This Angel Haze article was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse

Angel Haze has never shied away from the deepest, darkest parts of their personal life. Haze’s well documented early years were scarred with sexual abuse and are the subject of many of their songs, including the extremely harrowing ‘Cleaning Out My Closet.’ The video for ‘Battle Cry’ featuring Sia also references her experiences explicitly and without shame, an admirable thing for anyone who has suffered serious trauma.

Haze has flourished on the rap scene after leaking their 2013 mixtape ‘Dirty Gold’ without the consent of their record label Republic/Island Records. There is a sense that they have moved forward from this, both musically and personally and ‘Back to the Woods’ certainly feels like a coming of age album.

The explicit references to Haze’s past are more muted here, with more of a focus on ideas of love. Despite it’s hard and pulsing beats, ‘Back to the Woods’ feels much more hopeful; there are certainly many references to Haze’s loneliness, but there is a sense that silver linings do indeed exist.

Haze has never allowed their music, to be defined by their traumatic past. ‘Back to the Woods’ is the story of a person who still believes in love in the face of an extremely lonely world. The style of the album is heavily trap influenced, which again adds a sense of darkness to it’s overall sound. The main event in the album however, is Haze’s voice, which is versatile as ever. ‘Into the Woods’ features a high quality of rapping and singing, which is no mean feat.

The harmonies in ‘Dark Places’ are particularly impressive and echo along with the lonely and isolated mood of the album. Lyrically speaking, Haze is extremely impressive as always. There is a lot of anger in Haze’s tracks, but at the same time there is an overwhelming sense of hope and positivity in the words. There is a sense of a a meaningful journey here; that they aren’t “running in vain”. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ in particular has a swelling sound, which indicates a hopeful light in the darkness of life. The title may also be in reference to the Wez Anderson film of the same name, which portrays a colourful, utopian world.

Haze is the epitome of ‘whatever kills you only makes you stronger’ and their lyrics are painful and universally recognisable. It is refreshing to see a hip-hop artist that is so raw and real, in an industry, which is populated with macho ideas about women, cars and money. In fact, Haze flips this idea on it’s head; the opening track ‘D-Day’ sounds suspiciously like G-Units ‘Nah I’m Talking Bout,’ a track which is the antithesis of the male dominated gangsta rap world.

Angel Haze’s ‘Back to the Woods’ is a powerful, angry and yet hopeful piece of work. The dark tones in Haze’s work haven’t gone away by any means, but there is certainly a sense of growing up here and an acknowledgment of the positive. This is certainly not an album to be casually consumed. ‘Back to the Woods’ is a lyrically inspiring album that preaches love and hope even in the face of adversity and darkness, a universally powerful message to be acknowledged.

‘Back to the Woods’ is out now via Republic/Island Records.

Angel Haze 'Back to the Woods' - ALBUM REVIEW

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