CMJ: Angel Haze at the Gramercy Theatre (10/19/12)

CMJ: Angel Haze at the Gramercy Theatre (10/19/12)

Along with Kitty Pryde and Kilo Kish, Angel Haze represents a new rap archetype just waiting in the dog food bowl for the drooling, quirk-hungry maw of the hype cycle: the socially awkward female rapper. As musicians and people, these three are very different, but on stage, they project a sort of anti-presence that starkly contrasts with most hip-hop performers. Both of the dudes that sandwiched Angel Haze’s set, for example, threw things on the audience. This young Detroit rapper, however, walked onto the stage with a very noticeable slouch, saying the obvious “I’m Angel Haze” with the charisma of 10th grade stoner giving a history presentation that she didn’t research very well.

It would be easy to contrast this with her amazingly virtuosic live-performance, saying that she is only at ease as a musician, not as a performer. But really, both represent a extreme comfort in performance, to the point that she doesn’t care that much about acting like she wants to be there. Even when she eventually climbed out into the audience, she was fixing her hair at the same time. It’s not a projection of awkwardness, but confidence. And goddamn it was refreshing.

At this early point in her career, most of her songs are pretty similar, not so much tracks as demos, presentations of skill and style. Think of Lil Wayne’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” with a Drakeifyed, inspirational twist. All of her vocals are delivered in a pitched-up, mildly affected tone. This might sound like a description of an insufferable, self-important conscious rapper, but on stage, she sold it with her energy, standing stilling and rapping her heart out with some very impressive breath control.

Most importantly of all, while her lyrics and beats could very easily slip into self-absorbed, Childish Gambino territory, her stage persona in song was one of modesty, even when her lyrics may have indicated the opposite. In the end, she was one of the few rappers that I’ve seen perform that truly let the music speak for itself. Once she gets a few tapes and maybe a debut album under her belt, I could see her stage show really taking an audience by surprise.

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