Who: Angel Haze is only Angel Haze when she needs to be, which is becoming an increasingly frequent — and powerful — occurrence for the young rapper. "There's a huge difference between who I am when I make music and who I am the rest of the time," says the 21-year-old born Raee'n Wahya. "Raee'n doesn't have the guts to do the things that Angel Haze does. When I'm Angel Haze, I'm this monster of a bitch like you've never seen before." Born into a self-described "cult" in Michigan, Haze struggled with sexual abuse before leaving home, where secular music was forbidden. She'd always been fascinated by poetry, but it was only after moving out on her own, at 17, that she fell for rap and pop. "If a person is denied something," says Haze, "They're gonna want it real bad. That's how I was with music."
No Reservations: The unabashedly graphic, lyrically intricate confessionals on Haze's recent Classick mixtape are as harrowing as rap gets. ("Cleanin' Out My Closet" finds Haze recounting her abuse over the Eminem track of the same name.) But the New York City resident had no hesitation about such dark topics. "It's a necessity," she says of her discomfiting candor. "If I don't talk about these things, no one else will. Being honest with the public is how they respect you." That charismatic openness, also featured on the provocative and playful Reservation mixtape, allowed her to take the next career step. "I walked into Universal and was like, 'Sign me, you freakin' bitches,'" she says. Her major-label debut, Dirty Gold is due in spring 2013.
Reading With Her Ears: When she's on the road, Haze, whose father died before she was born, unwinds with the help of some notable literary companions. "I love to listen to books on tape," she says. "The one for Edgar Allen Poe's Arthur Pym novel is amazing. I learn so much about language and rhythm listening to books."
Gender Neutral: Though her cocksure flow and steely intelligence draw comparisons to other young female MCs, Haze feels no particular kinship. "All I have in common with most women rappers is genitalia," she scoffs. "I've maybe heard one Azealia Banks song." Instead, she takes inspiration from less apparent sources. "True artistic expression lies in conveying emotion," she says. "Jason Mraz's music taught me that. That might not be cool, but it's the truth."