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Caught in the Haze: Angel Haze’s Heart Felt Freestyles
Angel Haze, born Raykeea Wilson, is as much a societal trailblazer as she is a rising rap artist. The career of the 22-year-old has come a long way since its genesis on Tumblr just a couple of years ago. But her story starts way before then. At age 16, Haze left her strict Pentecostal Greater Apostolic Church community in Detroit, Michigan and set out for Brooklyn, New York with her mother. Here, she was able to begin to tackle the mental and traumatic scarring inflicted by her unique religious upbringing which she now refers to as “a cult”.
Haze might be new to the music scene, but notable sources like Flavorwire are already deeming her the “most important rapper of 2013”. Notice this label is not gender specific. That’s right. Angel Haze is being called the most important and groundbreaking rapper of 2013 in general.
A self-proclaimed pansexual, Haze touches upon topics often swept under the rug in mainstream music. Her much anticipated debut album Dirty Gold is scheduled for release in January 2014. In preparation for the album’s release, Haze is currently releasing one freestyle cover track a day for the next 30 days as a part of her 30-Gold series.
Her freestyle cover of “Same Love” by Mackelmore and queer artist, Mary Lambert, explores the ever present topic of burgeoning sexuality. Sure, Mackelmore’s heart was in the right place when he released “Same Love”, but Haze has taken it further. Bold lyrics and personal accounts of Haze’s own sexuality create her honest, raw, and heart wrenching seven minute SoundCloud track. The original ‘Same Love” music video links the civil rights movement of yesteryear to the gay rights movement of today. Despite inspiring images of Martin Luther King Jr. and such, the music video paints too pretty a picture of the nature of gay rights justice in the present. While the surface message of the original version is noble, Mackelmore implies that there is an “us” or a “norm” that the LGBTQ community should be accepted into. Angel Haze throws out that idea entirely, and instead makes her version of “Same Love” dedicated to eliminating stereotypes and rather appreciating separate cultures for what they are. She challenges labels and the ideas of the entity of “us” because she understands that the reality is that we are all different, and there is no one way be.
Angel Haze doesn’t shun away the complexities and complications of gender. Many artists today, try to over simplify issues, by pooling people together, and creating generalizations. But it doesn’t work that way. It is important to resist this movement, for the reason that equality is not based on being accepted as a part of a heteronormative standard, but rather gaining acceptance for whomever you are as a person, regardless of labels and societal generalizations. Mackelmore was on the right track with his generic anthem, but the real progress will come from the artistic pioneers that aren’t afraid to speak about real unresolved issues that others like to think don’t about.
Similar to the original version of “Same Love”, Haze begins the song with personal accounts from her past:
“At age thirteen, my mother knew I wasn’t straight / she sat me on the couch, looked me straight in the face / and said “you’ll burn in Hell, or probably die of AIDS”.
In her own version, the lyrics transition to rage. She goes on to take a stand against labels and bigotry in the queer community with words from genderqueer poet Andrea Gibson. She concludes her freestyle with the words:
“No, I’m not gay / No, I’m not straight / And I sure as hell am not bisexual / Damn it I am whoever I am when I am it / Loving whoever you are when the stars shine / And whoever you’ll be when the sun rises”.
She refers to poets Andrea Gibson and Joshua Bennett as inspirational influences for her writing. Haze’s lyrics are blunt, brutal, and powerful. It is refreshing for such an innovative and young artist to make the most of her time in the spotlight to bring to surface some of the LGBTQ community’s most pressing issues. But it doesn’t stop there. Haze’s remix to Eminem’s “Cleaning out the Closet”, shocked and resonated with the public as she spit the truth about her past of sexual abuse, self-harm, and racial prejudice.
She’s already made great strides and etched a sound name for herself in the music community, and it’s just the beginning.
Angel Haze is here, she’s queer, and you can bet she’s not being quiet about it (and we’re glad.)
Check out more of her 30-Gold Series on her SoundCloud.