Angel Haze

Dirty Gold

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A poet-turned-rapper who uses lyrics like "live every day like it's your last" and actually seems to mean them, Angel Haze's debut album sounds, at times, like the cerebral Mos Def and the sly Missy Elliot spliced into one MC (check the epic "Black Synagogue") while other times, it's a hooky-meets-old-school alternative affair, something like Digable Planets as a G-Unit-affiliated crew ("Echelon [It's My Way]" being the proof). Adding to this wild, inspired jumble is the Death Grips-like backstory where Dirty Gold was leaked early because Haze's label, Island Records, was dragging its feet, but there are poptacular moments here that sound born and bred for radio (for a killer hip-hop power-ballad sandwich, just place Haze's "Battle Cry" between B.o.B.'s "Airplanes" and Eminem's "Survival"). So, is Haze an artist in, or out, of the system? The biggest complaint about Dirty Gold is that it's too big and too bold to answer this question succinctly, although worrying about where to file Haze matters little when this overwhelming effort offers a sultry ode to strippers that paints them as majestic sirens with soul-crushing backstories ("White Lilies/White Lies"). Religious doctrines get a boot upside the head with a "Get Ur Freak On" backbeat ("Tribe Called Red") plus, on the Deluxe version, the perils of depression are dealt with through rap and moody, modern composition ("Rose-Tinted Suicide"), and in the end, the album is as intriguing and perplexing as mixing Cirque du Soleil, Ornette Coleman, and Noam Chomsky. Dirty Gold is certainly a flawed debut, and yet it's not what's inside that's flawed, it's just the container's inability to hold such OCD-ish genius.

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