Southern California Shot in L.A. Photographer: Angella Choe // @ib_dat_pmf Stylist: Ton Aguilar & Van Van Alonso …
PAUSE Takes It Back To The 90’s with Angel
Interviewer: Johnson Gold // @Johnson_Gold
Photographer: Dean Martindale // @DeanMartindale
Stylist: Jen Eleto // @Jenelectro
Assistant Stylist: Rhys Marcus Jay // @RhysMarcusJay
Fashion Assistant: Jessica Stratton & Bernice Mulenga // @jmstratt @burneece
Videographer: Jordan Brown // @JordzSociety
A voice from the 90’s, Angel is a one-of-a-kind in the UK music business. With a soulful R’n’B aesthetic visually and vocally, Angel lives and breathes all things old school. Born and risen from West London, when Angel hit 20 he went through a life changing experience that allowed him to wake up and chase what he really loves to do, which is music. Today Angel hops back onto the 90’s with his latest track Hop On and opens up to PAUSE about the challenges he overcame growing up, his favourite 90’s brands and his upcoming album.
So what does the name ‘Angel’ mean to you and how did you come up with that nickname?
To be quite honest with you, to be totally honest, I went away for a little while. In that place that I was in, that was what they called me. Do you know what I’m telling you?
Where did you go?
I went to the bad place, where you go when you know you’re being drawn out – behind the four walls. I was there for about 6/7 months and I was just myself, I played piano in the church every Sunday and the Gods were just like “You’re an angel in the skies, what are you doing here?” and they would just call me Angel every day of my time there. When I left, I started writing letters to everyone and on the back I would write ‘Angel.’ When I came out and I started doing record stuff and they said ‘What’s your name?’, I said ‘My name is Angel.’
So what did you learn from that experience?
I learnt a lot of things. I learnt that my path and my friend’s paths were two different paths. I had to understand that I’d been blessed and I had to understand that sometimes the race is not for the soft but who can endure because you see your friends, everyone else doing things and it’s cool, it’s fun, you want things. It’s easy to be drawn out and I just feel like in life you have to make a decision, a decision on what you want to do in life and I feel like I had to take that minute out. God said ‘No, stay there for a second – get your mind right and when I bring you back, you better know what time it is. It wasn’t a joke to me it was serious business. On a more upside to that, I wrote songs in there. I wrote a song called ‘I’m Coming Home’, which when I came out, Pixie Lott took it and it was featuring Jason Derulo. I don’t know, it was just like everything happens for a reason – that’s where that whole Angel thing came from.
How old were you when you were in Prison?
I was 20.
“Music is like first nature. I would do music every day. That’s all I do…”
Were you doing music prior to when you were in there?
Yeah, I was doing music, but music is like first nature. I would do music every day. That’s all I do, like when the friends come round, the boys and the street guys come around and watch and do it and then it just gets nuts. Music was one thing and yeah we loved that, but how do you go and get money now? How do I have that chain that you’ve got, and how am I gonna get this Rolex? How am I gonna do those things? And that’s what draws you out, but you live and learn.
Sometimes you have to go through something and it’ll wake you up?
That’s what I felt like I needed. God felt like I needed that like I needed waking up. So he took me and he put me in the worst case scenario and he said “You know what, when I get you out of this place, not if – when I do, you’re gonna appreciate, just the little things.” Like just to have your keys in your pocket, your phone in your pocket, just little things. To walk around and to be able to go outside and think.
What did you do after you came out of Prison? Tell me 5 things you did for a change.
When I came out, I kind of distanced myself from my most grittiest friends. That’s one of the things I had to do and not because I don’t love them or because they’re not my friends – more because we just do two different things and they’re just two different lifestyles and I had to realise that. Another thing is I had to stop being so common, stop hanging on the blocks, stop hanging on the street corners because I figured like, if people can see you on the street corner why are they going to get a ticket to come to your show for? All I have to do is go up the road and chill there. Do you get what I’m saying? The novelty wears off you, loads of things. Another thing I’ve done was when I flew out to Denmark and Sweden for like 4/5 months just to get a change of stuff and I’ve always known that like STARGATE, Cutfather & Joe they’re from Denmark. The music we listen to, most of the music that we hear, comes from there. So I thought, let me go over there and chill out and see what I can do. If I can just get creative out there in somewhere else, a different mind space… Done that and I started praying a lot more, like getting closer to the Lord, because of just seeing his merciful greatness, you know just all that. There is a few things that I’d done, a few things, but I can just remember getting closer to the Lord and then once I got closer to the Lord it was like nothing could really trouble you, nothing could really draw you out. That energy can’t come around you, it can’t, cos you’re on a different wave. You know what you’re thinking, you know what you’re doing. Sometimes in life you know it doesn’t mean that you’re a punk or you’re not road [street] or whatever, no-one wants to be road [street]. They just say you’re cool to be road [street], but what it is is that you’ve just grown in this spot, in this environment and it just sounds cool you know.
“God has made sure that I’m good. I’m good, I’ve got studio space, I’m living, I’m alive… I can do what I wanna do”
It’s a way for you to be challenged and decide, do you wanna stay there or do you wanna grow.
Yeah! Do you want to be the ‘G’ of the ‘G’s industry’ or would you like to be so successful and influential so that when you stop in 20 airports everyone’s having a madness. I’d rather do that, I don’t wanna be the G of my hood, I’ll be the punk of my neighbourhood. I’ll be the G of inspiration and be inspiring to people and showing them stuff, and letting them take something like that from me. I don’t want to make people think like that they’ve gotta go bully people and take things off them. That’s not my message. But obviously, in time of need, a brother’s gotta do what a brother’s gotta do. We know that. We still got common sense and we still got morals and we still got principles – still been brought up by a mum and dad that teach you right and wrong and you know right and wrong so it’s like you just gotta tell which road is yours. I found my road and ever since there, whether I’ve had a record out or whether I’ve been as relevant as everyone out there thinking “What happened to Angel?”, God has made sure that I’m good. I’m good, I’ve got studio space, I’m living, I’m alive, I woke up. My family and friends are close to me, I’ve got money in my pocket like I can do what I wanna do. That’s the most important thing. If it’s not my record out, the record you’re listening to – just know I wrote it. So it’s always a blessing, it continues to bless me and I continue to seize merciful kindness, so I’m just like “this is me, I’m on, I’ll act the fool for the Lord.”
So you’ve just released a track called ‘Hop On’, can you tell us the idea behind that track?
Alright so basically, come on man, Cut Close, I grew up listening to it. That was one of the main tracks on my playlist, and I just figured like I heard it recent and I was just like “you know what, that is my jam” and see how everyone thinks that this 90’s thing is coming back now when it’s never gone, it’s just that everyone’s clocking [taking notice] onto it now like “oh 90’s is back, okay” I just had this mad idea to throw this trap drum, this trap tempo drum behind that [*hums*] see with that tempo and then do the double timing. I just felt like, “let me bring that back, put my twist on top of it, make it current, make it 2016 – and give like that generation that are trying to be 90’s, you’re only 16 or 17 for crying out loud, that was born in like 1999 like you didn’t really live that.” Like saying, you didn’t hear the original but I’m gonna recreate and let you hear this modern version for you, the new generation, and then you can go and tap into the original after and see where this thing’s coming from, the roots. So like, I came up with that whole vibe and flipped it and put the verse on it and I thought “woah, this is cool” and then what made it more buzzing for me is that everyone else started going nuts over it like “nah, this is crazy” and it was like a particular preference for everyone, like “no I know you’re doing lots of 90’s stuff, but this one here is sick, the way you’ve topped that one and I said okay so let’s make this really, really like that I figured like it needs a kind of foxy vibe, a Lil-Kim vibe, and I said obviously we’ve still gotta keep it British cos that’s what we are – we’re just kinda inspired by these great music’s but I’m saying, who do I think? So I said let me holla at Stefflon Don, Stefflon came down to the studio and we vibed, we vibed, we vibed. She said “yeah, what’s up”, she went in the booth, she started spitting [rapping], it was just so organic the way it came out and the way it came together. I can remember it was 2 or 3 takes and the third take was it and the rest was history. I said you know what, this needs to come out now, and they could have it for free. You see with me, my thing is even if I’m taking 90’s records and sampling, like whoever has to pay you can have 110%, that’s not what I’m taking. I’m not taking it to like discuss or argue and debate about who’s having whatever percent. It’s your record, I just had fun with it, I’m just trying to reintroduce it to the new generation, you know what I mean? And then the money’s in my show anyway. I’m not doing this to get royalties of this, I’m doing shows and like tryna put this music out and that’s just basically it.
So what do you love about 90’s so much?
I was born in ’87, I lived through the 90’s – genuinely. So like the 90’s music, what was out, I didn’t have a choice ‘cos [because] that’s what the music was. My mum, buying all them records like Mary J Blige, Jodeci – my big brother, I didn’t have a choice like that was the music of the era – of my era. Like 90’s music, I just loved the whole vibe of it, it was much more exciting, much more like the anticipation of waiting for the song to come on MTV Base, was a madness. Like you had to put in the requests, you can’t just go on Facebook and watch it a million times, the novelty wears off it becomes like “ahhh”, it’s too like, easy. Before it was like that vibe, the suspense, running home like “you lot, MTV cribs is on tonight!” just crazy things that I remember, just much more exciting. Now it’s just like the value of music, it’s like too easy, everyone just does it. Don’t forget, back in the days it’s like, if you’re doing a record you better sing, don’t feel like you’re going to slap no auto-tune – no, you better sing, and sing it right, alright? That was the beauty and the art of music and being a musician. Especially if you wanna take it back to the 80’s, even more, you can copy and paste the chorus – this was real to real, sing it right the way through and get it right. You gotta rate Whitney, Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder – there was no copy and paste, they had to sing it and sing it right. That’s what I love about the 90’s, it was if you had it, or if you could do it, you could do it. Now it’s mad, a plumber might turn into a rapper tomorrow. It’s crazy. A man that use to hate music, might do music tomorrow because it’s an easy way out and he knows all he has to do is just say some clever things that might be clever and just like slap autotune on it.
You feel like in this generation people are just making music with no passion behind it?
No passion behind it, but you know I wouldn’t say that there is no passion because these singers are actually passionate about what they’re doing – so passionate about it, but it’s like it’s not original and too congested. See this market, it is too congested. There’s a hundred Futures, there’s a hundred Meeks, everyone wants to do the same thing. Everyone wants to just like live for now and they just wanna do what’s cool now. “Nah nah, Meek brought out that tune yesterday or Future brought out that tune yesterday so I wanna do a tune, similar to that.” But with me, I just wanna do what feels right, I just wanna make good music because when that period is done, what are you gonna do?
“I wanna do what makes me happy and what makes the people that listen to my music happy.”
So what makes you stick to your R’n’B and not change your style, kind of like what these people are doing?
I can’t, it’s in my DNA, it’s in my blood. Even if I tried to like, change, it wouldn’t – you’d hear it come out in some way. And that probably might be, my problem for over here – why it’s not pop enough. We had our pop rap, I just wanna do what I love. I wanna do what makes me happy and what makes the people that listen to my music happy. I don’t want to do things that will just make 10 people happy, or the radio happy. And that’s my people that listen to it and enjoy it, good music, and genuinely. I don’t wanna do that, I’m tired of that, I just wanna make music that I love doing. I feel comfortable, I don’t care about if I get paid for it, I don’t care if I’ve taken something and they want 120% – like all of that. I just want to make music that I love and listen to and I enjoy and everyone else enjoys. That’s just it, that’s it, easy, that’s just all I wanna do.
How important do you think it is to stay true to yourself in music?
It’s very important, I feel like how you mean to go on, is how you should start. So like, we all make mistakes but I feel like we could learn off each other like you see me I’ve been through like a little, but a lot. Do you get what I’m saying? And I’m not saying I’ve been through the whole works but I could like say do you know what, if you’re doing R’n’B and it’s working and that’s your sound and that’s your vibe – don’t go and do a dance record even though you think it’s gonna be top 10 tomorrow because it damages your thing. Maybe a little bit more down the line. When I flip back to my R’n’B thing it’s like “Oh, what you doing?, who are you?” You know what I mean, I feel like that’s very important. You need to know who you are, and for your fans to know “Oh that’s Angel.” Like right, when I came back, okay for instance when I did 7 Minutes Before Time or had mixtapes that was just hood, no brainer, like not thinking about labels, just enjoying myself, the reception I got off that was so crazy. I felt the buzz, I felt like I was growing, I was onto something. And then I went into the Wonderful thing and that was good, it opened some doors but if I could’ve waited to do Wonderful and not done that just yet and done that when I’ve done everything that I really wanted to do and I’m just going to just take a turn because it’s not gonna hurt me, then I would’ve put Wonderful out. But if I could just go back and say no, keep it to my music, you see after Wonderful when I started doing stuff back like to, On The Low, and your Hop On’s and your Rudeboy’s they said “that’s the Angel – that’s how you started. That’s how 7 Minutes Before Time was like, that’s you. See when you go into the other thing it’s cool, but like Conor Maynard could do that. It’s too easy Angel – do what you do, that R’n’B thing that’s what you do. Stay true to that, and that’s all you have to do.” Good music’s good! I always say there is two genres of music: good and bad, and that’s it.
Have you done any performances in America? I feel like you’d really buzz over there, you should definitely do some stuff over too.
Not yet, not performances. Well I just got signed to Motown over there now, in L.A. so I am literally doing promo now at the radios, I just got a new record with Rich Homie Quan so that’s coming out over there like. I’m starting to do my radios and stuff to break over there. ‘Cos [because] don’t forget like once you break over there you’re like international – it doesn’t even matter like I am London. I carry us over there, I wear my London, my British flag on my sleeve. They know what I am, I don’t try to change, and I talk exactly as I talk over there, I just sing, I just sing like that. I sing where you can’t hear my English accent. But that’s like, a good and a bad thing. You understand? It’s a good thing because it don’t matter, but then, on the other hand, I’m not trying to talk American, I love London to bits. That’s just how I’m gonna carry it you know like London, London, London. But just internationally.
Which old school American artist from the 90’s would you have loved to collaborate with? And why?
Mint Condition, because they’re just so talented. Their lead singer a drummer, Pretty Brown Eyes is a crazy record and I just like their whole vibe. The way they sing and play and their melody and their arrangements are crazy. And don’t forget they’re coming from the same school as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Yeah, definitely – and I’m very musical! Don’t forget, I produce all my own stuff so it’s not like getting a beat and singing on it. I love the art of music and composing so them for me would really do it. I’d love to even in this day do it, we were talking about it the other day I’ve got like a couple of records like that’s really like that tempo, that Pretty Brown Eyes tempo and I just thought that maybe one day, just like doing BET or something like that in America and having them be the band like Mint Condition, performing that sh** together. Like go in to Pretty Brown Eyes and do something epic.
What are your favourite old-school brands? Name 5 of your favourite 90s brands…
Ellesse, Karl Kani, I use to like… Fila – love Fila. Reebok and there’s this one more… Champion! I’m a 90’s G, I’m really 90’s. It’s weird as well like you see 16 and 17-year-olds…
What do you think about everyone hopping onto this 90s trend right now?
I’m like “please.” But I can’t knock you because you were, just not born when we were born. But I’m saying, just know I was doing that when I was in school, like in nursery I had Champion. That Champion top I was wearing back in nursery. It’s good though, it’s good to see the cycle. It’s good to see like, how do things go out of fashion and come back around, why did it go out of fashion if it’s cool but in the first place, you don’t get it. And why did it come back? It’s just all nuts. But I love it, it’s just sick.
So you will be releasing a track every month? And your album is set to come out early next year, right?
Every month I want to put music out. I’m in the middle of making this new album, it’s nearly finished…
I’m releasing it early next year, but before then I wanna give them something like an EP, called ‘Her’ and that’s just gonna be like a list of tunes like Hop On gonna be on there, Rude Boy, Tongue Song. I got a new tune that I’ve just done like 3/4 days ago and it’s called Every Little Step I Take that I’ve kind of just done that. Just like 90’s feelings, that’s my vibe I’m just having fun and I am ripping 90’s stuff.
So the whole album is about 90’s?
That’s my theme right now.
Why did you call it ‘Her’?
Because of right now, my album’s called ‘Woman’, so I’ve given them a breakdown from ‘Woman’ like to ‘Her’, just so it’s like in the same content because don’t forget, the reason I’ve called the album ‘Woman’ is because everything for me in my life stems off a woman – even down to getting paper. We want to flipping see Elizabeth in our pocket don’t we? And just like little scenarios like in love, Rude Boy, it just all stems back to a woman. So I just wanted to give them the same content but like call it ‘Her’, before the album. So I don’t have to kind of just, come out with something and then be like “Oh the album’s called Woman.” I’ll just be like “Hey here’s Her, this is the EP and wait for Woman.”
What was it like to be back at Wireless Festival again?
Wireless was sick, it felt good to be back on the stage. That felt amazing, because I haven’t done Wireless in like what, 3 years now? I’ve been off, not off the market, but like I just haven’t had music out and I haven’t been as hot as I was at one stage, because I’ve been fine-tuning my sound – I’ve figured it out right now and I haven’t had it figured out that’s why I’m back doing festivals and stuff, that was sick for me. Just feeling that electric buzz, you know coming up on that stage and seeing all them fans and actually seeing them singing it back to you, even these new records it’s like ‘is this what I’ve been missing?’ It reminds you, why you do what you do. And just like, some of my friends, some of my family’s here and I’m out here, and it was sick Steff London came out and the crowd loved it for the first time. It just made you feel like, I can’t wait, I’ve got V Festival coming up both days. It’s really good.
Watch ‘Hop On’ music video here: