Angel Haze – review

Hoxton Bar & Grill, London

One of the most exciting things about watching a young MC on the verge of something big is seeing how much they want it. Indie bands may like to imply they're shuffling sideways into success, but rappers prefer to stake out their territory and batter their rivals from the start. New York's Angel Haze has been called the "new Azealia Banks", which is a trifle premature given that the old Azealia Banks has only been around for a year, and understates her ambition. In her head, Haze is competing with not just Banks but Nicki Minaj. "Basically I killed all these other bitches," she declares. "They're irrelevant, they're squashed, they're done."

She says this with a broad smile, but her rapping is fiercely urgent. A lean, lithe figure, Haze commands every inch of the stage, climbing on to speakers, punching the air, snapping her long hair back and forth, bending double with the effort of giving her lyrics maximum impact. She has the warrior energy of an old-fashioned battle rapper, flaunting her skills with a cappellas and triple-time verses as if someone might snatch the microphone from her the moment she lets up. She invites a few people to dance with her for one track but then snaps, "Get the fuck off my stage," lest anyone doubt who's in charge.

The only disappointment is the brevity of her set. Haze is striding through the crowd after just 30 minutes, having repeated two songs. One which repays duplication is her signature tune, New York, which weaponises a handclap beat from the last Gil Scott-Heron album and plays out to video footage of the Manhattan skyline. She extends the microphone for the crowd to chant the imperious hook: "I run New York." She doesn't yet, of course, but it's a thrill seeing her determination to make it so.

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Dorian Lynskey

The GuardianTramp

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