Get to know 2022 Rap Album/EP of the Year nominee, Haviah Mighty in our “7 Questions With” series where we speak with first-time JUNO Award nominees from all genres.
Based out of Toronto, Haviah Mighty has spent a lifetime developing her skills as a songwriter, vocalist, producer, and performer culminating in a style of profound introspection and incisive socio-political critique. 2019 saw Haviah earn break-out success with her album, 13th Floor, garnering overwhelming praise from publications such as Pitchfork and Billboard, and making her the first hip-hop artist and the first Black woman to win the Polaris Music Prize, celebrating the “best Canadian album of the year”.
Soon after, the recognition spread internationally. In addition to praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, to name just a few key trendsetting outlets, Haviah made an acclaimed appearance on Sway in the Morning, impressing with a performance of immaculate flow and fierce lyricism, “showing you something you NEED to be looking at.” Likewise, in the UK, BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders recognized Haviah as “one of the most exciting new rappers out there.” Haviah pushes forward continuing to carve out spaces that boldly defy gendered expectations for women in hip-hop. Unyielding and irresistible – Haviah Mighty will be heard…
1. How did it feel to be nominated for a JUNO?
It kinda felt surreal. Like I felt validated for my art and the steps I’ve taken in my career, but I was surprised at the same time. I’m sure many artists would agree that, above all, it represents a step in the right direction.
2. Which album made you want to become a working musician?
‘Get Rich Or Did Tryin’ by 50 Cent is definitely the album that made me think I could tell audible stories for the whole world to hear! Thanks Fiddy!
3. What are 3 items you require when you’re on-tour?
Three items I require on tour… hmm. Well for one, my merch is coming with me. Vinyl, CD’s, shirts etc. It’s cool to sell that stuff online, which I also do, but I think it feels different when somebody has the opportunity to see you live, and can bring a memory home of the experience. I’ll also bring water, lemons and lozenges for my voice, so I can soothe the throat before and after shows. And finally I gotta have gluten free pills. I’m vegetarian and lactose intolerant, so the dietary restrictions are real – but when it comes to travel, gluten is the hardest thing to manage because it’s in literally everything. Veggie rice? It’s in the soya sauce. Poutine? It’s in the gravy. Veggie burger? Could be in the patty. So, to prevent a reaction on road, I carry gluten enzyme pills with me so I don’t experience aggressive symptoms.
4. What do you think is the best song you’ve ever released? What’s the story behind it?
I released a song/video called “Thirteen” from my previous project, 13th Floor, and of all my releases, I would say this song is the most impactful. I incorporate discussions about race, politics and navigating white supremacy in my music often, and I wanted to write a song to somebody that was locked up at the time, an’ open letter’ breaking down how this path for them had been predetermined by society and their fight needs to be unrelenting, to become and remain free. But when I created “Thirteen,” it was because I stumbled upon the thirteenth amendment in the US constitution, which states that ‘neither slavery nor involuntary solitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to this jurisdiction.’
So in English, this means as of 1865 when it was ratified, slavery is ‘abolished’ and a person labouring against that persons will to benefit another, became illegal – well, unless you commit a crime, that is. So our prison and jail systems that we have today, are modern day slavery. And it’s not a debate. It’s in the US constitution. Learning this gave me the momentum to write about this topic, but without any personal bias, and only driven by facts. I’d never written a song so fast, and it almost felt like I didn’t write it. To this day, this song of mine impresses me the most, and serves as a history lesson to those who listen, and know nothing about it.
5. Which artist(s) would you like to collaborate with most?
There are a lot of artists I’d like to collaborate with, but working with artist producers always excites because I feel their involvement in the process of the song just goes that much deeper. For that reason and because I think it would be incredible and challenging in all the right ways, I’d love to work with KAYTRANADA.
6. What has been your favorite performance of your career?
My favourite performance of my career is definitely the Polaris performance I did, the year I won (2019). It was an 8 minute medley, with a live band and dancers. Because it was an award show, I was able to pull out all the stops! What I loved about it, is the way we interpreted my studio music live by really carving out the instrumentation, and building the drums and guitar and piano live to create impact. We had outfits that helped paint the scene, and it was just full of energy! I can’t wait to do something like that again!
7. What’s next for you?
New music is next for me! I’m working on a project right now, I have a music video from my previous project ‘Stock Exchange’ on the way, I have some musical surprises coming that are not a part of any project, and some cool collaborations as well. I’m also playing a lot of shows and festivals, and thinking of fun ways to keep interacting with the fans and continue growing my bond with my mighty gang fam! It’s an exciting time! “
Watch Haviah Mighty perform live at The 2022 JUNO Awards on May 15th. Tickets on sale now!