By Michael Cerio
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Angel Haze just wants to feel better.
“I’m drinking Mucinex, I’m taking Mucinex, I’m taking DayQuil” she explains from under her black Dodgers hat tilted low. “I’m literally trying so hard to not feel or sound this way.”
The rapper and singer has been under the weather – a cumulative sickness picked up by touring through the many climates of autumn in America. “I’m sick because I’m a fashionable person” says Haze of her wardrobe-induced illness. “I don’t want to wear a sweater in this city.”
Despite her CVS cocktail of decongestants, Haze has been ripping through sets across the country, including one later that night at Underground Arts in Philadelphia. Her fierce performance is a product of something else she had to do to feel better, write and record the album Back To The Woods – which Haze says, “If I didn’t make this I couldn’t be who I am right now. I couldn’t be this version of free.”
“I call it a project because that is an expansion of myself,” Haze says of the album which dropped in September as a mixtape. “I spent so much time, I found out that I was bi-polar – I had dissociative identity disorder – while I was making this record. I found out so much stuff about myself that working on these songs was also working on me. Being as honest and as stark and as dark as I feel like I had to be in this record was crazy because at the end of the day, I’d never done it before. No matter what you’ve heard from me in the past you have never heard me as honest as you’ve heard me on Back To The Woods.”
The candid collection is something entirely different from Haze’s label debut “Dirty Gold”, something more raw and sincere. It has also opened up an artistic vein for the rapper and singer with several projects in the works – including an official sophomore LP coming soon.
Angel Haze identifies as agender, having no gender identity. Rather than using pronouns like he or she, people contort themselves as they write about Haze calling the MC “they”. It’s something Haze is happy to give voice to, but doesn’t take that seriously. “I don’t care what people call me. If they wanted to use the word he the entire article I would be ok with that,” describes Haze. “I don’t allow gender to guide or manipulate anything that I am interested in. I don’t understand the whole ‘they’ thing. It makes me sound like a band of people” laughs Haze. “I think I said it as a joke once and then people ran with it.”
It’s an easy mistake to make when talking about Angel Haze, but not when talking to Haze. Because he, she, they rap with such conviction it’s understandable to take all of Haze’s comments with militant importance – but once you catch Haze’s smile in person you see the other side. “I get that all the time and I’m like no dude I was just joking, but my manager he’s like you don’t understand that people don’t understand you in that way, that you make jokes,” says Haze.
All that said, Haze is still happy to shine a light on a community saying, “I think it’s cool that agender people have some sort of representation but I don’t really care about it to be honest.”
Sitting on a couch across from the stage within Underground Arts, the conversation turns to another whose public persona doesn’t always correspond with his private personality – Kanye West. It was a talk with Kanye that inspired Angel Haze to sing more on Back To The Woods and become more of the artist she wanted to be. “We talked one night for like three and a half hours just about everything, played him some music and I was like, yo this is what I want to do but I’m like kind of being pigeonholed because my label didn’t get me at the time and he was just was like ‘**** your label, make what you want, do what you want,'” remembers Haze. “I think everyone takes Kanye in the complete wrong way. I think it’s weird because as an artist you tend to throw tantrums because everybody’s throwing stones at you when you have an opinion. Kanye is like, I don’t think he’s misguided at all, I think he’s actually intelligent. It’s just that when it comes down to it people see more rage than they see intellect because they see him as a child in the media. If you sit and you talk to him and you give him the space to be who he is and say what he wants he says mind-blowing *****. It’s crazy. He is who he says he is.”
Up next for Angel Haze is a project for her alter-ego Babe Ruthless, an EP of singing, and hopefully a jacket and some rest.
To hear more from Angel Haze – including her thoughts on the greatest rappers of all time – check out the full interview below or watch the video here.