendrick Lamar represents for people who are like him, people who come from Compton or the ghetto or the places that people say ‘You’ll never be anything, you little black boy’. A$AP Rocky, that’s homeless shelters and guys who are obsessed with fashion but who never had enough money to buy it, he comes up, he represents them. That’s his sector. Mine are voiceless kids who feel undermined, overlooked, alone. Someone has to stand up for them. I am, and was, one of them so I feel it’s only right that I do. So that’s my stance.
I've never figured out what your name Angel Haze, actually means? There's various explanations online. What's the real one?
It’s a metaphor for things that are high. Surname, Haze. Weed. Angel/ religious realm, spiritual, heavenly or whatever. It was just another way to say that I was better than everyone else. I’ve had so many names throughout the years and I was like ‘Oh they all suck, this one would be good’. Now I want to change my name to Alaska Young.
I’m a big giant control freak.
It’s confusing to find you online.
I know. Leona (Lewis) said she tried to add me on Twitter the other day and was like ‘Who the f*ck is Alaska Young!’ It’s a book called Looking For Alaska. The girl in the book is literally me. It’s so weird. In every way possible. She’s very irrational, she thinks she’s smarter than everyone, she has an incredible library collections, she believes all these stupid things and she tries to control everyone around her. She plays all these mental games with people. She tries to get them not to be so fearful, to do all the shit that they want but at the same time she’s manipulating them because it’s all a big show for her and a game.
And that’s how you’d describe yourself?
Yeah, I’m a big giant control freak. But at the end of the book she dies so... it’s a really good book.
What's your earliest memory?
I’m looking in the mirror in a purple jogging suit and I’m about five and I’m with my brother and he’s wearing a blue one with some like teal blue triangle things across it. We’re waiting for our mum and... that’s where it ends.
I was going to go to the Peace Corps in Thailand and help little girls learn to read and teach them English and Math
What are your long-term plans?
I’m going to do this for five years; I’m going to get in and get out and then I’m going to take my picture down by the Queens Castle! I’m kidding. I don’t know. I’m kind of winging it. A part of me still wants to go back to school and pursue something in Psychology or Neuroscience or something like that, and I want to do all these charities. I was going to go to the Peace Corps in Thailand and help little girls learn to read and teach them English and Math. There’s a slot of things I want to do but... this first.