Angel Haze review – 'Funny, fierce and fizzing with venom'

Gorilla, Manchester
The Detroit-raised rapper makes a convincing bid to unite hip-hop and pop with an explosive fusion of fire and flow

"I know I haven't done a bunch of shows, so thanks y'all for coming out to see me eventually," says Angel Haze, reflecting on her annus horribilis. After emerging a year ago as rap's self-proclaimed "voice of the voiceless", the Detroit-raised 22-year old grew impatient with her record company and leaked her album, Dirty Gold, months before the scheduled release. The company responded by putting it out in the notoriously difficult post-Christmas period – it might as well have been launched with an anvil attached.

Now she faces a fight to rescue her career, and, while this gig feels slightly undersold, she emerges to a rapturous welcome. Prowling hurriedly from left to right in a vest dress under an explosion of strobes, she resembles a star in the making, like a young Whitney Houston. Her music – delivered with live guitars, drums and canned choruses – makes a mostly successful bid to unite hip-hop and pop. However, every time she raps, it feels like a firecracker has been thrown into the room.

Many column inches have been generated by her troubled past (her childhood in a religious cult, being a victim of rape, her father shooting himself dead while pistol-whipping). And her delivery demands similar attention. Few rappers, male or female, fizz with such venom, and she wades into what can be no-go areas for rap (from self-harming to her "pansexuality") with thrillingly real wordplay. Flowing lines such as "So you cut yourself open just to see if you are real / You numb yourself with drugs just to hide what you feel" produce a frisson in the room.

Haze can be funny as well as fierce, chuckling "I'm nasty-oh, like Cas-io", and taking it in good spirit when a Liverpudlian woman grabs the mic to tell her: "Ooh luv, you look just like my daughter."

A cover of Beyoncé's Drunk in Love hints at the reason for her label's tardiness: she could do with a couple more big tunes of her own. Still, Angels and Airwaves and Battle Cry prompt stage invasions, and the crowd chant her name. It may take more than a spat with the music industry to keep the Angel down.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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