Edgar Allan Poe, whom Angel Haze refers to as her "dad," is tattooed on the rapper's leg. The haunting phrase "nevermore," from the iconic poet's "Raven," serves as a vigilant reminder on Angel's arm to defy her demons at all costs. With hair half black and half a steely gray, Angel brazenly states that she was born with the "I-don-t-give-a-fuck disorder." Her "affliction" appeared on December 18th, when, in order to keep a promise made to her fans that her album, Dirty Gold, would be released sometime in 2013, she went against her record label and leaked all of the songs. As tough as her no-nonsense white tee, Angel's move revealed her inability to "learn by instruction" (i.e. doing it someone else's way). So far, going with her gut has given Angel the results that she wants, with her label, Universal Republic, releasing her debut album (executive produced by Grammy-winner Markus Dravs) on December 30th, 2013.
"I try to live everyday like I'm going to die the next day," declares Angel. "I don't let anyone stop me from doing what I want to do." Since the start of her life, Angel has had to overcome terrifying obstacles, including a mother who ran from place to place when she was growing up, anorexia, and being sexually abused by two male family friends. At 13, when Angel's mom discovered that she liked girls, she sat her daughter down and informed her, "God told me to tell you that you're going to burn in hell and die of AIDS." Yet Angel has succeeded in stripping herself of every fuck that she gave about what her mother (and any other malign person) thought. The basketball player has found the ultimate catharsis in baring her soul through music, while wearing the pants that her mother always forbid.
Her breakout moment was a song called "Cleaning Out My Closet," where Angel put her no-holds-barred honesty on full display. "I feel like I came straight out of the gate projectile vomiting all of my demons into the world." Showing her heart to the universe brought to the surface a fervent audience of people who have suffered similarly and hang on to her every word for hope and connection, from the Tumblr lesbian community to the boys who messaged her on Facebook, saying, "This is my life and I hate myself for being a faggot."
Sporting Buddhist and Native American rings, Angel maintains that "the only way to survive in this world is to breathe deep and jump off the fucking cliff." Her tenacity equals her self-awareness. Disdainful of internet bullying and unaccountability, Angel issued a public apology after her Twitter feud with Azealia Banks. "I should not have made those comments. I had to let the kids know that that wasn't OK." The tracks on her new album remain truthful and intimate; many of them are taken from conversations that she recorded in real life. Poet Andrea Gibson opens the album with "Music is a trap door, it locks you in," another song, "Angels and Airways," is dedicated to a boy who wrote to Angel on the Internet that he hated his life, and "Black Dahlia" (featuring Natalia Kills) has Angel dispensing advice to a teenage version of her mom.
A fighter for peace, Angel Haze's grungy blacks and grays don't block out the sun. "Everything's on the brighter side now that that I spend all of my time doing what I love," she told us. "Part of the process of letting go of the past is realizing that you're not alone. There's an audience that feels the same as me -- a world that I belong to -- I just had to find it."
Elisa & Lily
Shot, photographed, and interviewed by Elisa, Lily, & Mona
Video edited by Paul O'Brochta
Song: "Dirty Gold" by Angel Haze
Shot at: In House Studio (special thank you to Zoe Potkin & Alexey Yurenev)