For weeks, Angel Haze has been teasing a new project named Back to the Woods, the first collection of new music since their self-released 2013 debut Dirty Gold. Today Haze has released the full project (reportedly not their sophomore album), via Billboard, which you can stream in full below. It’s fraught with emotional distress, stemming from what Haze describes as an overwhelming period of loss for both those around them and themselves — Haze’s mother and sister (not to mention Haze’s breakup with Ireland Baldwin). Haze turned to drugs and had stints in a psych ward, two traumatic experiences they say they’re still recovering from. For that reason, the tape reads like a meditation on self-therapy: On previous Song of the Week pick “Impossible,” Haze confesses to wanting to suppress their pain with violence, but eventually discovering the strength to “defeat all my obstacles” in time.
That determination to regain control, at the very least, in spite of whatever hardship may come, rings through the entire 13-song project (all of which was produced by Tk Kayembe). It’s especially jarring on the R&B-driven “The Eulogy,” where they scream out in search of a heartbeat strong enough to love them back, even at their worst. But if the breakup ballads make it seem like Haze has lost their edge, they quickly remind us on “Babe Ruthless” (Haze’s new alter ego) that they’re still “your favorite rapper’s mortician”; on “Day D” they boast, “I can name a whole slew of niggas that I’m better than.” In short: Underestimate Angel Haze at your own risk.