My Story by Angel Haze
There was absolutely nothing going on back then [when I dropped King.] I think you don’t really realize that until you view it in hindsight. Back then, it seemed like I was working my ass off, but that was just to the point where I worked my ass off to have an actual career. Now that I look back on it, in comparison to the stuff I am doing now, it’s just like, ‘Damn.’ In a year, when I look back at what I am doing now in comparison to the stuff I am doing then, it will be an even bigger dance. There are just different levels of work and I have only done the bare minimum.
I feel like every artist genuinely vies for the attention in the beginning. Once you capture that core audience, that core fanbase—I don’t think really anything else matters outside of my fans now. But before, yes I certainly did. I felt like, ‘What the fuck am I doing wrong?’ Now, I just worry about what I am doing right and continuing to do that.
[I started rapping] mostly on Tumblr. It started on Tumblr. I was something called “Tumblr famous”—like thousands and thousands of followers. I would put out videos talking shit about anything and then I decided to put out something I was rapping. That spread far and I put out the cover of the Drake song, “Fall for Your Type.” It was 2010. It ended up on Good Fella Media and other blogs. It was cool. It was a rough start and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was just doing it for fun. I started to take it seriously and, alas, here we are.
I think it was the best way for me, especially to cultivate an audience who knew you before then. This is me being modest—but completely insightful in no one else has fans that started with them on Tumblr. That started with them on Facebook, like completely at the core of their career, saying ‘Wow. I was just talking to you on Tumblr last year. Now, I am watching you on the BET Hip-Hop Cypher or I see you on the XXL Freshman cover.’ So many people can say that to me because they have all seen where I have come from. It was just nothing to me. I think that’s incredible.
Yeah, honestly, being an XXL Freshman was something I was gunning for. After 2010, I started to notice that I wasn’t that much into rap. It was incredible to see it. I think it was around the time the Young Money cover happened. I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ I didn’t know it was so prestigious, like an opportunity until people would be mad on Twitter about it. You would be like, ‘What the fuck? Why did this person get XXL and this person didn’t.’ I guess it is a huge honor and I never put too much thought into whether I would get it. I never thought I would be nominated for it. When it happened, it happened.
[When I heard the news about me being a Freshman,] I was in the car on my way to Santa Monica to the studio. And my publicist called me and she said, ‘Yeah, you are going to have to fly to New York.’ I am like, ‘Why?’ And she’s like, ‘Because you have the XXL cover.’ I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, you were nominated for it.’ I was like, ‘What?’ I remember being told I was nominated for it, but I never did anything like promote it. It was just like, ‘wow.’ I didn’t think that I would win, so I didn’t even bother. And then having them say that, it was insane.
Everyone aspires to have—like I said—this prestigious opportunity to be named one of hip-hop’s Freshmen. To be deemed worthy by one of hip-hop’s oldest magazines. So it’s like, if I was like B.I.G. or if I was like any young up and coming rapper, I would want to be on the cover of XXL. Especially, if I want to solidify a place in hip-hop, it seems only right. There’s The Source, there’s everything. And then there’s XXL and you are just like, ‘Yeah, I want to be on XXL.’
I am so incredibly humbled. It is such a gratifying experience to get something that is that cool. So for me, I try to not lose my head. I have the XXL cover for now, but in two months, there will be a new issue out. For me, I just surround myself with people to keep me humbled and keep down to the ground. Just remind me that I am not shit.
I think music is something I enjoy doing because I was deprived of it for so many years. Everything that I wanted to do as a teenager—that involves reading, that involves school, that involves generally educational things—I was able to. I had access to. When I wanted to listen to music, I had no access to it. I had no iPod. I had parental controls on the Internet. There was just so much shit at one time. When my mom finally opened the door and said, ‘go ahead.’ It was like Candyland for me. Granted, there are times when I get tired of music, but when I am angry, when I am sad, when I want to express myself, it is the only place I turn to.
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