A Bite With The Band: Angel Haze On New York, Learning About Hip-Hop, And Fiending For Chipotle
It's harder than it looks to sit down and break burritos with Angel Haze.
The plan, originally, was simple: Invite the New York-based (but not native) rapper, whose recent signing to Universal Republic and imminent appearance on Hot97's Who's Next stage have supercharged her white-hot status in the past few weeks, to one of her favorite places in the city (or perhaps the world)—the hallowed halls of a Chipotle Mexican Grill. We'd hang out, talk about Twitter, feminism and hip-hop, and the pop culture references that pepper her statement-making Reservation.
But she had been feeling under the weather for the past week, and when I arrived, Haze (decked out in an all-black ensemble whose defining characteristic is a pair of major-label-couture Juliet sleeves) seemed in no mood to banter: she was midway through a rant to her manager, le'Roy Benros, about her destined romantic solitude. As if my feelings of interloperishness weren't enough to kill the vibe, I also immediately remembered why people didn't do this more often—Chipotles are very, very loud places.
So, instead, we transplanted our rendezvous to the basement of S.O.B.'s, which also doubles as Benros' office (as a manager, his past clients include Das Racist). And that's where Haze, between a couple of fever-quelling ibuprofens, a barrage of text messages, and a few rehashings of the questions she's had to repeat more than a few times since Reservation arrived, loosened up (at least, as much as one can in drop-crotch pants). Throughout the interview, she made it clear that New York is less her hometown than it is a trampoline-style home base, one whose walls she banks off, both lyrically and geographically, in her fiercely calculated, long-awaited grab for stardom—and burrito bowl or no, she likes it that way.
Reservation is 14 tracks long. Is there a reason you called it an EP instead of an album?
It was supposed to be an EP, but then somehow it came out to 14 tracks, and it's like, "Well, that's not an EP." So we went for calling it an album, but since it was free, people tried to label it a mixtape.
You said you had a lot of labels asking for you. How did you pick Universal Republic?
Every major label except Interscope. I prefer to do things in a reallyI don't want to say "classy," because that's, like, gaybut in a really upfront way, so we didn't do the typical signing thing where everyone sends in an offer. I met everyone, decided who I wanted to go with, and then negotiated a deal with them. No offers. It's really important for me to maintain that respectful business aspect in my career. Gotta be upfront, straightforward.
A lot of indie acts tend to almost get too excited and they fall off the edge, and sometimes it doesn't work as well as they'd expected. Are you afraid of losing anything along the way?
The only thing I can imagine losing along the way is a shitload of friends, and that's it. And I don't care about that. I mean, it's already started. I guess you win some, you lose some. Everybody has this crazy misconception of what it means to sign to a major label. Like, they automatically think your soul is stolen. I've had people tell me, "Oh my god, you're letting Universal change you, change your image." I'm like, "Universal has not said anything to me about how I dress." They're like, "Whatever, just make sure it looks good." It's just crazy, because everyone comes with their own thoughts. I'm not afraid of losing anything. Fuck it. If I lose it, it's not meant to be for me.
You retweet lot of your followers who've been accusing you of selling out.
I'm like, "Bitch, yes I sold out. So what?" I said it a long time ago. I never planned to be independent for long. My plan was to blow myself up as big as I could and make them want me. I never wanted to go to a label begging them to sign me. That way, they give you, like, $5,000. I told my fans a long time ago, "Don't look at me saying, 'Oh she's not gonna sell out; she's real.' No, bitch, I'm gonna sell out. Just so you know, I'm gonna [do it]. I have family, you know. I have family to take care of. So if selling out, to you, means signing to a major label, then so be it." The problem with fans is, they're not really loyal. You can have a few that are loyal to you and you'll see them throughout your career, but everyone else pretty much jumps on and off the bandwagon. You can't let anything that people say make you feel any type of way.
You've said in past interviews that you were freaked out about being in the spotlight, about getting as huge as you're saying you want to be.
I've put out music under two other aliases that got kind of blown up. It was weird, and I would disappear once it started coming to me. I was 17, meeting with [Grammy-winning producer] Ryan Leslie, and then I was 18, meeting with [RCA VP of A&R] Trevor Jerideauthis time, we actually went back to [Jerideau] and he was like, "I remember you," and I was like [She makes an awkward facial expression], "... Yeah... it's whatever... fun times... "
I shied away from attention really easily, at first. I wasn't prepared for it, and you have to be prepared for it, the massive amounts of attention, and love, and admiration... and hate. Now I don't give a fuck. I'm completely void of any care that I had about anyone's opinions about me. My thing, it's just, "You come up here and do it, then! You'd crumble up here." That's the satisfaction I get, knowing no one [trying to challenge me] could get up here and do it.
When did you decide you were ready for it?
Last year? When I was 19. Le'Roy spent a year telling me I wasn't ready. [That challenged me,] so I moved here [to New York], three months ago, and we recorded the album. It took three months. We put it out a month ago, and it's been insane ever since.