It’s a rough ride, but the destination is worth the trip.
7.5 / 10.0
The smart money is that Angel Haze’s profile will have dramatically increased by this time next year. The 21-year-old rapper’s technical abilities are too good to be ignored, and her penchant for revealing aspects of herself that most would keep hidden can make for alternately harrowing and important music. If Classick, her latest mixtape, doesn’t get you excited for her first proper full-length album, you might not actually like hip-hop.
It is worth noting, though, that enjoying Classick involves accepting its few notable faults. Every beat on this mixtape is repurposed work from much more visible artists. Haze sounds still at ease on two of the three tracks previously performed by female artists (“Love of My Life” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, which were originally done by Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, respectively). While she does fine on every other track here either speaks of the niches that some folks are quick to file any rising hip-hop female artist in, or to Haze’s conviction, be noticed for her rapping ability. For every other song, she spits hard and she spits fast; though, she is still rough around the edges. Some good lines can get lost in the mix, and she doesn’t show evidence that she knows how to work with choruses.
Closing track “Cleaning Out My Closet” is the song that will turn heads. It is hard to recall a hip-hop song that marries unsettling personal drama with a cohesive narrative so well—Cage’s “Stripes” comes to mind, though Haze’s take on Slim Shady’s classic tune might be the superior product. Her tale of being frequently sexually assaulted as a child would be harrowing enough if she had stuck to relaying the details of her abuse, but that she goes on to discuss how it lead to self-inflicted physical and mental abuse, and ultimately finding strength in surviving this phase of her life, makes it one of the bravest songs I’ve heard in some time. The track comes close to being unlistenable—another Earbuddy writer has compared the song to Requiem For a Dream in that it is something great but “should only be experienced once”—but that Angel Haze manages to transform one of Eminem’s most important songs so wholly is no easy feat, not by a long shot. Whether or not Haze will live up to the potential she hints at on Classick is anyone’s guess, but it is hard to imagine how she can fail.
Download: Angel Haze – Classick