To celebrate this month's Girls Rule issue, Dazed is running a series of takeovers. To follow on from last week's Stacy Martin special, today celebrates Angel Haze with a day curated by the genre-spanning NYC-based rapper. This includes a DA-Zed of Female Rap, a Selects piece on her favourite new R&B artist Maxine Ashley, an incisive journey through her visual and literary inspirations, and an extensive Q&A with Angel. Keep checking our Angel Haze Day page for more throughout the day.
For an EP titled Mood Swings, New York-based singer Maxine Ashley’s debut release –available for free download on Soundcloud – is a blissfully subdued collection of fractured soul and lucid R&B. It swims smoothly from a gutsy cover of Portishead to a punchy pop song produced by Pharrell Williams (who appeared with Ashley on the cover of Dazed back in 2011). In the process it’s found Ashley a fan in the form of our girl Angel Haze, who likes to listen to it in her calmest moments.
Angel Haze: “I don’t know much about Maxine Ashley, I just know I enjoy her talent. I discovered her because one of my friends shot a cover of hers and I was like ‘who’s this girl? She’s absolutely stunning.’ She’s got a certain timbre to her voice - I can’t stand listening to R&B music to be honest, but she’s so good. It just makes me calm. The fact that she can actually get me to listen to R&B is itself unique. She works with Pharrell a lot on the production; it all sounds and feels different, it doesn’t feel like regular R&B.”
We caught up with Ashley to find out just what it is that gives her music that irregular edge that made Pharrell track her down and Angel Haze put her on rotation.
Dazed Digital: When did you first start making music?
Maxine Ashley: Professionally at 13, but I’ve always written songs in the bathroom, getting punished (which was all the time) just throwing a ball against the wall and singing non-stop all day just creating songs. I never thought I was a writer, it just kinda happened.
DD: Did your parents' salsa music have a big influence on you growing up?
Maxine Ashley: Hell yeah, I constantly was surrounded by live music, instruments and hard work. It was engraved in my brain that doing all that was the norm. So 'working' isn’t work for me at all because I was always taught that if you love something it shouldn’t feel like work, even if it stresses you out.
DD: Your debut EP is called Mood Swings. What makes you angriest?
Maxine Ashley: Inconsistency, slackers, people who say they love what they do but put no effort into it, liars, users and animal haters. It takes a lot to get me upset though, unless there’s no food - that makes me the angriest.
DD: And what makes you happiest?
Maxine Ashley: Life, beautiful scenery, meeting new amazing people, making real true friendships and real connections with people, creating art and having fun doing it.
DD: What were the highlights of working with Pharrell Williams?
Maxine Ashley: Meeting him, because I thought it was fake and someone was fucking me when his camp emailed me. The fact that when I did get to meet him it wasn’t a psycho killer who chops you up and shares the meal with his dogs. That was a major highlight. Being alive to meet him and make dope ass shit.
DD: Who would be your dream collaborator?
Maxine Ashley: I’m actually getting the pleasure to work with them now. I’m in LA as we speak working with this amazing video/photographer/musician TRAGIK. She has to be the easiest, most professional person to work with. And Pharrell; sometimes I forget who he is just because he's so down to earth but then get reminded when it’s hard to get him to stay in one place! He's introduced me to so many amazing people/artists and given me so many opportunities. If this is just the beginning I can’t imagine the people I’m going to meet in the future that I've probably never heard about.
DD: What's coming up on the horizon for you in 2014?
Maxine Ashley: The same thing that will be coming every year. Everything and anything I want, because I ain’t going nowhere. 'The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world!'
For more Angel Haze Day, click here.
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