Angel Haze couldn’t wait to put out her album. Earlier this year, Haze traveled to Spain, London, New York and California to record tracks for Dirty Gold, her major label debut for Republic Records. Finishing the album two weeks ahead of schedule, the 2013 XXL Freshman was sitting on tracks that showcased her wide range of talents. “With the record, I wanted to touch places I never touched before,” she says. “I’ve always said, everything that I did I wanted it to be a step up—sonically, lyrically."

To the surprise of many, Haze pulled the trigger and leaked her album ahead of its March release date after venting about her label frustrations on Twitter. Republic Records quickly took it down; however, the 22-year-old MC was so passionate about giving her fans the project that the label locked in December 30 as her new release date. Even with her victory, she remains adamant about demonstrating a different side that hasn't been seen before.

"The album isn’t even dark at all. It’s probably gonna hurt a lot of people in a bunch of different ways,” she says. “'Cause I’m used to [being] the punk rock child. 'Cause music is so cathartic and I used it as therapy, I’m not the same person anymore. I don’t know how much I smile a day, but I am genuinely happy, so it’s so hard for me to tap into these sources that don’t exist anymore.”

Haze has already shown bits and pieces of Dirty Gold in buzzing singles “Echelon (It’s My Way)” and “A Tribe Called Red.” Elsewhere, though, Haze’s songwriting talent soars; working with the likes of Australian singer Sia, producer Mike Dean (Yeezus, Magna Carta...Holy Grail) and Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay), Haze’s genre-bending debut is living up to the hype.

XXL got down with Angel Haze to preview five tracks off Dirty Gold. Read on to hear the making of tracks like “Black Synagogue,” “Crown” and more. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)