I’m excited about Angel Haze. This Aaliyah channeling, spit-fire battling femcee recently staked her flag in the hip-hop world with “Battle Cry,” a rousing song that rallies anyone who has been abused to dump their past and rise above it. The music video below reveals startling imagery of a presumably young Angel being exorcised in a religious scene gone horribly wrong; being abandoned by her mother to a ratchet sexual abuser in a car; and even cutting her wrists on a bed of nightmares. Disturbing. Inspiring. Not your typical booty-shaking hip-hop faire. Like Kanye West, Angel wears a Jesus piece around her neck – except hers is a cross with chains on it. Through music, Angel seems to be exorcising her own demons.
Born Raykeea Angel Wilson in Detroit, 22-year-old Angel was raised in the Greater Apostolic Faith – a religion she describes as a cult. When she was young, her African-American gangster father shot himself in a pistol whipping, leaving the family vulnerable. Angel and her Cherokee mother went to live with a preacher of their church, where, between ages 7 and 10, she endured repeated rapes at the hands of family friends. Angel exposes her raw pain on her super charged cathartic cover of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet”. Her cover is a horrifying (yet sympathetic) release of nightmares Angel was too scared to tell anyone while she was being victimized. Listen. She raps, “My heart was pumping it was stumping with like tons of fear / Imagine being seven and seeing c*m in your underwear.” The loss of innocence is so graphic – it makes you want to cry or pretend it isn’t happening as Angel bleeds all over the track. Monster topic. Monster rapper.
Angel performed the song in the UK saying that it was the first and last time she would ever perform the song. Undoubtedly, Angel’s sexual abuse left a toxic relationship with her mother, with whom she recently spoke about the ordeal. She told The Guardian, “My mom sat in the kitchen and told me, ‘I’m sorry that you were touched.’…Touched? Really? Is that how you’re going to sum it up? My mom was fully aware of how bad I had it.”
Not surprisingly, Angel is haunted by Detroit. From rape to religious fanaticism, the city left deep scars. She continues in The Guardian, “I won’t ever go back to Detroit. I won’t step foot in that city. I don’t know if I need to go back, for some sort of redemption, but I can’t bring myself to. I’m terrified – I feel like inside me a very, very young girl is still trapped there, scared to f***ing death.”
And yet there is some type of redemption for Angel – in musical escape. Where once the young rapper was not allowed to even listen to music, she now floods the internet and airwaves with it, spitting venom and resentment in rapid–fire raps. A self-proclaimed voice of the voiceless, she raps the kind of stuff that makes you hold your breath at its poetry. In “Battle Cry” she raps: “I woke up one Sunday morning / Stopped believing in Jesus / Stopped believing in churches / I stopped believing in preachers.”
On top of all that, Angel is pansexual (another new territory for hip-hop). She released her EP Reservation for free online July 2012. Currently signed to Republic Records, Angel’s album, Dirty Gold, was released in December 2013.
Years ago, Angel Haze was silenced. Now Angel is blunt. Brazen. Brave. If that’s not a battle cry, I don’t know what is.