Last month, professional fire-spitter Angel Haze started giving away one of the best albums of the year. On her debut LP 'Reservation', the 20-year old weaves between double-time rhymes ('Werkin' Girls') and soulful melodies ('Supreme') to make an unpredictable record threatening to "put bitches down like a needle up a vet sleeve." While it retains the effortless wordplay of the freestyles that made her a YouTube star, it's unmistakably crossover-sounding too. Her manifesto is solidified with the grainy, torture porn vibe of the 'New York' video, where she stalks the subway for prey with gas mask-wearing minions.
You'd think she'd been listening to rap greats her whole life, but the Detroit-born / New York-based artist has only been listening to music for four years, since her family left the strict Christian sect in which she was raised. As she signs a major-label record deal, Angel sat down with Dazed to reflect on her meteoric rise to prominence, plans for the future, and the sextape she's dying to see.
Dazed Digital: How was the 'New York' video to make?
Angel Haze: It was fun. We have a Not Safe For Work version - the boy actually got way more bruised up than they showed. I had a screwdriver, I cut him up so bad! I hit him with belts and he endured all of it. He was hanging from my stripper pole by his neck!
DD: How did you come up with the idea?
Angel Haze: For me, writing the treatment was like going to the dark spaces in my mind. I wanted to go really dark, and me and the director [Adrienne Nicole] were on the same page. It's kind of symbolic of the rap or music industry. The boy, the girl: I kill them both and I make it look easy. [laughs]
DD: Who are you killing in the rap game?
Angel Haze: Everybody! Are you kidding me? 'Who am I not killing in the game' is a better question.
DD: It's interesting that you say that, 'cause a lot of people are talking about Queer New York rap as if it's one 'scene', but there are some real rifts there.
Angel Haze: There are. It's funny though. I don't particularly have any beef with any artist, 'cause I don't give a fuck. But at the end of the day I feel like I'm better than you. It's a given. We can be friends or not, but I'm still gonna be better than you.
DD: What's with the gas masks in the 'New York' video?
Angel Haze: When I first wrote the treatment it's all I saw. It wasn't anything specific, it was just to make it scarier, to make it darker. I never thought about the fact that they would never play that video in Germany! Someone brought it to my attention the other day, they were like 'yeah, you're like a Neo-Nazi!' [laughs]
DD: You namecheck Nas, Lil' Kim and Cassie in 'New York'.
Angel Haze: I love Cassie. Oh my god. I just think she's hot visually! I would like to see her and Rihanna make a sex tape. Hot. Hot as fuck.
DD: You're not afraid to show some skin onstage yourself. You'll go out in a string vest and nipple tape.
Angel Haze: I've never been a person who liked clothes. I walk around my house naked, I don't fucking care. I think everyone has the same things, so why are you being so conscious about it? Who cares. My boobs are small, my ass is small, it doesn't really matter what I choose to show. It's not to be sexy. That's boring.
DD: Your album cover doesn't even show your face, though.
Angel Haze: If I had the choice I would never show my face to anyone, and let my body of work represent me. But because I'm a girl you kind of have to sell yourself, it's an image thing. [My management] would never let me not take a picture of myself. I would go as far as wiping every picture of me from the internet, so people never get past the illusion.
DD: Who were your musical role models growing up?
Angel Haze: I didn't have any. When I started listening to music I was 16, I found Eminem and Jason Mraz and I love them. Really random, sporadic taste in music just started to come to me.
DD: Did you discover music online, or was it going to shows?
Angel Haze: I've never been to a concert before! Never in my life. It sucks. I wanna go to a Jason Mraz concert! All the stuff I found out was doing actual research. Finding the albums, going to AZlyrics, looking up the tracklist.
DD: Your flow seems effortless.
Angel Haze: Yeah, but it wasn't effortless. I researched everything that had to do with rap music. Like metaphors, wordplay. I wrote every word in the dictionary down as a kid! I was grounded for one summer - I had no choice! [laughs] It's really been a task for me. I put so much into this because it's what I want to do for the rest of my life.
DD: What will be the next video?
Angel Haze: I actually wrote a movie for the album.
DD: Like Kanye?
Angel Haze: Well, he was the only artist to ever make a visual movie for his album, but for me it's an actual movie. It ties in things and they all make sense together. So I just pick and choose! But I wanna put out the 'Wicked Moon' video next.
DD: With Nicole Wray?
Angel Haze: Well, it was her song originally, and we fought her for a year and a half for it! But I can guarantee she won't show up, and plus she probably won't like my concept too much.
DD: What is the concept?
Angel Haze: I can't give too much away. But I used to think a lot as a kid 'what if God was the bad guy, and Satan was the one trying to prove it to you?'
DD: Which other rappers are you pals with?
Angel Haze: Azealia, we're cool. We're doing a 'New York' remix with me, Azealia and Joey Badass when I get back to New York tomorrow. It's gonna be crazy. I know there's gonna be a whole bunch of 'who went harder on this song' type of shit, 'cause they're both so good.
DD: What's coming up for you? Label offers?
Angel Haze: Yeah. It's pretty much a done deal, so when the contract is signed I'll come out about it. There'll be an official release for 'Reservation'. I feel like that's a proper introduction to me as an artist. And I've already started recording my second album.
DD: Who are you working with on your next album?
Angel Haze: Rudimental, Paul Epworth…
DD: Paul Epworth! That's crazy.
Angel Haze: Yeah, we did a session the other day, he's amazing. It's slick, and really creative too. He just picked up a machine out of nowhere and made a beat. I was like, 'fuck!'
DD: And it'll still be rapping along with the singing?
Angel Haze: You'll just have to listen to it to see.
Download Angel Haze's album 'Reservation' for free HERE.
Follow Owen Myers on Twitter here @owen_myers