INTERVIEW: HAVIAH MIGHTY TALKS NEW MUSIC, MAINTAINING A PLATFORM WITH PURPOSE, SHIFTING SOCIETAL STANDARDS + MORE

Photo by: Yung Yemi
While many artists use monikers or aliases, Haviah Mighty's birth name is perfectly fitting.

Though she has been singing since the age of 4, rapping since she was 11, and producing at 15, the Brampton-based artist first made waves in the hip-hop community as a member of female rap group The Sorority in 2016 before releasing her solo EP Flower City, the following year.

Haviah's 2019 debut full-length release – 13th Floor, was met with mass praise and went on to win her the Polaris Music Prize – making her the first hip-hop artist and the first black woman to win the award.

Since her debut, Haviah's success continues to climb as she makes her mark on the musical landscape and the world as a whole. More than just a multi-faceted artist, Haviah continues to carve out spaces that boldly defy gendered expectations for women in hip-hop and uses her platform to engage, inspire and inform.

“Though I don’t consider myself an activist, being aware of social issues is important on a human level. Living in your own bliss and disregarding other people’s setbacks is, to me, a blind way to live.”

Speaking up and speaking out on issues of injustice, racism and inequality, she is working hard to create a shift towards a more diverse and welcoming music industry, first and foremost by authentically being Haviah:

“My existence doesn’t qualify in any pre-existing category – so just by creating music as myself, just by being a dark skin black woman with dreads who raps, who is from Canada, just by not conforming to gender norms in my branding, I hope to be a representation of shifting standards.”


There's no question, Haviah has a lot to say – and an immense amount of talent to deliver it.

“[We dropped] 'Atlantic' on Friday, November 13th, a perceived 'unlucky' date, continuing the process of shifting thought away from discarding the unknown as we did with 13th Floor.”

Haviah's first new single "Atlantic" examines the ugly truths of money, the roots of unequal labour, and its impact on marginalized communities worldwide. The track was produced by Haviah herself and Mighty Prynce and its accompanying visualizer was illustrated by BlackPowerBarbie.

“This concept that we can't escape, is so disgusting, and the reason they say, 'money is the root of all evil.’ Specifically, the Atlantic Ocean was used as a vessel of support for these wicked practices, at the expense of my Black ancestors. We were forced to come to the Americas to make this idea of value stronger, bigger, better, with very little benefit. Now we are the 'bottom of the barrel' in the Americas, a disposition I explore with the lyrics 'Never seen Atlanta, but we travel the Atlantic’. The singing vocals at the beginning and especially the end, are to represent our ancestors crying out – a reminder that they were so strong, so resilient, and still here, keeping us empowered. Our history is with them, and if we talk to them, learn from them, do our research – we will be stronger.”


Her latest release "Occasion" is indicative of the sheer, raw talent possessed by this consistently conscious rapper:

“On this record, I focus on the conquest to continue working towards dominating as a music creator. I’ll continue to create through honest introspection, and a desire to lead rather than follow – even if it makes others uncomfortable. Essentially, this song is about the low expectations that people have of those that don’t follow or fit the status quo, and how I’ll push to overcome those doubts and surpass those expectations. The 'occasion' is my downfall, and in this song, I fight its existence. The production for 'Occasion' initially developed while on Instagram Live back in March, just as we were settling into whatever the COVID pandemic was going to look like. A producer on the Live (Sauce Junky) sent me some stems, I downloaded them, flipped them into a beat, and asked my brother (Mighty Prynce) to hop on the percussion. While it was just for fun initially, the people watching seemed to love it, so I fleshed it out channeling the unstoppable energy that I was feeling at the time.”


With freshly-dropped new music and more on the way, Haviah shows no signs of stopping and emphasizes the importance of personal momentum:

“Though times are tough, we can’t succumb to the uncertainty of the changes around us, and I dig into still wanting to achieve, grow, and be successful in this world, on many of the songs. Though so much around us feels stagnant, life is still moving, and we gotta keep moving, too!”

With touring at a standstill, Haviah eagerly waits to bring her explosive live show back on the road. Her captivating in-your-face intensity and fast, technical flows have earned her the opportunity to open for the likes of Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Nelly, Redman and Method Man and so many other huge names. Until she is able to perform in front of a physical audience again, Haviah is dedicated to staying creative in the studio and actively advocating for change in the community.

Q: What can you tell us about your new music? 


The creative process was different in that, with COVID restrictions, I spent most of my time alone in my studio, building and fleshing out ideas as opposed to collaborative sessions. Instead of sitting down with the producers, they would send their stems remotely and we’d work that way. I had to be more self-sufficient in ensuring the songs developed. Lyrically, I focused on impactful songwriting and relatability, and using newfound introspection to explore existing and new themes. This year has introduced many of us to a new way of thought and living, what with a pandemic, jobs being stifled, and connectivity being heavily restricted. Connection through dance is explored on a couple of the records. Being alone with your thoughts is a theme I also explored. Of course, with the political climate, there is some focus on what it means to back marginalized communities, and zeroing in on further recognition of those setbacks. Though times are tough, we can’t succumb to the uncertainty of the changes around us, and I dig into still wanting to achieve, grow, and be successful in this world, on many of the songs. Though so much around us feels stagnant, life is still moving, and we gotta keep moving, too!

Q: You’ve achieved tremendous and authentic success with a purpose. As an artist, how important is it to use your platform to address the injustices of the world? What is it that personally drives you to passionately dedicate your art to speaking out on social issues?


An artist’s job, from my perspective, is to connect with the audience. As a musical artist, I use sound as my main basis for connection. But what inspires that sound, the lyrics that sit over top, and the supporting visuals? Things that connect us, and relate to us in masses, are the things I often explore to create my art. It’s important to me to create in the real world, and not in illusion. I am driven to speak on themes that affect many of us, to evoke empowerment and self-positivity. Though I don’t consider myself an activist, being aware of social issues is important on a human level. Living in your own bliss and disregarding other people’s setbacks is, to me, a blind way to live. And this world is full of lessons, designed for us to learn and grow. Being cognisant of what’s going on, is what gives us that knowledge for learning and growth. Sometimes, I will use my platform to address injustices in the world, because we all live in this world, and nothing I create is independent of the issues that surround us. We can’t live in a state of ignorance, and considering I also speak to themes of the ignorance that specifically impacts me as a young black woman living in Canada, I have to implore myself and the audience I reach to push all types of ignorance out of our comfort zone.

Q: In what ways does the music industry need to change and grow to become more inclusive?


There’s a lot of things that need to change in this world, for that to happen. The world needs to become more inclusive. If I feel excluded as a woman, or as a BIPOC, or as a person that identifies on the LGBTQ spectrum, and these things are not readily accepted in the real world, they won’t be accepted in the music industry. Not truly. I find the music industry very reflective of our real world, so we see the same life hardships hustle their way into the music industry standards. Within my camp, we are working towards shifting what standards look like. And mostly, I think that’s what needs to happen. My existence doesn’t qualify in any pre-existing category – so just by creating music as myself, just by being a dark skin black woman with dreads who raps, who is from Canada, just by not conforming to gender norms in my branding, I hope to be a representation of shifting standards. The music industry needs to welcome more creatives pushing these boundaries and societal norms.

Q: Are there BIPOC organizations or resources you recommend?


Searching for alternative organizations/businesses/resources that are BIPOC owned has become easier than ever. It really depends on the product or service you’re looking for, but there are tons of lists that have been put together, and are readily available on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook. A simple Google search will render you results. Doing a bit of extra work, to support small start up businesses, or groups/communities who inevitably have less, usually benefits you as the customer anyway. They put that hard work and personal touch into said product or service in a way a massive corporation simply cannot. But these businesses can’t advertise the way the big companies can, either. So dig a little. If you’re local/GTA, I would start by checking out the BlogTO list of 100 Black Owned Businesses in Toronto Right Now. If you’re not local, there are probably lists like this for your area. Perhaps you’d like to support women-driven initiatives, or the Indigenous community - now, more than ever, all you need to do is type it into a search bar!

Q: How are you getting through these unprecedented times?


Trying, like everybody else. I’m staying distracted from everything going on, but trying to still pay attention to it all. I’m managing my mental health and trying not to induce trauma by what I’m exposed to, but also trying to educate myself and stay informed. I’m focusing on my body, and how it’s aging. I’m trying to eat better. I’m loving myself, and those around me. And I’m just trying to open my eyes and ears even wider, to receive information and understanding. More than ever, I’m learning to connect with others. Ironically, in a pandemic where social distancing has become our new normal, I’ve found more ways to connect with people and remind myself that although I make music, I am also human.

Q: What’s next for Haviah Mighty?


More music! Lots and lots of music! I’m excited to start releasing some new singles and of course, as they roll out, I’ll be working on new music again. It’s a revolving door of creative expression. Luckily, life never stops giving you inspiration.




Connect: