Published Feb 05, 2013When she's not engaging in social media wars or making diss records, Angel Haze is focused on building her platform. After releasing the well-received Reservation EP last July and the follow-up mixtape Classick that sees her delve into an unflinchingly honest interpretation of Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet" — describing the sexual abuse she endured in her youth — New York-based Haze (real name Rakyeea Wilson) is poised for a hopeful 2013 campaign. Non-beefs with MCs like Azealia Banks notwithstanding, Haze is more absorbed in realizing an intimate and brash brand of rap that centers more on her diverse musical influences and raw life experiences and less on tearing down her next gen hip-hop counterparts. With a new album set for a release in the first half of this year, the affable Haze says that she's in a good place right now, both from a personal and professional standpoint.
The last 12 months were great for you. Do you think that you accomplished everything that you set out to do?
I think so — 2013 presents an entirely new list of things for me to tackle and look forward to. And work for. But 2012 was a great year for me.
Any resolutions for the new year?
Not really. Just try to wing it, you know what I mean? Just do whatever.
So how do you define success? What is that for you?
I guess success for me is doing all the things that I say I want to do. Nothing more, honestly. It doesn't come from the recognition, it just comes with being able to accomplish the goals that I've set for myself.
Coming from a religious background and upbringing, how much of that informs your sound?
I think that every situation that a person has gone through in their life influences who they are. Musically, or whether I'm doing anything — I could be a doctor — so yeah it totally influences who I am. It make me better, it made me terrible in some ways. But I guess wiser.
Being into creating poetry and rap music, is there a difference between the two for you?
I've actually learned that poetry and rapping kind of coincide. Especially for me. When I was like 17 or 18, I had a terrible time turning poems into rap. Then I realized that it's all really the same thing — it's about keeping the beat, keeping the tempo. Now it's just the same. All that matters is what you do with the words.
In terms of hip-hop, what or who are you influences right now?
Most of my influences come from people who are songwriters. I recently met a girl named Wynter Gordon and she's super good. We started doing writing sessions together for other bands. So it's super cool to be around people who know what to do with words and melodies and stuff like that. And just learning from that. My influences rarely come from other artists who are mainstream or hot and coming up the same time as me. My influences come mainly from people who are good at doing it — writing and stuff like that.
Being signed to a major — is that the end goal? What's it like now that you have that backing behind you?
It's amazing. That gives me an entirely new platform to present myself. As big as get — hopefully I'm, like, colossal — the more people I get to touch. The more people I reach with with positive idea of just existing and going for what you want, I think it's fun. I've not had a single problem out of the label.
What types of themes do you like to hit upon in the music?
Mostly my theme in music is just to convey the message that you can have and do whatever you want. If you want something there's nothing in the world that can stop you. Whomever the music touches, it's for them. If you get it, I fuck with you. If you don't there are plenty other people who make music out there.
When we're talking about sexuality, we live in progressive times but there's still that sense of people feeling shocked or offended on certain expressions of it. What's your take?
I don't really talk about my sexuality in my music. It has nothing to do with music, you know? It's like a tiny speck in the larger scheme of who I am. For me if anyone asks me, I'm like totally honest about it but it's like whatever. I don't care. I just do what I want.
You do feel like there's a double standard when it comes to being a woman and a rapper?
Yeah. You wouldn't be asking a male rapper the things you ask a female rapper. But that's a double standard that is a given. There are so many double standards between men and women and hip-hop.
You cool with that? Do you try to rebel against that? Or is it an "it what it is" type situation?
I feel it's like things only exist if you give them too much attention. I don't care at the end of the day and it won't affect me.
So when you're making a track, are you concerned about how it might be received?
I think of a track like "Cleaning Out My Closet" as kind of a catharsis more than anything. I made it for myself and it happened to work for other people. So everything that I do, I do specifically for me and if it touches other people then it's amazing. At the same time, it's the whole platform thing: you have a voice and you use it to affect people positively.
How do you define your sound?
I don't want it to be categorized. I kind of always want to be across the board. I kind of want to resonate that type of stuff in my music. I love bluegrass. I love Dylan Lablanc. I love freaking Etta James. I love all that stuff. I want it to all come together and just sound so cohesive that you won't even tell that there's a difference between all of it. You can call it whatever you want.
So how do you balance that creative versus the commercial considerations?
I don't really care about the commercial shit. It doesn't matter to me. I just do what I do.
So what's up with the new album? Any details?
I'm working towards May (of this year). I can't even give away the sound. It's so in progress and in the process of being created. I've been working with Malay. I've been working with Amil Dave and Salaam Remi. And I'm going overseas to be working with some other people. So it's going to be really big.