Hip-hop is built for a voice like Haviah Mighty

With her hard-hitting new album 13th Floor, the Brampton MC challenges notions that she’s too dark or too female to succeed in the rap game

HAVIAH MIGHTY with OBUXUM at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), Friday (May 3), 8 pm. $10. thedrake.electrostub.com.

Brampton native Haviah Mighty lays down a manifesto on In Women Colour, going off about her pigment and gender. On the expertly skittish track, co-produced by Obuxum, she challenges notions that she’s too dark or too female to succeed in the rap game.

That’s how she introduces her new album, 13th Floor (out independently on May 10), and over 13 eclectic tracks – tossing it up between catchy melodies, bangers and scrape-your-knees-on-the-concrete rhymes – Haviah gets the point across. Hip-hop is built for a voice like hers.

“Those things that I’ve been marginalized for, the things that made me stand out in ways that are less than positive, are those same things I’ve found a way to become triumphant over and are now heavily representative of my brand,” says Mighty, speaking over the phone from her home in Brampton while explaining the concept behind 13th Floor.

She talks about how an apartment building will skip that particular floor just because it’s deemed unlucky. She sees the number 13 as a concept that is feared, marginalized and dismissed because of a lack of understanding, in the same way that she might be for her dreads and colour. And because of that affinity, she’s owning 13, with her album name, the number of tracks on it and a song deconstructing the 13th Amendment.

The album is co-executive produced by A Tribe Called Red’s 2oolman and features collaborations with Sean Leon, Clairmont The Second and Haviah’s own sister Omega Mighty, who brings the reggae inflections to the infectious fusion party track Wishy Washy.

Omega also serves as Haviah’s makeup artist and choreographer. Their little brother Mighty Prynce produces a few tracks including Blame, where Haviah spits hard but also sings a hook ready to grab listeners on the radio.

The five-sibling Mighty family is a musical clan, taking lessons together in Scarborough since Haviah was four years old. They moved to Brampton for Haviah’s high school years, which is when she started rapping. In 2017, she dropped the EP Flower City and then became the youngest member in The Sorority, the ensemble with Keysha Freshh, pHoenix Pagliacci and Lex Leosis (Pagliacci has since left the group). 

Mighty recognizes the women rappers doing heavy lifting with the bars in Toronto – from the Sorority to Tasha The Amazon – but notes that, as with the U.S., it’s always the dudes who get love. 

“I’m sure one day I’ll be ghostwriting for dudes,” she says, “because it’s so easy to write those types of records. I understand the formula. And it is a formula.”

Mighty goes on to explain how all genres in music have structured ways to play on familiarity and be easily digestible, a game plan to produce hits based on what came before. In rap, the formula has been built by men – it relies heavily on misogyny and makes the game difficult for women. Artists like Mighty have to work extra-hard for their lyrics to break through unconscious biases and be appreciated on their own terms. That perspective is all over 13th Floor.

“I do think the climate is opening up a little bit more to change,” says Mighty. “You’re hearing a little bit more content from people that actually want to say something – not even just the women but also some of the men. And I think that there’s more of a discussion happening between the women and the men. And there’s a little bit more openness as well. We’re a little bit less okay with certain types of ignorance.

“With that alertness, an artist like me can thrive.”

@nowtoronto | @justsayrad

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