Detroit Native Rapper Angel Haze on New Album, Fun, Fame

t 5 p.m. on a Thursday night in New York, Angel Haze has the evening plans of an average 23-year-old rock star: Get a new tattoo, adding to her collection of "anywhere between like 18 to 20 tattoos." See the latest scary movie-she hates them, "But I'm trying to impress a girl," she says. Then, hit the studio and record into the morning hours.

"You know how that goes," she says, about using scary movies to get closer to girls. "Or do you?"

It's that kind of no-filter emotional honesty about people and herself that has made Haze an instant star in a time when fans crave more and more interactions with their idols. You want Angel Haze? You'll get all of her at once-the good and the badass.

"I feel like that may can be contributed to the Detroit in me," she says. "Someone called me Aaliyah's dark gothic sister or some shit like that … that's cool. There's nothing I can do about that," she laughs.

On the new Back to the Woods (released last month), Haze channels a gothic Snow White, only the predators of the forest are her refuge. She howls on the track "The Wolves," transforms into an unapologetic babe on "Babe Ruthless"-one of her alter personalities, we'll get to those later-and shares her wounds on "Bruises."


"Back to the Woods is a devotion to where I came from," says Haze, and the album shows she has so many more places she wants to go.

The first single, 'Impossible,' feels like an empowerment anthem with the underpinnings of rage. Am I close?

When I hear it, I hear-(she screams). I hear a lot of rage. I see a lot of red and orange. When I did it, I literally needed it for myself. I needed to say those things to get myself out of certain situations. I recorded it while I was going through this whole label management (conflict). Everyone was going, "Angel is done." "Angel is-blah, blah whatever." And I'm like, "You can't hold me down. You don't understand. I am not here. I am not on this earth, so there's nothing you can do to trap me."

But I didn't actually think about it until after I was done. I was just more like, "I need to express myself!"

There is a full spectrum of emotions expressed on this album.

My new record is really thematic. It sounds like a war. Whether it's me at war with myself, me at war with love, me at war with someone else, it all has this crazy feel to it. But I feel like I had to go through this before I even thought about what the record was going to be like.

What was one of your biggest wars this year?

What basically happened was, I was doing a lot of different shit and I was in a relationship I'm sure you know about, but I don't really want to talk about that. We broke up. I went to the desert with some of my friends and we just tried to do something different.

Afterwards, I ended up locking myself in my penthouse for like maybe three months with a producer and we made the record.

What kind of remix collaborations can we expect? Ever think about collabs with your fellow Detroit peers like DeJ Loaf?

They're not on the direct album. All the remixes I've done will drop after the record drops, because it's more important to me that the record stands alone.

I actually haven't met DeJ Loaf yet, which is crazy. I think we are like signed to the same label or something. But I think she's super cool. And if it's "Detroit vs. Everybody," I think it'd be dope.

When you say 'Back to the Woods'-back to Detroit?

I grew up really homeless. When I was in Detroit, I was homeless. When I moved away (to Virginia) I was homeless. Then my mom finally got our first place when I was about 17 and it was located in these woods in Virginia, and that's where the title comes from.

My mom used to kick me out of the house and I would have to sleep in the woods. And I would wake up in the morning and be super surprised that I hadn't been bitten or that any of the creatures-the wolves, the deer, the rabid foxes that would run around-(they) would never harm me. And then I learned it's where I feel like I belong. And that's why I call it "Back to the Woods," because it's just a natural thing now.

You've mentioned before in interviews you were raised in the Apostolic Faith Church, which you've called a 'cult.' Is this the religious undertones we hear in your music?

I feel like I gained a lot of my observational skills from growing up in cult. I would watch everything. I would reread everything. So watching what was going on and understanding the world's sort of mystery in the maze and the contradiction that it is.

I think along the way I had to discover it. I had to discover what meant something to me, which is what this album does. I go deep. I don't know if I would credit (the church) fully; it just gives me a ton of disdain for like everything. But yeah, I think it has a lot to do with who I am musically.

Is this where Angel Haze comes from?

You got to create all these sectors of yourself when you become an artist. So there's Angel Haze; there's Raee'n, who is a singer. And then there's Babe Ruthless and a bunch of other people I channel to put into other platforms for art. You got to break yourself down to parts that you feel most comfortable sharing. This record I display more personality that I think I ever have in the history of Angel Haze.

What do you think about rappers like Iggy Azalea accused of having no real personality? Do you think people are hard on her in hip-hop because she's a White woman?

I don't know if Iggy gets as much flak as she does because she is a woman because I think, to be honest, when you're White and you're a woman, the simple fact that you're a woman is completely undermined. It doesn't matter. You still have that upper hand on anyone, especially in our culture.

I fuck with Iggy as a person. I love her as a person. She's a sweet girl. She's smart. She's cool. Do I fuck with cultural appropriation? No.

But I think that women in music have it a lot harder because you have to stick inside of the lines, play it safe.

Do you think it was fair how rapper Azealia Banks singled Iggy out so much over other White rappers?

To be honest, I'm so sorry-I hate talking about Azealia Banks. She just makes me cringe. I'm sorry. She has nothing that I would want to comment on in life. But I do like Iggy. I do like her a lot. And I feel very sad for her in regards to what's going on with her music and everybody. With every girl that comes up, it's like you're being pigeonholed before you are allowed to take your first baby steps.

Is this why you prefer gender-neutral pronouns?

Oh, yeah! I think that gender is such bullshit. Scientifically, it's not even a thing. For me, gender is a way to get people walk in a straight line, and I'm bored by that, to be honest. I'm bored by anything that is remotely conventional. I don't want you to refer to me as "her" or "they" or "them" or whatever. I would prefer to be called "God." But most people think that's blasphemous.

It's fucked up. You just got to give people the freedom to be who they are. I don't want a gender. I want freedom to express the entirety of my personality.

And somehow, your personality doesn't strike me as one that would walk in a straight line.

Oh, no. I have a fucked up equilibrium. I couldn't do that if I tried.

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