Hailing from Richmond Hill Queens, Angel Moret has been lacing dudes with some of the tightest fades and illest tapers for the better part of 16 years. Paying dues in many of the hoods most well known shops has earned him much respect throughout (and beyond) the 5 boroughs. Respect not only for his skills as a Barber, but also his dedication as a father. As the proud father of 2 beautiful kids, Angel has been able to balance his career with fatherhood, seamlessly. Big Ang has experienced a great deal in his years barbering. He’s seen the good AND the bad, but what brought him to the Hustle, has always been to me, nothing short of providence. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big believer in coincidence. I’m one who feels things happen for a reason… Angel’s connection to the Hustle is one of these instances.
Back when Charly was just about to open the Hustle there was a minor concern… there were only 2 barbers on board at the time. Although they both had a good amount of clientele, the Hustle was an upstart coming out of nowhere and faced stiff competition. I remember getting a call from Charly and hearing a returned easiness in his voice… “Yo, I got Angel”. I recall asking, “Angel?! Where the hell did he come from?” though in all actuality, I really didn’t care… Hearing it just felt right, almost like it was some divine intervention sh!t. “Yeah he said he’s closing his shop”, continued Charly. From that point forward I’ve always felt that it WAS some preordained shit. The Hustle was meant to be. In any case, Angel was true to his name and the Hustle opened up shop… Deep… And it’s presence was felt instantly.
Ang and I kicked it for a little bit, and he took me on a journey… A trip that for a moment took me back to a time when dudes like Bald Head Slick and Primo monopolized the airwaves (and I don’t mean the radio). When the brews were cheap & cold, smoke was in the air, and passing cars made everywhere sound like a concert.
To truly appreciate the exchange below, bump any Gangstarr joint and behold the realness.
G: So Ang, how did you start cutting hair?
Angel: Chillin’ with one of my boys… His barber was his next door neighbor and he broke his arm. We’re in the backyard waiting to get cuts and he was like yo, I can’t do it but if anybody wants to try, I could do a step by step. Nobody stepped up so I was like, I’ll do it! And so he went step by step, and I went step by step, and you know, sh!t came out HORRIBLE, but you know, I did it, Lol! And it was on from there… I was like 19
G: Lol…What was your first shop gig?
Angel: Flava Cutz… From there I went to Ace of Fades, then went to Hair We Do with Charly, Lol! Then I went back to Flava.. Left again…Then I went to Nappy Dugout…Left!! Lol, went back to Ace of Fades.
G: Wow you been around, I remember all those shops…Nappy Dugout, that takes me back…You had your own shop too right, how was that?
Angel: Yeah…It was bad… I went in with a partner and things didn’t work. Yeah, it was a lesson learned… I had barbers that wanted to be drug dealers or whatever… Barbers that wanted to do their own thing. I wasn’t fnckin’ with that.
G: You’ve been here at the Hustle from the beginning, how’d that come about?
Angel: Yeah, from Day One… I was cutting this dude and he tells me he heard Charly was opening up a shop. I was just about to close mine… So I called, “What up Charly? I heard you opening up a shop!” “Nah, um…” I said ” Yo, I’m closing man!” He was like, “Ahhh Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Lol.
G: I saw your FB status… 16 years and you still feel like you’re learning?
Angel: Yeah I STILL feel like I’m learning… everyday. It’s like with the Mohawks, I told myself I would NEVER do a Mohawk. But, you know, you gotta do it if you want that money!
G: Yeah, hawks been around for minute now surprisingly…
Angel: Whaat?! I thought they were a PHASE … This is just some sh!t dudes are going thru…Oh I’ll pass! Then everybody started wanting them and I’m like YO, I gotta get up on my GAME!!! Jumped on YouTube right quick lol, GOOGLE! LOL!
G: Lol, yeah google is a wonderful thing! But still, that isn’t something you can just watch and do.
Angel: Nah, it takes skill. You have to know what you’re doing… I started cutting at 22. Officially, in a barbershop, 23.
G: Oh, at a shop in a year?
Angel: See I went to Barber School… I went to Atlas, over by St. Marks.
G: Word…How long?
Angel: Sh!t, not long… Just enough for them to say, Yo umm, you owe us money, get out! Lol
G: Lol that’s real!
Angel: I bumped into some dudes in there, and you know people would come in and pay $5 for a haircut, I’d give it in and these dudes were like “Yo what you doing man?? You already giving them money man, yo pocket that money!” Me, Whut?? I’m like, how you do that? See, when you went to class they’d give you assigned seats and they were like “everyday when you come in, switch the seats” I was like WORD?!?!? Lol
Angel: So anyway the day I got suspended, Lol, I came to Queens, went to Flava Cutz… It was on from there.
G: Lol…So after all that, would you still recommend someone starting out to go to school?
Angel: Yeah, you get to know the basics, to help you to start off… But you gotta hustle… I used to go to Smokey Park everyday, EVERYDAY. “Yo, you need a cut?, Yo, YOU need a cut? Yeah, OK, come on” … … … You smoke REE-FERS? Lol
G: Lol, that’s MAD real! Back then, I’d be like, (glance left, glance right, and with the straightest possible face) “Yeah.”
Angel: Lol, Thats when it started… Man, when I got the job at Flava, I remember I was twisted as hell! I had to bring somebody in so I could show I know how to cut, so I went to Smokey and waited for my man to get home from work. He comes, I’m like come on, he’s like “where we going, I just got home from work!” I say, come to this shop with me you ’bout to help get ME a job… He’s like “Hold oooon, uh, can we smoke first?! Can we go to 132 and 101?” Lol, I STILL cut that dude’s hair that got me the job at Flava… We were supposed to go to school together. I had a couple dudes that were all supposed to do that and we were supposed to open a shop in the neighborhood… I was the only one that went with it.
G: Lol, those were the DAYS and THAT was the place… So you went in there blazed, Lol…”You’re Hired!” ( in my most Howard type voice) Lol
Angel: Yeah man lol, Ralph was in my ear like (deep voice) ” Yo man, you taking mad long on a number 2 with a skin fade!” Lol
G: You knew Ralph from before that?
Angel: I knew him but I didn’t know him, I had gone to school with his sister….
G: And Charly you met at Flavas?
Angel: Yeah, but I used to see Charly at Smokey with his roller blades… I USED TO SEE YOU TOO!
Angel: YEEEAAAHH! By the handball courts…WITH A 40! Lol
G: LMAO! Yeah that sounds about right, lol! You just took me way back!
G: And you mentioned Charly with the roller blades, he was out there hustling too! All y’all dudes were out there infringing on each others territory, Lol! All on each others turf and whatnot, lol!
Angel: YEEAAAH, lol.
G: But nowadays a lot of these younger dudes want everything quick fast… They don’t really think about putting in that kinda work.
Angel: A lot of dudes don’t realize that man. They wanna come in and cut hair and make money, quick fast… Nah man. I used to get mad when I first started, I didn’t really know how to cut, I didn’t have any real clientele. Come in Friday, Saturday I’m sitting down like, aww man, watching all these other dudes cutting… They talkin bout “Oh I made two fifty, three hundred dollars” and I’m sittin’ there, I got like $30 in my pocket, Lol… I had to realize you gotta be in there everyday…to make money, you gotta be in there everyday…you in there everyday and your day will come.
G: You gotta earn the respect before the money… But after that, you get mad LOVE!
Angel: Yeah, my girl hates walking around cuz it’s like everywhere we go, we bump into a customer of mine. She’s like damn, you know somebody here, you know somebody there. She’s from Connecticut…Man, we went out there one day and we run into one of my clients… She was like Oh my god! I can’t even bring you to Connecticut!?
G: Barbers are kind of like unsung celebrities… I mean you guys are responsible for someone looking good…But I don’t think y’all get as much credit as you deserve…
Angel: When I first started, I had one of my uncles come at my mom like, “A Barber? He wants to be a Barber? He ain’t gonna go nowhere, he ain’t gonna make no money…” After I started making money and all that, see him later and he asks what I’m doing? I said I’m still cutting hair… He’s like “for real?!” Yeah you doubted me right? I’m looking good, kids looking good, I don’t beg nobody for money or nothing like that…
G: Yeah people sleep… Half step. This is real… Barbering goes back. It’s like there have always been barbers… An art that’s been passed down.
Angel: I got 2 of my cousins in PA, they started cutting because of me… One is a female, she does both guys and girls hair… Her brother is starting school now, for cutting hair and all that.
G: That leads to my next question… Would you teach?
Angel: I got couple dudes that I taught, but I’m up to a point now where, if you’re not showing you want to learn, I’m not going to teach you. You got these dudes that say they want to learn, “I wanna learn” then when you’re trying to teach them, they’re running around over here, over there… I remember a dude at Ace of Fades, this kid is like 16 years old, I see him having trouble, I ask him if I could show him something real quick… He’s like “nah man, I got this, I got this…” I’m like aight… A few minutes go by and he’s like, “Yo A, um can u help me out?” – Nah maaaan, lol you got it, you got it! Lol
G: What about your son, if he wants to cut? I mean he practically grew up in the shop…
Angel: I’m good with it…I don’t know, he’s told me he wants to be a Barber before but he also said he wants to be a basketball player, and he wants to be this and that. He’s 7 now… at one point it was just me and him. Every time somebody sees him now they’re like “THAT’S your son?! That’s the little one that used to sit right there?!” (points to a 2 square foot area next to his barber chair)… My son asked me, “Daddy, why does everybody always say I used to sit right there?” ‘Cuz you used to sit RIGHT THERE, Lol!
G: Had to be hard…
Angel: When he started school, I remember I used to take him to school in the morning, come here, leave to go pick him up, come back here, and then leave to go BACK to the BX.
G: Wow…and your daughter?
Angel: My daughter is going to high school next year… Just went over to the High School Fair…
G: Mine too, where does the time go? Does she know what school she wants to go to?
Angel: Either Frederick Douglas or Laguardia… She’s into performing arts at school…she’s involved in all the plays and talent shows. On Saturday’s she takes acting classes… She was doing Ice Skating for 4 or 5 years… I remember when she used to have them shows, having to be outside in the COLD (does the universal freezing self hug) MAN, you lucky I love you, man! Lol! But last year was her last year… She said she wants to focus more on acting.
G: Ha! I feel you, but they need to be stimulated, especially when they’re into something…You got any words of advice for young dads trying to get in this game?
Angel: Hard work and dedication… But the main thing is you gotta be patient, it’ll come.
Angel: Cutting hair is like you’re selling drugs… This (pointing to his chair and station) is all your lil’ corner right here. Lol, You gotta make sure your work is good, so you could keep them comin’ back. Lol.
G: So you servin’ em, huh? Lol, Hustling!
Angel: Yeah man, HUSTLIN’, you got the next dude on corner (pointing to the next station) comin’ out, like “Yo I’m nice!” You mess around, he gets one of your customers, that’s it, you’re done. Lol
Almost on cue the homeboy Angel mentioned he’d been cutting since way back comes in for his cut.
G: So how long has Angel been cutting your hair?
Macho: I was the FIRST head Angel cut! Like 16-17 years.. Practicing on my head and sh!t…I’d say it’s like this…
Angel: Yeah but he was more like “my barber does this like this and my barber does this like that” (fingers all in his own hair) and I’m like, “Come on MAN! lol.”
Macho: Lol, But in all that time, I think maybe one time I’ve had somebody else touch my hair… All these years, maybe one time, and not even… Yo, you know who I saw the other day?!
As the conversation turns towards a barber-client confidentiality, I fall back and give these old friends their space. What they’ve got going on right there is a members only tradition and I didn’t feel it right to infringe upon it. There were a few more questions I wanted to ask, but I feel I caught the essence of this hustler’s spirit…