An Angel Comes to Pittsburgh

THE PERSONA OF ANGEL HAZE ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS pretty typical of someone in their early twenties: self-consciously critical, not taking herself seriously even as she pays serious attention to the world around her. The persona of Angel Haze in her lyrics, however, is more like the self aggrandizing hip hop of her contemporaries: full of bravado about her abilities and accomplishments. She recognizes her own faults and is not shy about expressing them publicly, but she says her musical confidence comes from knowing her own skills. “I’ve conquered something in my life.”

She describes her music as “an alternative to everything,” to R&B, to hip hop, to jazz. “It’s experimental alternative music.” Back to the Woods, an EP she produced with TK Kayembe and released in September, shows her adaptable style, from smooth, mellow vocals to lightning-fast raps. While she was working with Republic Records—with whom she released her debut album, Dirty Gold, at the end of 2013, she worried that she would get pigeon-holed as a rapper. She has since left the label and is enjoying creative control over her music.

Haze gained recognition via several mix tapes, including Reservation and Classick, the latter containing a powerful reworking of Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” Her raw, aggressive lyrics explore her own experiences with sexual assault as a child, but transcend her own feelings into those of many others who may have experienced similar abuses.

This kind of storytelling is common for Haze’s music. She says her music is intended to “document the world as it is, seeing it in retrospect.” Importantly, she does not allow her retrospective turn pessimistic. “People pay more attention to my tragedy than I do,” she said. “I want to look for something beautiful.”

Haze will bring beauty to the stage at this year’s Pride in the Street in the form of flowers- something she loves including in her shows —along with her high-energy R&B songs. “I’m a rock-and-roll rager,” she said. She’s excited to be joining Kesha as a featured performer. “I love her live show. It’s really like a party.” Both Kesha and Haze performed at last year’s L.A. Pride, and Haze is excited to come to Pittsburgh this year. “I love Pennsylvania. I’m always happy to be there.”

Though she identifies as pansexual and agender, Haze does not consider herself a symbol for the community. “I don’t have a coming out story,” she said. “I didn’t come out.” In a freestyle cover of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” Haze says that her mother knew she wasn’t straight. “She sat me on the couch/Looked me straight in my face/And said you’ll burn in hell/Or probably die of AIDS.” Haze said she valued being able to use the song as a vehicle for a coming out story. She also doesn’t stress over pronouns; articles have referred to her both as she and they, but she said, “It doesn’t matter to me.”

Haze said she’d hope that Pride-goers this year come away with one message: Freedom. “Be in the moment,” she said.

Angel Haze will be performing at Pride in the Street on Saturday, June 11.
For tickets, visit pittsburghpride.org/tickets or 888-71-TICKETS. Keep up with Angel Haze on Twitter at @AngelHaze and SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/angxlhxze.

Douglas McIntyre is a Carnegie Mellon University graduate now working in marketing for the Tepper School of Business. He serves on the board of the Renaissance City Choir, Western Pennsylvania’s only LGBTQIA chorus. In his spare time, he is proud that he has a friend group consisting exclusively of other queer-identified people.