I am tempted to call 2015 the return of Angel Haze, an agender rapper who prefers the pronouns they. But they never left the rap game. Since 2011, the Detroit native rapper has released multiple mixtapes, including King, Reservation, and Classick, where they opened up about suicidal thoughts, sexual abuse, and depression. The critical acclaim of their mixtapes lead to a 2012 recording deal with Universal. After delays with the record label, Angel Haze leaked their debut album Dirty Gold. They also experienced personal losses after ending a high profile relationship, overdosing, and visiting a psych ward twice.
In September, Angel Haze released the mixtape Back to the Woods, inspired by the pain of the past few years and a representative return to their roots. As a teenager, Angel Haze found comfort in the woods where they felt at one with nature. After their recent struggles, they returned to the exact woods of Springfield, VA during a flight delay in Washington D.C. This homecoming brought us the masterpiece that is Back to the Woods. As Angel Haze feels at home in the woods and their music, you can feel the truth and vulnerability from each of the mixtape’s 13 tracks.
In Back to the Woods, Angel Haze continues to open up about their painful past, this time exploring the beauty and pain of love in tracks like “Detox,” “The Eulogy,” and “Gods.” Their lyrics take you to their dark places and make you comfortable in their vulnerability as well as your own.
The mixtape presents depth in lyrics as well as production. You can feel their struggle to survive in “Exposed” as you not only hear them lyrically battle their demons but also the sound of breaths gasping for air on the beat. From front to back, the mixtape takes you on Angel Haze’s journey back to the woods with sounds of howling wolves and nature. On “Moonrise Kingdom,” they introduce their alter ego RÖES, father of flowers, and experiment with Kanye-approved vocals.
It’s okay to sometimes take that L
You just gotta know how to take that well
– “Dark Places,” Angel Haze
Don’t mistake their scars for weakness. With tracks, like “Impossible” and “The Wolves,” the rapper reveals that their scars and bruises have only made them stronger. On the relentless trap beat of “Babe Ruthless,” Angel Haze reminds you that they are still a top contender in the rap game. It’s “open season” and Angel Haze is ready to take the crown.
Angel Haze is not alone in their conquest or the woods. On the track “The Wolves”- a term they use to refer to their fans- they present themselves as leader of the pack. With the return to their roots, the rapper is ready to take the throne with their whole team behind them. I witnessed this first hand when Angel Haze brought their Back to the Woods Tour to Boston. The performer lead their pack, bringing fans on stage, creating a mosh pit, and feeding off of the crowd’s energy.
2015 was not the return of Angel Haze. The mixtape and the tour embodied the turmoil and triumph of the rapper to pave their own way independent of a label. Angel Haze is here to stay.