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After getting signed to Universal Republic and executing many high-profile performances, notably on RZA’s The Man With the Iron Fists cypher at this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards, up-and-coming rapper Angel Haze has emerged from the shadows, ready to conquer anything and everything in her path on her new mixtape. Titled Classick, the new compilation boasts incredible lyricism spit upon Hip Hop classics such as Jay Z’s “Song Cry”, Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, and Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet”. Although it contains but six tracks, the tape is indeed a prime example of “quality over quantity,” a work so well crafted and diverse that, simply put, you just can’t be mad.
Haze immediately scores points by way of her samples. There isn’t a knowledgeable listener out there whose heart doesn’t skip with nostalgia when the beat to Missy Elliot’s “Gossip Folks” drops — but Haze doesn’t leave it there. While she adheres to some of the original songs’ conventions, this proves to be not much more than a nod as she re-invents the classics with her distinct flow and trademark word play. She has fun with it, including a version of the “peanut gallery” at the song’s start that made Missy’s hit stand out, but immediately commands respect with an energetic delivery that lets you know she’s just not messing around.
As if Haze’s delivery weren’t enough, the strength of her lines defy the expectations set by rhymes of the past decade, which flounder in comparison. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” serves as a wise admonition to young men and women too involved in negative lifestyles to catch sight of the “bigger picture.” Not only are her lines sharp and, many a time, aggressive in nature, they are also downright intellectual. Angel Haze puts her creativity to the test, saying whatever the hell she wants but somehow incorporating allusions that work perfectly in context, referring to figures such as Vincent Van Gogh and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Even her vocabulary exemplifies this; Haze’s incessant use of profanity should not be mistaken for a lack of words, but rather be recognized as the manifestation of an arrogance deserved.
Just as she exploits her pugnacious behavior, Haze is unafraid to reveal her sentiments. “Song Cry” flows beautifully with a poetic style typical of spoken word performances. “Love of my Life” is softer, with Haze singing of a past love that continues to haunt her. Yes, you read correctly. While singing is definitely not her strong suit (she acknowledges this herself, at the ends of both “Doo Wop” and “Love of my Life”), she is not bad at all. Angel Haze can sing well enough that her vocals lend the tracks added texture and diversity, thereby making them more enjoyable. Haze, however, surpasses those layers, delving much deeper into her emotional state on “Cleaning Out My Closet”. Quite possibly the realest song you’ll ever hear, Haze addresses her childhood struggles with sexual abuse and self-hatred in a frank tone, reverting to rage when describing the actions that tug at her the most.
It’s impossible to address Classick without the suggestion that this mixtape will serve as just that for the rapper’s career. On it, Angel Haze displays the breadth of her talent, announcing her long-awaited arrival into a lackluster game of “money, this” and “women, that.” More of Haze’s hard verses can be expected in the coming months as she prepares to release her first studio album, tentatively titled Dirty Gold, next May.
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