What drives an artist to bear their heart and soul for an audience with whom they share no tangible connection? For some, the emotional release makes their vulnerability worth it. More simply seek power and adoration. But the greatest creators among us are driven by a desire to change the world by sharing their personal truth with whoever may seek it.
Raykeea Wilson, the wiry Detroit native whom music mavens know as Angel Haze, is currently experiencing the creative high that comes with putting your soul on display and having the world accept it unconditionally. Following the powerful response she received to her “Cleaning Out My Closet (Freestyle) [see below],” which explicitly detailed her experience as a victim of sexual abuse, she is now certain of the power of her creativity. The only question is what she will do with it.
“The most important thing to me with my music is to help the people who I feel need it,” explains Angel when asked what drives her creative energy. Her goal came to fruition after her debut project “Reservation” dropped online this summer, leading to a deal with Universal Republic Records and a rapidly growing buzz. “People will come to me often and say, “Thank you, Angel. This made a really big difference in my life,” she says, still sounding slightly bewildered by her power.
“It was easy after I put myself out there,” she explains of her evolution from sheltered child to electric writer and performer. “For me it was breaking the mold within myself. Not being afraid to come out of my shell, not being afraid to tell what is my story. Just letting myself go.”
The more she let’s go, the more the music world appears to grasp her unique brilliance. With her official debut album Critical due to drop in 2013, Angel is currently focused on taking every aspect of her art to the next level. From her live show (which will be on display throughout Europe this month) to her music (which she vows will be a sonic step up from Reservation) Angel is just getting started leaving her mark on the art world.
Below, Mechanical Dummy speaks to creator Angel Haze about her early influences, mastering the technique of emotional expression and why she doesn’t see herself rapping for more than seven years.
Mechanical Dummy: Who are you and what do you create?
Angel Haze: I’m Angel Haze and I make music.
MD: What were you exposed to as a kid that sparked your creativity?
AH: As a kid I was actually not exposed to music because I kind of grew up in the cult situation where I was not allowed to listen to music. When I turned 16, I actually was allowed to and I started listening to Kanye West and rock bands like Train and Coldplay and all that stuff. It was pretty weird how I came into knowing I wanted to become a rapper. I actually originally wanted to be a travelling poet and I met a guy in high school who said, “You know what? It would be really cool if you turned it into rap.” And he kind of taught me the basics of the story of myself and it was all about mastering the craft.
MD: Why did you gravitate towards rock music?
AH: It’s really emotionally eclectic… I like people who explore emotional expression in their music.
MD: Is that what you aim to do with your music?
AH: I put out a song recently called “Cleaning Out My Closet,” and it was really emotionally expressive. I have a fan page on Facebook that I go on every so often to check my message. So, all (of) the messages I’ve gotten recently have been related to that song. And mostly they come from guys expressing how they’ve been in similar situations and it’s great to hear someone who’s not afraid to talk about it and help them deal with their own emotional karma. It’s amazing to have that kind feedback.
MD: What are the technical skills necessary for that kind of emotional expression?
AH: I think anyone can make a song like that. It just all comes down to how honest it is. And how much you can actually hear the inflection of pain or misery in their voices and it will take you there. As long as it can make you feel, it can make an impact. So for me, it was important just to get my own shit out. And when that happened it helped a lot of other people get their shit out.
MD: Here and now, do you feel that being a female MC is an advantage or disadvantage?
AH: I think it’s an advantage, honestly. It gives me means to be who I am, as far as being as emotional as I am. And it’s not a big deal to me whether it’s female rap or Angel Haze is just a rapper or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.
MD: You’re on the brink of being truly famous. What moment did you realize your life was about to change forever?
AH: I realized this really quick shift in whatever climate I was in when I went to London and everyone in the world wanted to give me free shit (laughs). And then you’re like, “Wait a minute, a month ago if I came here for some free shit it would have been like, no bitch, you can’t have anything.” So it’s weird to see how everything happens and changes once you become someone that the public deems actually valuable in a sense. And I just notice it now so much, the power of who you are gets you what you want. And it’s funny to me.
MD: Critics and executives have raved about your performance skills, what’s so special about your live performance?
AH: I don’t know. I’ve not seen many people perform live. Actually, I’ve not seen anyone perform live. So, for me, I just go out and I do what I do. Beforehand, I’m shaking and I’m nervous and I’m like ready to throw-up, and then I summon some part of me and I’m a totally different person. And on stage, that is very, very fun because you’re not really conscious of what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, you’re just running around, jumping in crowds, jumping off speakers, hanging from things. Just having fun. It’s a fun job.
MD: You’ve never been to a concert?
AH: No. Never.
MD: Tell me about your first time performing.
AH: My manager ran SOB’s at the time, and every time I’d go to see him, he’d just throw me on stage sporadically and make me rap in front of whatever crowd was there. In front of like, Dom Kennedy or Iggy Azalea crowds and after a while you start to get used to people not knowing who you are, so you just perform like they do… I actually only did it three times and then I performed my first show back in July at my album release party. And like all the labels were there and they spread it around the world that I was a good live performer and they couldn’t believe it was my first live show and blah, blah, blah. And ever since then it’s just been non-stop performing.
MD: Did performing abroad change your perspective, either as an artist or as a person?
AH: Yeah. I don’t know how much people don’t realize that the world is extremely big, but once you’re in different places and the culture is different and the people are totally different and the language is different and you’re like, “Holy shit.” There’s a world outside of whatever small town you grew up in or wherever you frequent. It’s kind of amazing, actually. I always find myself kind of dumbfounded.
MD: You’re clearly gifted at using art to master pain. How do you transfer real emotion into music?
AH: For me, music is already a coping mechanism. And everything that I do, I do normally for myself. I make shit that I want to listen to when I’m skateboarding around the city or just in my own world. So when I make the music that I make it’s always really expressive or cocky because I like to have fun or like to talk shit. Or I just want to extract the pain I feel or the knowledge that I’ve (gained) in the world that I just wanna put out there. It’s a process. It always matters about how I feel when I first hear a track. That lets me know if I can convey my emotions affectively enough for people to get them.
MD: Besides yourself, who else do you listen to when you’re skateboarding or in your own world?
AH: I like Childish Gambino… He’s really expressive. He can tell everything like he sees it, black and white. And that’s cute, that’s inspiring. Kanye West… Bands like Train, or Suicide… I have a lot of different types of music, but mostly Jason Mraz. He really is the most sensational artist I listen to.
MD: Do you have ambitions beyond rap?
AH: I actually want to do a lot of things (laughs). I have a five-to-seven year plan with Hip Hop and after that, I’m over it and on to other things. I have a lot of aspirations. I want to do a lot of things in medicine and school and charity and philanthropy and shit like that. I don’t really know if I can be an actress because I kind of suck at it. Aside from that, I just wanna venture out into the world and do shit.
Visit Angel Haze’s SoundCloud to hear more.