Matt on Music: Angel Haze/Serengeti

After the forgettable year in hip-hop that was 2013, here’s hoping that 2014 is better. Two December hip-hop releases have already convinced me that it will be.

Angel Haze: “Dirty Gold (Deluxe Edition)” (Island/Republic) She may be known for her beef with Azealia Banks, and her two best songs may be based around the lines “I run New York” and “I’m on that ‘F—k what you say, it’s my way,’” but Angel Haze’s most distinctive feature is her heart. The highlight on her debut LP is easily the single “Echelon (It’s My Way),” which hits just as hard in album context, but the main showcase here is her sentimental side. While “Battle Cry” is a tawdry attempt, complete with a Sia feature, “Angels & Airwaves” gets it just right, as she speaks to victims of depression: “Don’t give up on you/I didn’t give up on me.” Bonus track “Crown,” meanwhile, is her toughest song since “New York.” Grade: A MINUS

Serengeti: “C.A.B.” (Anticon) Less sonically strong than its 2012 sorta-predecessor “C.A.R.,” and the dark subject matter brings last year’s disappointing “Saal” to mind. This isn’t as disappointing, though, mainly because it’s undeniably hip-hop, but also because it doesn’t take itself as seriously.
Opening with a song called “Don’t Give a Damn” and highlighted by “In Love with a Woman,” where he states, “I always think about what she’s doing/Maybe she’s gardening now,” this is an often-funny record. But the intersection between the humor and the darkness is awkward, resulting in a fine EP that also isn’t very enjoyable. Grade: B PLUS

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