Angel Haze has lived a life that most people couldn’t imagine living, much less understand. The young artist was raised in the Greater Apostolic Faith, which she’d sooner refer to as a cult than a community. She was raped between the ages of seven and ten while living in an insular environment that frowned upon communication with the outside world, including music. When she was 16, her family broke free of the church’s rules and relocated to Brooklyn, New York. It was then that Haze discovered music for the first time.
“You can imagine not consuming something for such a long amount of time, and then feeling like a crazy, gluttonous hunger for it,” she says of her initial attraction to music. It wasn’t long before she decided to make it her career. In early mixtapes such as 2012’s Reservation and Classick, Haze confronts some of the sordid and desperate moments of her past, broaching topics like sexual abuse, depression, drug addiction and insecurities. She signed to Republic Records and released her debut album, Dirty Gold, in 2013, and then parted ways with the label in 2015 following a yearlong hiatus. Now, she’s recaptured control of her destiny, and has not only taken back her career, but also her health and happiness.
“I learned only in the past two years that music and life circumstances are for a reason. Everything I’ve ever gone through has shaped this path for me,” she says. “It feels like I’m starting a new life and turning over a new leaf, and being able to say, ‘Yeah, my past doesn’t define me.’ It created who I am now, and it helped me get to where I am, but it’s not where I’m going. I think it’s cool. I’m a lot more calm and patient… positive and optimistic about my life because of music.”
The creative process involved in Haze’s latest release, Back to the Woods, took advantage of her sound-to-colour synesthesia – a sensory condition in which affected individuals see colours upon hearing musical notes. The album was recorded in a dark space with colour strobes illuminating the walls; particular colours were chosen based on the palettes she perceived from the songs. Stylistically, Back to the Woods marks a return to the stripped-down sound Haze had when she first came into the industry. “The reason Back to the Woods is a lot different than Dirty Gold is that I had the opportunity and also the privilege of making it by myself, with my brother… The recording process is different because when I was with Universal and making Dirty Gold, there were a lot of other people involved,” she says. “I’m talking teams and teams, and flying me to Spain and doing this with this person and whatever, and it was more of a job. [Back to the Woods] was just about expression, and as clear and plain as I can put it, just expressing myself.”
Reflecting on her brief mentorship with Kanye West, Haze remarks: “Sometimes you get so caught up in thinking about what you need to do, what you’re supposed to do, or what people are expecting of you that you don’t do what you want… I played [Kanye] some stuff that I hadn’t played for anyone when Dirty Gold was out, and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this? This shit is crazy!’ When he told me to do what I wanted to do, I basically did what I wanted to do – and here we have Back to the Woods.”
With a new outlook on her career, as well as a healthier state of mind, Haze is paving her way to an illustrious career – including a new label and the goal of releasing a new album and two mixtapes by the end of the year. With a confident tone, she concludes: “I think because I have my head screwed on so tight, that my future is the brightest it’s ever been. Artistically, I’ve got a vision for everything that I do, everything that I am.”
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change