“So sorry to Island/Republic Records, but fuck you,” tweeted Angel Haze passive-aggressively, when posting her long-completed debut LP on SoundCloud in open defiance of her paymasters. The 22-year-old rapper born Raykeea Wilson has fought fiercer battles. A victim of repeated, harrowing child abuse under the auspices of the Pentecostal Greater Apostolic Faith, Haze tackled her past head-on in a reworking of Eminem’s Cleaning Out My Closet on 2012’s breakthrough Reservation mixtape.
While hip-hop proved a lifebelt when she finally escaped to New York, her dark, dysfunctional past is rarely far from the surface on a heavily pop-tooled set that doesn’t mince words or shirk from confronting demons, even adding explanatory interview snippets between tracks. Like all the best rappers there’s a catch to Haze’s voice that makes her Twista-like machine-gun flow irresistible, whether eviscerating the fashion industry on Echelon (It’s My Way), inverting the strip club anthem on White Lilies/White Lies or writing an impassioned happy ending for her mother on Black Dahlia. For all her previous underground success, big moments such as Battlecry (penned alongside Sia Furler) and Fast Car rewrite Planes Fly grasp unashamedly for the stadium dollar.
Time will tell whether Haze’s impetuous actions have irrevocably scuppered Dirty Gold’s commercial fortunes – self-sabotage by an equally powerful vocalist with serious aspirations as the next Tracy Chapman – but the purity of her intent speaks volumes.