Angel Haze, Same Love But Not

Brooklyn MC spins Macklemore & Lewis hit her way

Angel Haze, Same Love But Not

I was halfway through Angel Haze’s remix of Macklemore & Lewis equality anthem “Same Love” before I realized how good it was. For one, it’s not a critique of hip-hop like the original.

It’s personal – emotional. After that October morning drowning in EDM, I clung to the remix, its hard-headed honesty blending with a crawling beat, and Mary Lambert’s velvety chorus. Before I knew it, I’d hit repeat a dozen times.

Then Angel Haze and “Same Love” hit Buzzfeed. What Macklemore was missing, Angel Haze bares – herself.

“Hi, Mom,” she says at the opening, “I’m really scared right now. But I have to.” Tangible anxiety clings to those first lines, but Haze remains anchored to Lewis’ steady beat. “When I was 13, my mother knew I wasn’t straight/She didn’t understand, but she had so much to say.”

The Detroit-born Brooklynite, known to her family as Raykeea Angel Wilson, now finds herself on a sure path to stardom, signed to biggest label Universal for much anticipated debut Dirty Gold, which drops in January. Macklemore, who didn’t gain mainstream attention until he teamed with producer Ryan Lewis, was in a similar position just two years ago. Today, he plays with rap idols like Talib Kweli, who joins Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. in opening for the Seattle MC at the Cedar Park Center Friday, Nov. 29.

As much attention as “Same Love” has garnered Haze, it’s only one song in the repertoire. Her freestyles are a completely different story, flowing brusquely with a heavy emphasis on crashing, reverberating beats, and strings of angry retorts to unspoken criticism. Each track impresses upon the listener her creativity and ability to rap without objectifying herself.

Haze walks a thin line between tough, pistol-whipping free verses like those on her riff on Drake’s “Worst Behavior,” and exquisite vocals as on her version of the perpetual Miley Cyrus controversy machine, “Wrecking Ball.” She also gained traction with a haunting remix of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet,” found on her SoundCloud account. Fair warning: it’s a deeply raw and personal tale of the violent sexual abuse she endured as a child.

In some ways, Haze reminds me of another NYC rapper: Jean Grae, who was my introduction to a genuine femMC. For years I’d picked through the commercial and ultimately unsatisfying Nineties female hip-hop scene, where more than half the rhymes were written for female stars to then put either their anger or their sexuality in full frontal display.

Grae, with her mix of the powerful and playful, taught me – even before I knew how to articulate it – the distinction between woman rappers like Lil’ Kim, who write for men, and those like Grae, who write for themselves. Haze and Grae hash out nightmares at a steady pace.

That’s not to say I don’t respect all women who put themselves out there. Those women, after all, are birthing – figuratively and perhaps even literally – female rappers of tomorrow. Both Jean Grae and Angel Haze are that.

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