Angel Haze – 'Dirty Gold' album review

Despite her raw talent, fierce honesty and lyrical finesse, Haze's previously leaked debut sometimes misses the mark



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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Hyped, recorded, delayed, leaked, released… this was the weird pattern that gradually gave birth to ‘Dirty Gold’, the debut album from sharp-tongued young New York rapper Angel Haze. At the end of last year, Haze’s record label put back the album’s release date to March 2014, despite the MC reportedly finishing it in summer of 2013 and being promised a release in the same year. Frustrated at the delay, Haze dramatically gave the label the middle finger, posting the whole album on SoundCloud followed by a stream of angry tweets: ‘So sorry to Island/Republic Records, but fuck you.’

Predictably, the label pulled the album off SoundCloud. Less predictably, they rush-released it in the dying days of December. So far, so beautifully chaotic – but how does ‘Dirty Gold’ actually hold up after all the palaver?

There’s much more of a pop focus on the album than you might expect from Haze’s previous material, like her brilliantly edgy ‘New York’ EP. During the album’s highs, Haze’s ferocious talent announces itself loud and clear: her lyrical flow is fast and flawless on looser tracks such as ‘April’s Fool’ and ‘A Tribe Called Red’, and at their best her lyrics are deeply personal, sometimes harrowing, reflections that genuinely hit the listener hard. Occasionally, ‘Dirty Gold’ hits the pop bullseye too: the album’s 2013 single ‘Echelon (It’s My Way)’ is a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek swipe at the fashion industry, brimming with accessible hooks and a catchy chorus (strewn with naughty words, mind), but also plenty of bite and style.

But most of the outright poppier moments and the handful of ballads on ‘Dirty Gold’ fall short, often sounding flat and frilly. ‘Battle Cry’, for example, doesn’t quite succeed in its quest to be powerful and inspirational, and ‘Planes Fly’ is just plain cheesy thanks to its sugary melodies and lyrical clichés: ‘Keep running, baby, till you find yourself tonight / Keep running, baby, spread your wings and fly,’ the rapper croons. So while ‘Dirty Gold’ certainly contains some precious metal, it doesn’t quite have the swagger or impact we’d hoped for from someone with as much raw talent as Haze.

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Listen to 'Dirty Gold' on Spotify

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Watch the video for 'Echelon (It’s My Way)'

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