I’ve had the privilege of checking out some amazing artists in the past few years, from household names to lesser known up-and-comers. I first caught wind of Heize when I heard her on “And July” with Dean. Her voice has a kind of jazzy R&B vibe, meshing perfectly with Dean’s style. I wasn’t caught up on all the shows like Unpretty Rapstar, so I had no idea she could also rap with such confidence. I checked out some YouTube videos of her on Unpretty Rapstar 2, battling the likes of Sistar’s Hyorin and Truedy. I saw a multi-talented young artist with a goofy side.
The 25 year-old Daegu native, born Jang Da-hye (장다혜), first came on the scene in 2014. After releasing a self-titled mini album, she competed on Unpretty Rapstar 2 in 2015. Since then she’s gained a loyal fanbase who admire her chutzpah and versatility as a performer. In an interview she disclosed that she chose her name from rapper Angel Haze, liking the sound of the word ‘haze’.
In person, the ‘unpretty rap star’ is undeniably beautiful. Petite and doll-like, she wears a confident swagger in Timberlands and a ball cap. As I watched the rehearsal unfold, I couldn’t have guessed that this was Heize’s biggest solo show to date. She was focused, professional, and incredibly humble. The theatre filled up, with many fans sporting signs and banners supporting Heize. My favorite part of the show, aside from hearing my favourite Heize songs, was the energy between Heize and the fans. Her genuine excitement and gratitude for the audience was palpable. As she was hit with the crowd’s cheers she gasped, covering her mouth with a manicured hand. I can’t count the number of times she bowed deeply, thankful and excited to meet her Canadian audience.
Produced by Toronto’s BCUBE Entertainment, Heize’s Toronto leg of her North American tour (also performing in Vancouver), was held at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The show started off with “Me, Myself & I”, “Underwater” and “Shut Up & Groove”. Without backup dancers or fancy choreography, the audience listened with rapt attention as Heize’s sweet voice soared. In between songs, she dedicated a huge part of the show to chatting with the audience. There were also many contests for gifts, autographs, hugs, and signed Polaroids from Heize. It was cool to see how much time and thought she put into meeting her fans. At one point she held up a handful of her CDs and DVDs, as well as “Star stickers I picked out on my trip to Japan!” that she gave to an audience member who was a really big fan. Admirers gave back in kind, with chocolates and a plushie of Heize’s favorite character, Olaf, a talking snowman. She squeezed him tight, letting him perch on the DJ’s table for the rest of the night to watch the show. Heize’s Instagram (@heizeheize) is filled with shots of her extensive Olaf collection, which I find hilarious and fascinating.
The tail-end of the show was polished off with “돌아오지마”. There were a couple of times Heize had to run and grab water, as she began to tear up from the emotions of performing for her fans. It’s seldom that I see a performer as earnest and present, not on autopilot but genuinely feeling the gravity of the moment. As Heize took a bow the audience roared. It was genuinely cool to see witness a performer at the beginning of her touring career, just beginning to grasp the effect her music has on fans. The show ended, and Heize was whisked to another area of the building to a meet and greet photoshoot. Little did I know but Heize had fought through the entire show and fanmeet while still recovering from a flu that had left her bedridden the day before. She had plans to spend the day exploring Toronto, but was unable to leave her hotel room. This was in no way evident during the show, where she sang her heart out.
Coming away from the concert, I have real admiration for Heize and her work ethic. She’s a pint-sized tough cookie, definitely here to stay. If you would like to check out her work, check out Season 2 of Unpretty Rapstar as well as her social media (listed below). Also follow BCUBE Entertainment for future events.
*Check out Heize’s music, available on iTunes