As is often the case for mixtape rappers, their music begins as a presentation of skill. Around the beginning of 2011, Angel Haze came, fists swinging, onto the blog rap scene with her mixtape Altered Ego, most notable for its remake of Lil Wayne’s “6’7’”. It was fast, frenetic, and most importantly, it was impressively under control. Her recent rise into the critical light has seen her making moves towards something of a style of her own, like this year’s clap-happy Gil Scott-Heron remix “New York”. The song, however, was still an example of lyrical promise, rather than a fully formed artistic statement.
With her new, awkwardly titled mixtape Classick, her music hasn’t necessarily become any more complete, but it’s instead moved to a different proving grounds. The most skills-intensive cut of this short tape is actually its weakest, most derivative track. Although she usually repels comparisons to other female rappers, “Gossip Folks” makes Haze look like any other Nicki Minaj clone, even as she attempts to define herself against the other “bitches” whom she seems to revile.
“Gossip Folks”, however, is the outlier of an impressively thoughtful tape. While much attention has been given to its last track, “Cleaning Out My Closet”, for its cringingly confessional theme, detailing the repeated rapes suffered by the rapper when she was as young as 7 years old, the tape’s primary effect is not shock. You are likely to hurt for Haze along with this track, and for good reason, but the track does not ask for pity. It dispenses compassion.
While issues-minded rappers often attempt to elevate by presumptively pointing fingers at various scapegoats like Ronald Reagan or even other rappers, Haze comes to the audience with open arms. Her remake of Lupe Fiasco’s mansplainy “Bitch Bad” takes the original’s backwards feminism and turns it almost apolitical. A track that was once about accusation becomes one about near universal redemption, describing a cycle of abuse that can only end with the personal growth of the perpetrator. Coming from someone who’s experienced much worse, this shows impressive consideration.
Like Haze’s earlier showcases of speed and complexity, this tape has no more of a complete sound than any tape made from preconceived beats released by someone not named 50 Cent or Lil Wayne. It is, however, as impactful in its emotional ambition as her past work was in its lyrical skill. Combine the two and you’ve got something exciting.