Did Angel Haze really 'leak' it? Was it all some carefully curated PR stunt? Or was she frothing with red-eyed rage at the sheer ineptitude of Island/Republic? Frankly, the intentions don't mean that much – it's not like it'll make her long-awaited debut Dirty Gold sound any different. New Year's Eve, erm, Eve is probably not the best release date – everyone we know was still on holiday, hence the delay in this review – so there's every chance that Haze did force the exec's hand; but then again, after Beyoncé, Daft Punk, Kanye and Bowie's befuddling shenanigans last year, who the bloody shit really knows?

We can be clear on one thing though. She took a dump on Azealia Banks in the race to release a debut LP; with Banks pushing hers back even further so that it's been delayed over one and a half years (Chinese Democracy, anyone?), and Haze having hers out (almost) when she said it would be, it's clear which one's got the motivation and which is destined to be a one-hit wonder. That's one beef Banks can chalk up as a loss. It's not just the sheer desire to outdo Banks that motivates Haze though, as her debut is just spewing ambition from every orifice. It's grand, swollen with revealing home truths and bustling like Times Square with wit, claws and pain. This isn't your grandmother's hip-hop record.

Now, Dirty Gold's not a perfect record by any means. It's spitshined so much your can hear your reflection in the polyester production; Haze has transformed from the chewin' tarmac grit-smith of yesteryear into a sparkling pop-rap starlet á la Nicki Minaj (who, when not putting on a ridiculous accent or yowling, bears a similar rapping voice to Haze). So, it's not exactly what we wanted or expected, but that doesn't mean it hasn't got its moments of merits.

On the title track, Haze proves that not only is she an utterly competent rapper, she's got a set of stunning, soulful pop pipes. Rather than the genre convention of self-aggrandising braggadocio, she spits poetry about her turbulent upbringing (of which there are candid and at times horrifying details shared) and her feelings. There's a comparison to Eminem in the honesty of her words and the fact she's talented enough that she doesn't have to remind us every 30 seconds. As much as Dirty Gold is a record showing the world that she's not to be trifled with, Haze also confesses, recounts and bares all. It's brutal in so many ways.

The production is, though shinier than a chrome-plated mirror, pretty gnarly. 'Planes Fly' sounds like an R&B retelling of RHCP's 'Under The Bridge', 'Vinyl' wields choppy electronica, 'Deep Sea Diver' seems like she's poached Diplo; there's definitely a variety of sounds on offer. Also worth noting is the fact that she's nicked a leaf from the book of emo when titling her tracks: 'Black Dahlia', 'Rose-Tinted Suicide', 'Angels & Airwaves'...

There are frequent, sustained bouts of greatness – 'Echelon (It's My Way)', 'Black Synagogue', 'White Lillies/White Lies', amongst others – but also a few weaker links, like the cheesy spoken-word interludes on album-low 'Sing About Me' and 'A Tribe Called Red'. It's not without its pitfalls, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.

Ultimately, Angel Haze has solidified and justified her continued existence in the public eye. Dirty Gold is an album rife with silver-tongued lyrics – on that front, there's not really many who can contend with her – but perhaps her choice of beat-merchants could do with a tune-up. She's played it safe, probably on her label's whim, when really, perilous rule-breakers would have been better suited to her lyrical style. Oh well. C'est la vie. The album's still lovely, and Haze'll return before too long with life lessons and enhancements in tow. We'll probably even have her sophomore ahead of Banks' Broke With Expensive Taste. Ooh, burn.