There’s no high Haviah Mighty cannot reach. For nearly twelve years, the artist has dedicated an incredible amount of her energy to sharpening her craft and this moment feels like a fever pitch. In 2019, she became the first Black woman and the first hip hop artist to win a Polaris Music Prize with her debut album 13th Floor. Her most recent accolades include winning Rap Album of the Year with Stock Exchange at this year’s JUNO awards, another first as the only Black woman to have received it to date.
But this is just one stop of a very mighty journey.
Haviah is hungry and ready to claim the next part of her destiny. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support after her nabbing the award, she found herself back in the studio recording a freestyle over the Drake-assisted Jack Harlow record Churchill Downs.
In it, you can feel the sense of urgency as her bravado-laced lyrics are contemplative yet a sharp indictment of the artist’s self-awareness of where she is and where she’d like to go.
“In the song I referenced like, a journey taking longer than I hoped it would go because as much as I am humble and so grateful, there are moments where it's like, wow, it really took 12-plus years to even get to this point. I'm happy to be here, but also I know that I've worked to be here,” she says. “I see a lot of people talking about ‘Who is that?’ ‘I've never heard of her,’ or: ‘I think her voice sounds so good,’ ‘She's great.’ A lot of people don't know the origin story and I feel it was important to reflect on that and that made its way into that song.”
The artist, who is of Bajan and Jamaican descent, has used her music as a catalyst to explore aspects of her culture—this writer’s favourite track is Obeah—fused with how that intersects with various parts of her identity in a compelling way that feels honest and empowering delivered in a tone that feels more like a chat with a friend. She says, “The music that I make is inspired by conversations. I feel like I have an underdog energy in me and I've always spoken about the specificities of me being an underdog and being a young black female from Canada. Those are [the] specific elements of my story that go into the music and then people can feel what needs to be felt from it. It's a real part of my journey. I've just learned to tell the story in an audible way.”
As far as incorporating cannabis into her practice goes, the artist does have a limited edition collector’s line of signature rolling papers produced in partnership with Ziggi Papers. But she is balancing self-discipline, honouring the plant, while being aware of what its capabilities can be for her work. She says, “I know how to respect boundaries. There are certain things that allow me to access thoughts that I wouldn't naturally gravitate towards in a normal space. Because of the boundaries that I set for myself, it allows me to not overthink certain things, and in enough time, I can once the idea is there. I can extrapolate in that state, but sometimes, I think there's a very spiritual energy of herbs.”
There’s a spiritual energy, but she also knows that the place she calls home has a wrought history to contend with, a conclusion that her—and many other people who have incorporated cannabis into their lives—have expressly pointed out in the four years since its legalization.
"It’s hard when you see who’s profiting from it now and who paid the price for it, oftentimes in a race-driven fashion, before legalization,” she says. “Now you say this substance can be legalized and that it’s not bad and you want to remove the stigma, but it’s ridiculous because you already villainized this whole group of people. So now you want to remove that label when it fits your narrative and for me, it’s been interesting seeing us go from it being illegal and people being put in jail for longer time than more harmful things, to it being an essential in a pandemic.”
For Haviah, who always speaks her truth, her next chapter involves connecting with fans in the way that she’s most familiar with: on the stage. Says the artist, “I'm looking forward to touring and also touring the new music that I'm starting to work on. [I’m] getting really excited and thinking about that setting where people can engage with it: call-and-response, instrumental brakes and bringing instruments on stage.”
As the artist prepares to go on tour, she is continuing on her trajectory to share her gift with the world. An uncompromising drive and a desire to use music as a catalyst to mobilize and storytell, Haviah is ready for higher heights. “I know you need to take a moment to smell the flowers but at the same time, I'm also in that state of being genuinely hungry, wanting to keep going and seeing it as an art form. This is my job and I feel like I have momentum.’
“I'm just so excited to actually be able to work on the next phase and feel so confident in what we're doing, so confident in the theme and what I want to talk about this year. I feel like I know myself better than when I did the last project. The music is better for it. There's so much vulnerability that can be tapped into when you know that it's there and when you're willing to confront it.”
To catch Haviah Mighty on tour across Canada, see haviahmighty.ca.