Angel Haze is Aaliyah-cool. The lean, 21-year-old MC has an unmistakable gift for storytelling, raw emotion and punchy lyrics without needing a colorful wig, nose job or outrageous outfit to attract the spotlight to her talent. Haze is confident, modestly cocky and extremely vulnerable on her six-track mixtape, Classick, stringing together hits from Lupe Fiasco, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Eminem. The mixtape is like a hip hop buffet, putting the rapper’s personal life on the table for critical consumption. If you didn’t know Angel before, Classick will make you feel like her best friend, the one she tells all her secrets to without expecting much in return.
A natural griot, Haze is well on her way to mastering the art of hip hop storytelling. Sampling Lupe’s controversial “B---h Bad,” she paints the story of a young boy growing up in a home with his mother and her abusive boyfriend. Creating two future outcomes for the young man, she explains how domestic violence can perpetuate itself and turn once innocent little boys into monsters or how the cycle can cease if women stand up for themselves and set the example for their sons. This is an interesting paradox to the ball-busting, angry woman telling her rape story over Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet.” Rightfully so, Haze graphically recounts years of sexual abuse, causing her listeners to feel her pain, if not stopping their appetites for several hours.
On a lighter note, Angel’s comedic, smack-talking self makes an appearance on her version of Missy's "Gossip Folks," telling chicks that they look like “wet noodles in the face” with “edges looking like skid marks.” While she admits, “there ain’t one thing on earth I ain’t told about me,” the rapper thankfully makes music that’s not depressing with catchy punch lines overflowing with humor. Not to mention, Angel isn’t afraid to disclose that her strengths are as an MC, not a singer. While she has moderate vocals, her rap songs are far more effective in pushing her message than her renditions of Badu’s “Love of My Life” and Lauryn’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).” However, if it’s the effort that counts, she gets brownie points for reinforcing Hill’s empowering message to guys and girls.
Of course, a deeply personal mixtape wouldn’t be complete without a love song. The former poet draws from her talents in remixing Jay’s “Song Cry,” telling the story of having her heart broken but growing from the experience. Haze’s openness is to be commended not just in terms of love, but in sharing the parts of her life that most would reserve for a therapist. It’s clear that music has become her healing source and that she prefers to be vulnerable with her fans. Right now, her realness has the hip hop world’s attention and wondering what she’ll do on an album. After a rape song, a few love tracks, some social commentary and a bit of bragging, she certainly hasn’t left much to the imagination.
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