Haviah Mighty Takes Stock of a World in Motion

- by Reina Cowan

IT’S BEEN JUST OVER TWO YEARS SINCE HAVIAH MIGHTY DROPPED 13TH FLOOR, the Polaris Music Prize-winning album that would solidify her presence as a Canadian hip-hop artist to watch. A lot has happened since then. The outbreak of a global pandemic has forced Mighty to navigate the challengin­g world of work as an artist entirely online, and the deep impact of racial tensions and anti-Blackness coming to a head have resulted in Mighty’s recent track “Protest,” a powerful and urgent testament to Black resistance.

As a Black female rapper, Mighty is constantly aware of how she moves through the world, not only as an artist but also as a human. “We’ve had such a difficult year, and so much projection of Black trauma,” she says. She’s been “recognizin­g even more how I feel as a Black Canadian female rapper, individual, and what those setbacks are. What that underdog experience feels like now that I’ve achieved a little bit more success since that last project, as well.”

It is with this sense of duty to her community that Mighty penned “Protest,” featuring UK rapper Yizzy. After organized protests erupted worldwide in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May 2020, anti-Black racism and the fight against it surged to the front of global conversati­ons. Haviah Mighty is using her voice to explore themes she’s well versed in from her work on 13th Floor with renewed urgency. “Protest” is her own form of resistance — the unexpected ups and downs of the song’s pacing and swells in tension are enough to make your heart rate rise and your palms sweat, deliberate­ly mimicking the visceral reaction of fear, dread and anxiety Black people feel upon encounters with police.

The music video offers up a glimpse of Mighty’s knack for visual storytelli­ng. With imagery and apparel referencin­g Black Lives Matter, the Black Panther movement and Halifax’s Africville neighbourh­ood in the 1960s, Mighty’s meticulous visual details are an acknowledg­ement of Blackness worldwide and through history.

“Black people are revolution­ary,” she says. “We’ve been kind of the spearheade­rs of so much of the culture that exists today, globally.”

“Protest” is set to be one of 12 tracks on Mighty’s upcoming mixtape, Stock Exchange, due for release this fall. It’s a collection of songs that she’s been releasing on a monthly basis since last November. The mixtape’s title was inspired by restrictio­ns musicians face due to the pandemic and a market based on streaming and social media metrics. Unable to tour, artists are now playing a numbers game.

“It started to feel very much like a stock exchange, where the amount of shares, the amount of digital investment­s, the stats, how well it did, and all of these things started to determine the value of my work, the value of my art, the value of my creation, and the value of me as a creator,” says Mighty. “I think next is really trying to understand this transition period that I’m in now, and what is going to come out of that.”

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