ANGEL HAZE, Heaven – Evening Standard, 12 March 2014

Angel Haze has a lot of ground to make up in the live department after record company frustrations caused the Detroit rapper to leak her own debut album online just before Christmas. When Dirty Gold came out for real shortly afterwards, in the musically dead time of the holiday season, it slumped in at 196 in the UK albums chart.

Now the artist, real name Raeen Wilson, is on tour trying to convince the curious that feeble chart placings are no indicator of the true worth of her fiery, battling songs. Pencil-skinny with a voice that could flatten a tower block, she’s used to doing things the hard way having escaped a Christian cult and sexual abuse as a teenager — ordeals she has detailed unflinchingly in song.

In concert she was unstoppable, rhyming at top speed in tones far more powerful than the guitar, drums and DJ that accompanied her.

On Black Dahlia she addressed her mother’s similarly troubled life on her knees, bathed in four white spotlights. Over the ominous hum and clicking beats of New York she insisted, “I run New York,” and it felt like New York wouldn’t dare to contradict her.

During Battle Cry she vanished and reappeared on a balcony at the back, spitting tight, intricately constructed lines down into the crowd at close quarters. An acoustic cover of OneRepublic’s Counting Stars, sung to a female volunteer, felt like a lightweight novelty next to her original material but showed her pop heart.

The sparkling synths of Deep Sea Diver and Echelon (It’s my Way) suggested that if she overcomes her tendency for self-sabotage, this remarkable rapper is overdue a spell in the hit parade.