Artist /// Angel Haze
Album /// Dirty Gold
Label /// Island
Release Date /// 30 December 2013
5.2 | 10
The way the music industry works now, one second you can be on top of the world only to find yourself being dropped by your label a second later. A lot of times, suits far more interested in the bottom line than artistic achievements get in the way of viable, thought-provoking works of art. It’s ruined many careers, especially in hip-hop, where an artist like Lupe Fiasco can go from delivering one of the greatest hip-hop works of this century to Lasers. Something similar appears to be working against Angel Haze on her debut LP Dirty Gold, which was rush-released just before 2013 faded to black in an effort from Island to squash the bad blood simmering after many delays and setbacks.
It seems so long ago now that Haze and contemporary Azealia Banks were on the precipice of major stardom, before label interference and Twitter tirades relegated the two artists’ to second-rate hip-hop acts. I personally always gravitated towards Haze’s amazing vocal dexterity and sharp, blunted barbs that did as good a job as any in proving that words can, in fact, hurt. But with Dirty Gold, you can hear her mounting frustration to the impediment of many of Gold‘s tracks. The album is littered with overcooked productions that cloak the songs in an air of anonymity, deeply impersonalized to the point that it’s nearly impossible to understand who exactly Angel Haze is.
Haze’s abilities as a rapper cannot be denied, but she generally sticks to one gear, rendering her rapid-fire delivery meaningless. Instead of being a testament to her prowess behind the mic, her rigidness forces her bars into one-trick pony status. It doesn’t help that the hooks on tracks such as “A Tribe Called Red” and “Echelon (It’s My Way)” are uninspired and lack anything that would make them at least mildly interesting. Much worse is her Top 40-baiting “Battle Cry,” when she enlists Sia to offer up one of her now trademarked melodramatic choruses. Unfortunately, the song is more “Wild Ones” than “Breathe Me.”
Other than the previously heard “New York,” the best moments on Dirty Gold hint at the force Angel Haze can still become. “Deep Sea Diver” forgoes implanting a forced chorus into the proceedings for something more natural. The production on “Diver” is also one of the best on Gold, as it’s one of the few that actually gives Haze room to breathe and explore who she wants to be as an artist. But those moments are far and few between compared to the majority of Gold. I still believe Haze has a great album in her; she’s proven time and time again that she can rap circles around her contemporaries. But this is not it. It’s far too dirty, with not near enough gold.