26 Nov 2020

Up Close With Miss Angel: “I’m an Activist in Heart and Soul”

We teamed up with Tommy Jeans to capture the new generation of upcoming artists and media personalities who have the power to change our society and perspective on life by using their influence for good. In collaboration with the iconic denim giant, we portrayed five influential frontrunners in their favorite Tommy Jeans look and had an introspective talk about their personal motives, view on our society, and future plans. We already spoke with Flo Windey and Chris Bogaert earlier. Now, it’s time for the one and only Miss Angel.

Miss Angel is back and better than ever. The Belgian rapper became a household name in the Belgian hiphopscene in 2019, when she performed at the biggest Belgian festivals and released her first EP. After a little break, she totally found herself as an artist and is ready to snatch all the wigs left and right. Based on our chat with ‘Ghetto Mami’ herself, we can only say… 2021 is going to be her year!

What does Ghetto Mami stand for?

It’s the best of both worlds. I’m very tomboyish, that’s the more ghetto side in me, more laid-back side, long nails, colors in my hair. But I’m also more Mami, a little more sophisticated, fancier. The two together is just Miss Angel.

Is there a difference between Miss Angel on stage and Miss Angel in video clips?

Yeah definitely, on stage I’m unstoppable, a beast. Truly, I’ve got a lot of energy to give. On the set of a music video as well, but it’s different. There you try to get more into the song, bring that vibe. But on stage, it’s just: “Fuck it, I’m about to perform and about to kill this shit.” So a beast, definitely.

You’re also a dancer, how does your dancing background impact your music?

It has a huge impact because I listen differently to music. Because I’m a dancer, I hear a lot of background sounds, that other people don’t notice straight away. In dance, you learn to focus on the beats, and that gives me more room to come with different flows. And I like to flow. So, I think it has helped me a lot. Also, when I’m writing, I quickly wonder what it would be like to do choreography on the song I’m making. I link those quickly, so it has a huge impact.

In 2019, you released your first EP Ghetto Mami Volume 1, how did you grow as a person and artist since then?

I’m still the same person, but I’ve grown so much, 100%. Two years ago, I was very prudish, looking for my thing, a bit shy as well. I was doubting whether I wanted to do this. And now, I’m like a full-grown woman, I know where I want to go, nothing can stop me. I have a vision I can see when I close my eyes. I used to already have it, but it was foggy and now, it’s clear. My writing skills have also improved. Now I’m more like “fuck it”, whereas I used to think: “Oh what will people think? Will they understand my lyrics?” Now, I think, “if they wouldn’t understand, they’ll just ask.” so yeah, I’ve grown a lot.

Is that also because you got to perform at so many festivals two years ago?

Exactly, you get thrown in front of the wolves. It really helped me. Of course, I had been on stage with my dancing before, but singing and dancing are two completely different things, and I kind of underestimated that. So, it gave me a kick under my ass, to humble myself and start training. Because rapping and feeling the adrenaline, it’s a whole different game. It just went so quickly: Dour asked me, Rock Werchter asked me. And, of course, I wanted to do it, so I had to go with the flow. It went well because I just really wanted it so badly. I had expected to perform at festivals, but just not so quickly and so many.

It was a busy year and people had high expectations, is that why you took a step back afterward? 

Definitely! I was tired (laughs) it was all new for me, so after those festivals, I thought: “I’ve done that now”, and I knew how things worked, but then, I just wanted to prepare myself better. My EP actually wasn’t planned for that summer, but then all those shows came and I had to prepare myself. It was good timing. But after a while, I got tired of my shows. Suddenly I had to make a show of 40 minutes, but I just had four or three singles out. So I had to work quickly to get everything done. And it worked, so I knew I could do it. This time around, I wanted to do things slower, step by step. My manager and I had just been going and going and quickly had to come up with how we’d do everything, like outfits. But now, I want to take my time for those things. I stress a lot and am a perfectionist, so I want things to go perfectly. When I take my time, I can give you the best version of me.

But the queen is back now?

Better than ever! Like she never left!

Icky with da Sticky, what’s that single about, and how is that portrayed in the video? 

It’s about everything: about money like we just all have to work because the pandemic shook our economy. So money but also friends, ‘cuz I’ve had a whole lot of friends come and go in my life: before the Miss Angel, and after the Miss Angel. So I sing: money comes, money goes, people come, people go, that’s just life. Like I need a breather, I have to go. Also because I feel that Belgium isn’t my main goal. I want to go international. It’s a combination of everything: being a woman, you gotta put yourself first, even though people will keep on testing you. Just take a breather and stay focused in chaos.

How that’s portrayed in the video is a bit unclear probably, because there’s no storyline. But I tried to create four moods: one where I’m the sniper: you know you’ve got to be ready, eyes on the prize. Then there’s one where I get kidnapped, that’s a reference to the song, where I sing: “what they want from me, stay away, I feel chained up sometimes.” Sometimes I feel like I give a lot but get nothing in return so that’s that chain. Then, there’s the boss ass bitch outfit, you know, you’re that bitch, never doubt yourself. That’s what I wanted to bring with the video.

Not a lot of Belgian artists have such an international star aura as you. How do you hope to cross borders with your music? 

By taking everything next level, just do international shit, that way international people will see you. In Belgium, it starts to come more and more, take Lous and The Yakuza, for instance, she has huge global potential, hands down, and I feel like I have that as well, but I just have to — you know, it’s hard knowing what people want or want to see. But I think if you bring your craft to the next level, it doesn’t have to be super expensive, but just make people notice your potential.

I want to keep on pushing, not specifically rebranding, but getting things to the next level. It will always be me, otherwise, it wouldn’t work, but just more sophisticated. Like now, my tracks aren’t tracks from the Zeeman, I go there too, I don’t give a fuck. But now I buy a bit more couture with a bit of velvet going on. It’s just that: take it up a notch. Like today, I saw it in the mirror: I’m wearing a basic tracksuit but it’s a look: I’ve got the glasses going on, the rings, the hoops, the lip gloss is popping. And I want to keep that going, it’s hard, of course, because sometimes you’re just tired and you want to chill. But if you want to be remembered, you got to make people remember you. I hope that will help me reach America, the UK, Canada, and all of the above.

Would you rather be underrated or overrated? Both have advantages and disadvantages. 

Of course, both have advantages and disadvantages. It’s an interesting question, I think I’m rather underrated because people will see your potential and will keep on rooting for you, because they’ll know you’re supposed to be up there. If I were overrated in my career of just two years, it wouldn’t be a good sign. I don’t know how you’d come back from that and stay interesting, you know what I mean? So, I’d rather be underrated with an entire gang behind me, rooting for me, because I’ll know I’m going to get there.

Most hip-hop acts peak with a political album, about racism or social wellbeing. Do you see yourself making something like that? Or is that too heavy for Miss Angel? 

It’s definitely not too heavy for Miss Angel, ‘cuz Miss Angel is a human being: I go through depressions, I cry, I get real angry, and I’m a black woman. I’m a walking product of the hate of white supremacy and everything above. I’m an activist in my heart and soul, but I don’t see myself bringing that literally and figuratively in my music, I would use more metaphors, you see? For instance, a female legend, if you go listen to the lyrics, you know “wow she’s talking about being a woman, women could be rappers too, stage sexism fuck off.” I would bring it more like that, still as art.

But we have to be honest, I’m just scared as well: I’m a black woman in a white men’s world, so I’m not trying to get banned for being too activistic. We’ve seen a lot of artists go down that road. Our generation, we want to bring it, but in such a way that people will listen. Take BLM, we’ve seen so many artists suddenly releasing a BLM track. I’m like: since when? I’m no hypocrite, I can’t be because I live that every day, and it’s not a fucking hype. I don’t want to do it for the likes and the followers. So little people know what’s really going on. I want to go deeper myself, in a way that others understand, and something really changes, because that’s important. I don’t want to make a song just to raise awareness, because I am the awareness, I live it every day. So, if I would do it, everyone would know what I’m talking about and hopefully there will be change.

Change is a process, it can’t go too quickly, we have to learn and understand.  

Yeah, not enough people understand it today, it’s all hype. And it’s a shame, but it’s a process, but we have to get there.

2020 is almost over, and we’re all mentally done with it already. What are your plans for 2021?

First of all, I’m going to give y’all a whole lot of music. I’m also thinking about collabs, but mainly focusing on the music, the collabs, the video clips. But we’ll see, we don’t know what to expect of 2021. But after 2020, I believe everyone thinks, “Okay we’re not going to hype the year up, we’ll wait and see.” Hopefully everything changes, I’ll be able to perform again, but I’m talking about a “show show”, like Beyonce’s Homecoming performance, that kind of show. Those are on my list if everything goes according to plan, of course.

Miss Angel is wearing platform sneakers, corduroy jacket, corduroy trousers and puffer jacket from the latest collection of Tommy Jeans.

Photography by Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle
Productionstyling and creative direction by ENFNTS TERRIBLES StudioDries Vriesacker
Makeup and hair by Gladys Ferro
Interview and text by Maxim Meyer-Horn, assisted by Nelke Roose
Photography assistant: Syntyche Boda

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