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www.musicweek.com FEATURE ANGEL HAZE


VOICE OF AN ANGEL


She leaked her own debut album, shut her record company out during the recording process and sacked her manager. Meet Angel Haze – rapper, motivational speaker and unconventional businesswoman


TALENT n BY RHIAN JONES


A


ngel Haze has lived an extraordinary life. Growing up in Detroit as part of what she calls “a cult” (the Pentecostal Greater


Apostolic Faith) she was closed off from popular culture – including music – for sixteen years. The first popular band she ever heard were


Britpop-influenced chart invaders The New Radicals - and now, six years on, she’s just released her debut album Dirty Gold. The LP follows the wave of hype that came after


the release of her free 14-track mixtape Reservation in 2012, which brought fans such as NME, Zane Lowe, Nick Grimshaw and BBC Radio 1Xtra. Haze has since signed a record deal with


Universal, collaborated with Woodkid and Rudimental, and reached third place on BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll - as well as bravely revealing her own version of Eminem’s Cleaning Out My Closet, detailing the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Before being signed, Haze spent a few years


uploading raps online that were quickly discovered by Le’Roy Benros. Benros signed up as manager, pushing Haze in the direction of “super old school rap like Lauryn Hill” until she ended that working relationship due to a “difference of opinion” (“I wanted better for myself ”). Nicola Carson has since taken over management


duties and Haze has made an LP that spans hip hop, alternative, rock and roll and pop: “I wanted to make an album full of the music that I loved,” she


24.01.14 MusicWeek 21


“If you’re putting your career in the hands of someone that’s supposed to work hard for you and they fail, it’s only right that you take matters into your own hands” ANGEL HAZE


says. “To fuse every genre and make it make sense.” The record deal happened after songs from


Reservation made Pitchfork’s weekly Best New Tracks list twice in a row. “A buzz accumulated out of nowhere” followed by meetings “literally with every single record label aside from Interscope”. Universal seemed like the best fit due to “their track record with breaking new acts” with Haze signed to Island in the UK and Republic for the US. A strong fan base has accumulated (she has over 156,000 Twitter followers) who Haze describes as “kids who need someone”. At her request, the label left her alone to record


Dirty Gold with Markus Dravs, Greg Kurstin, Mike Dean and James Ho. “There were no negotiations,” she says. “I remember talking to [executive vice president of A&R at Republic Records] Rob Stevenson, who handles my product through Universal, and saying, ‘Dude I’m going to take some time to make an album, I’m working with the best people, you’ve got to trust me’ and they were just like, ‘Okay’.” Dravs had the biggest influence during the recording process and there are also writing credits from Jake Gosling, Natalia Kills and Sia. However, Dirty Gold’s release date was the one


ABOVE Doing it her way: The young rapper is working with a ‘backwards’ marketing plan for her debut album Dirty Gold, which is out now on Island Records


decision that Haze had no control over, until she got frustrated with delays and leaked it on Soundcloud three months early. Originally tipped for March 2014, the album was up online on December 18 (before being swiftly taken down). After a number of angry phone calls with record label execs, Haze got her way and it was released early on December 30. “For me, it’s always been either you do it, or I


do it myself,” she explains. “If you’re putting your career or your life in the hands of someone that you’re supposed to trust who is supposed to work hard for you and they fail then I feel like it’s only right that you take matters into your own hands and that’s what I did.” Dented by the self-leak and the fact that


physical copies didn’t arrive until later, Dirty Gold only shifted 857 copies in its first week, entering at No.196 on the Official Albums Chart in the UK. Unfazed by the numbers, Haze says the marketing strategy is now “going backwards” as she prepares for a year of college and radio tours around the US and promotion to ensure the album sells this year. So far she’s played three sold out headline shows


in London – the next three UK dates will be in March, following on from a number of support slots with Bastille for their biggest UK tour to date, including a sold out show at Alexandra Palace. Her “five-year plan” includes “being huge and


iconic” (like “Adele, Tracy Chapman - in her Fast Car era - or Kanye West”), releasing two or three more albums and then retreating to “the middle of the forest” to “write a bunch of books”.


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