ANGEL HAZE at YES YES Y’ALL NEW YEARS EVE, Monday (Dec. 31), Annex Wreckroom (794 Bathurst St.), 10 p.m., $15 advance ($20 at the door). See listing.
This time last year, 21-year-old Detroit rapper Angel Haze was considering a completely different path in life. "I was in a totally different place! I was so done. I was preparing to go into the Navy so I could get free school," says Haze, laughing over the phone from New York City. "But I feel like there's always that one thing you can never stop loving, so I ended up moving to New York to try music and it just happened. "
Off of three well-received 2012 mixtapes - The Voice EP, Reservation and Classick - Haze has had a stellar year, participating in the annual (dude-dominated) cypher at the BET Hip-Hop Awards alongside A$AP Rocky and Childish Gambino, signing to Universal Republic and being nominated for the BBC's influential Sound of 2013 award.
But all of that's happened very quickly. Haze, who has talked about growing up in a restrictively religious family, came to secular music at 16. She shares that she only fully comprehended her potential this year, after Reservation dropped in July. "I think I realized that I could rap about six months ago," she says. "Before I'd always just thought I had this uncanny ability to make words mean something. And through making my own music this year, it was like ‘wait, I might be able to actually do this' even though I'm so new to it." Haze is planning a studio debut, Dirty Gold, for spring 2013.
Sometimes - like while "blah blah blah"-ing through answers - it seems this late-realized, quickly materialized dream overwhelms Haze, who is praised for her insightful, unflinchingly honest, often bleak lyrics. In this way she's less like the other Women Who Rap Right Now and more like the aloof Aaliyah (who she idolizes, down to the aesthetic), gothic DMX or early, restless Eve. Or even Eminem, whom Haze riffed on for the revelation-filled, sexual abuse condemning-freestyle, Cleanin' Out My Closet.
"Sometimes it strains me to death to open up. It's always that fear that it's going to break you or be perceived badly," she says. "(But) eventually it's like, ‘okay I did this once, maybe I can do it again.' And it becomes a coping mechanism that makes you feel 10 times less heavy." The reception from young men - "you know, they're so non-emotional" - to these songs is particularly exciting for her. "Guys feel relieved by songs like (Cleanin' Out My Closet) too. And that was a cool realization for me."