Haze: Never Before Now

Haze is a soft-spoken hip hopper from West Orange, NJ. His back catalog very recently consisted of a single four-track EP titled The Book of Few Pages. Today, however, he released his debut full-length project Never Before Now which sees the emcee delivering a more dynamic and diverse sound. Even so, he continues to share the spotlight by welcoming frequent collaborator Ryan P onto the tracks that suit him. While Haze may have been on a life-demanded hiatus for some time, he now looks to establish himself in the hip hop community and hopes Never Before Now will help him do just that. Stream the album below and read on to get a better sense of Haze as an artist.

Who are your inspirations both within and without hip hop?

Within hip hop, I have a few inspirations such as Mick Jenkins for his lyrical capability along with the message depicted in his music. It's so much more than just words to a beat like his "Track 11" which half the audience has no clue what the meaning of the title alone is. But my favorite from him would probably be his track "The Waters," he's like the push when I think like yo this track I just did is hard as hell but Mick would've killed it let's get back in the lab.

I'm also influenced by The Underachievers and Joey Badass. Two tracks from my first EP The Book of Few Pages were based around their sound. The tracks "Third Eye Regime" and "Thy Kingdom" and now I just incorporate their free minded sense into my music. But Joey has had my ears since he debuted and till this day I still stick with him. At some point, nobody was touching his tracks, "Hilary Swank" or "Unorthodox," it just wouldn't happen. 

Outside of hip hop, I'm more influenced by free spirited people with open minds to different approaches of life and spiritual beliefs because I respect everyone.

What are your top five albums?

Nas - Illmatic
Logic - The Incredibly True Story
J Cole- 2014 Forest Hills
Kanye - Graduation 
2 Pac - All Eyes On Me

Describe the path that led to your decision to become a hip hopper.

It's funny actually because I was more of a singer when I was younger than a hip hop head. When I was young Nas and Pac were probably the only two I listened too and maybe Outkast. Besides that I was big on Usher and female singers and TLC then I probably came around to 50 Cent and Jay-Z in like 3rd grade. The more I listened I was like damn. 50 had me with "Many Men" and Jay had me with "99 Problems." 

From that point, I continued to listen to more and more hip hop until in middle school I started battle rapping. By 9th grade, I was writing my freestyles and mastering a sound and finding real inspirations to create a solid sound. By sophomore or junior year, I think I had a mix of Joey Badass and Nas in the works. Moving forward I started recording more until my first track release and first EP.

If you could play someone three tracks to convey your sound, which three would you play?

"Third Eye Regime," "I Don't," and "The Cruise" as far as official releases. But, for what's ready to go and to be coming within the next month I'd say "Supply and Demand," "He Ain't Me" and "Demon of The East" which everyone should be looking out for.

Walk me through a typical day spent working on Never Before Now. What components were essential to recording?

I'd make sure I set myself into a work-zone setting: iced tea and water, PS3 or 4 maybe a Wii U, play some Smash Bros on breaks. I always have at least two listeners to critique me if I sound dead, I can do it better, or my words aren't clear. I normally do a lot of takes to see what sounds the best before doing the full track. Then the night of, I mix a bit and play with effects on my vocals and decide if the take is worth it and if so I wonder if someone else would sound well as a feature on it. 

If I don't like the days recording I mute it and record a new set the following day. To put this project together the components were concept, features, and what will catch the audience I'm aiming for. I avoid mainstream sounds so I normally listen to lots of underground Soundcloud artist and contact a few I feel can challenge me on my projects such as Boston's Chin or Malibu's Matthew Hammond. 

I also have a certain type of beat I like to record to similar to that of producers like Kaytranada, Onguad and Lee Bbannon. I feel like Goldlink, Mick, and Alex Wiley have some bomb producers they work with. But aside from the beats, my writing process is so weird. Sometimes I'd write prior or just freestyle on it until I create a concept in the freestyle. Then, I delete the take and work with the concept I created. One of the most essential parts of my music is my brother Ryan P who at times produces, mixes, and features on tracks since my start as an artist.

How have you grown as an artist since The Book of Few Pages? How is that growth reflected on Never Before Now?

I've experimented more with other sounds manipulating them into my own. The Book of Few Pages consisted of one influence mainly so Never Before Now is just me as a more prominent artist. The tracks are so different, the hooks are more smooth, the verses are more laid back and chill and some have a bit more grittiness than others. Like "I Don't" was more chill but I have a track on the project that will impress in comparison like when I was featured on Ant's mixtape AlwaysnTrouble on the track titled "Nasty" a more gritty sound than I was used to at the time.

Tell me more about the activism you do with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I have a track titled "The Regime" which touches on the Black Lives Matter movement. I'm looking to do a joint project with Ant regarding the movement because I feel like we can really get a point out while giving people a sound to listen to almost like an anthem for our local surroundings like Kendrick's "Alright." 

I just have a lot to say about it because the news and all the focus on it puzzles me only because the facts and evidence are tossed out almost as if they don't matter. I want to use the voice I have to speak out the way I express myself which is through music. "The Regime" is my version of Mick Jenkin's "11," Vic Mensa's "16 shots," and Joey Badass' "No.99."

What do you hope to get out of being a hip hopper?

I love the thrill of performing and the competitive aspect of hip hop. I'd be a liar to say money is not involved but I only want to make enough to continue living. Anything beyond is love as a matter a fact its all love so anything more is extra. I want to vibe with an audience, have people really understand my music. To me, music is therapy and everything in one and I want people to experience, hear, and feel it the way I do. 

Performing so far has been more to me than making the music itself. The crowd is just amazing, I love it. The daps and everyone telling me I'm next up or walking and having someone acknowledge me as Haze and I'm still just local so I'm like how you know me and they tell me Soundcloud or I was at your performance. I Love this and I always will

What is next for Haze?

What's next is to be everywhere, do the most. I want to perform more and open more shows following my release for never before now. What's next is to be a name that people know of from Jersey. In the meantime, I'll be bettering myself and growing so people can expect more from me and my brother Ryan P. Actually, what's up next is to be next up.