The Emancipation of Angel Haze


By Alexandria Symonds

The Detroit–bred, New York–based firebrand has questioned her family, her sexuality, and God. From the confusion and isolation comes one of hip-hop’s most promising young stars.

Though she didn’t hear his music—or any secular music, for that matter—until long after she left Detroit, it ended up going a long way toward helping her sort through the feelings of alienation and bewilderment that her childhood had caused. “I feel like my life would be in shambles without him—without ‘Lose Yourself,’ ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet,’ ‘Hailie’s Song,’ ” she says. “That’s the music I had growing up to make me feel like I belonged somewhere.”

On her Classick mixtape, released a year and a half ago, Haze borrowed the title and beat from “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” to exorcise some of her own demons: the molestation she suffered at the hands of multiple men starting when she was only 7, as well as her struggles with eating disorders, God, and her sexuality. The track is brutal—and beautiful. “I focus on being as honest as I can possibly be,” she says, “because I feel like music, to an extent, is philanthropic. In all my ventures, I set out to reach people who are just like me.”

It’s working. Haze’s fans are tremendously devoted to her—and grateful for her openness. “I’m an avid Tumblr user, and sometimes I see myself on my dashboard,” she says, laughing. “People talking about me, like, ‘I’m glad there’s an actual woman of color representing queerness and pansexuality, someone who is like me in the spotlight.’ You don’t want to have so many goddamned people who are exactly the same that people who are inherently different aren’t connected to anything.”

Through her teens, after leaving Detroit for the Bronx and later Brooklyn, Haze went through what she calls “a lot of different phases.” She thought she was a lesbian, and then bisexual, before she had a revelation: “Sexuality is like having a favorite color. It doesn’t rule you, you know? And I should be able to do whatever and whoever I want at any given time.” It was a freeing moment. “And then I realized I was attracted to transgender people and people who classify themselves as ‘other.’ It didn’t change anything about how I looked at life. There was no brand-new, kaleidoscopic view of everything: ‘Holy fuck! I like a transgender person. God is real.’ No. It was one part of me that just evolved.”

It’s a considered, honest statement, the kind you’ll come to expect from Haze. And she’ll start to answer in much the same way when you ask her the question that will end up embarrassing her: whether she is the sort of person who falls in love often. She is, she says; she does it a lot.

“I can fall in love with anything,” she says. “I’m the type of person who can find beauty in, genuinely, anything you put in front of me. It doesn’t take me very long. I don’t fall for exteriors. I like mentalities—internal values and views and all the stuff that makes a person—and then if they’re beautiful on the outside, it just happens to help.”

Then again, “I think there’s a difference between falling in love and actually being there,” she reasons. “I’ve only been in love...”—she pauses for a split second, deciding whether to say it—“still am, actually, once.” Then come the giggles. “I’m blushing. Holy shit.”

Tags: Music, angel haze