The Feministing Five: Miss Haze

Hazel Rose side profile. Looking up to the sky with trees in the background.Miss Haze (aka Hazel Rose) is a San Francisco Bay Area based performer, artist and activist. She’s the front woman of the hip-hop/electronic soul group 40Love. Her raw lyricism combined with her love of the mystic and sprituality makes her a standout artist. Moreover, the feminist themes found in her work makes her an inspiration to hip-hop artists and fans alike. (And a perfect fit for the Feministing Five.)

With her re-writing of Tyga’s “Rack City” hit, she emphasizes the divinity in all of us by saying that we are all “Made of Stars,” (the title of the song) effectively undermining the assumption in hip-hop that women are objects and without agency. The song’s music video (directed by Nina Reyes Rosenberg and featuring a cameo from Favi) makes the message even clearer by covering Miss Haze’s eyes as she raps with images of dismembered mannequins scattered throughout. With the repeating lyric: “We the same, but the game say we’re aren’t”, the video contrasts hip-hop’s objectification by featuring women of all shapes, sizes and colors happily scarfing down Mission tacos and breaking at a Muni bus stop, highlighting the confident, proud and multifaceted lives that women in hip-hop actually have.

Miss Haze got her start in spoken word poetry with the country’s leading youth arts organization, Youth Speaks, where she has worked as a performer, community organizer and youth mentor since 2005, all while producing 40Love’s versatile music, including 2010’s mixtape “Hard Candy” and 2009’s “Bangerang!” Upcoming projects include a webisode series centered on alchemy and mysticism, as well as her anticipated new 40Love album “Dreams Don’t Sleep” (out July 24th). The newest music video (also directed by Nina Reyes Rosenberg) from 40Love is the first single from their new album and it features a Pulp Fiction-type high-stakes heist. Hearing Miss Haze rap that she’s “Bout 2 Bloom,” one can’t help but think the song is about her career. And I couldn’t be more excited.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Miss Hazel Rose.

Anna Sterling: Tell me about your journey into hip-hop.

Miss Haze: I’ve always been super drawn to crazy, lyrical, melodic people like Joni Mitchell when I was little. In middle school, I got involved with Youth Speaks. It was the first place I really felt that was a beloved community for me. That was my family. I was able to go to a bunch of the Brave New Voices poetry slams. I went to one in Los Angeles, New York and D.C where we protested in front of the White House. It’s this crazy energy. There’s a cipher everywhere– that’s where I learned to cipher, downstairs of a New York laundromat, banging on the laundry machines. It was beautiful.

I started rapping in high school. It started off as drunken nights with my homegirls. We had this little crew called Galaxy. We’d freestyle all night with 40s at Dolores Park doing crazy off the wall songs.

AS: How does your spiritual side influence your work?

MH: My group is about to come out with our album “Dreams Don’t Sleep.” The first sample on the album samples Waking Life by Richard Linklater. It says: “If you take your rational life and combine it with the infinite possibiliteis of your dreams, you can do anything.” It’s trying to internally challenge yourself to utilize all the potential of your visions and seeing where that subconscious translates. I also practice a form of Buddhism called Maitreyan Buddhism. They use the lotus as a symbol. It blooms and seeds at the same time. It’s the simultaneity of cause and effect. In every moment you’re living out a previous effect. You’re also creating a new cause. Every thought and every word is a cause that’s going to end up in the universe. It may not be what you expected. It may be mysterious and mystic. I’m trying to harness that power of vision and not feel too constrained by the ways people are moving within spheres like hip-hop.

AS: What hip-hop artists inspire you and what do you have in your playlist right now?

MH: Of course M.I.A. and Jean Grae. I’m a lyricist-lyricist. I love people with crazy precise, like, “uggghhh,” disgusting flows. That’s basically what she had when I listened to “Attack of the Attacking Things.” In my playlist, you’ll hear anything from King Kahn and the Shrines to stuff that Charles Stepney composed to Flying Lotus. Erykah Badu is a huge inspiration for me with all this spiritual stuff too. [I admire] the way that her femininity is so vulnerable and powerful.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

MH: Aesthetically, I was thinking of the heroine from “True Romance,” the way she embodies love, bubbling laughter, beauty and glamor. Also, nerdy girls like the girl from “Ghost World” or “Amélie.” They are these quiet girls trying to do off-the-wall shit. In reality, definitely Arundhati Roy. She’s an incredible activist. She’s done tons of work in India against U.S. empire and has really fused her beautiful writing with being able to talk to the people and have a strong voice that reaches millions.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

MH: Patron and pineapple! My favorite taste is chicken tikka masala. The feminist I would bring is my mom or my grandma. My mom’s been an incredible role model. She worked doing media for non-profits for 25 years. She just started her own business doing messaging for non-profits like Planned Parenthood. She’s a super loving and noble voice to me. Same thing with my grandma. She passed on so much love to me.

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