Words by: Remi Okoli
While the masses have latched onto names like The Weeknd, Drake, & Justin Bieber, the Canadian Hip-Hop and R&B space offers much promise for those willing to take a deeper look. In particular, the past few years have proven to cultivate talented female artists within the arena. Many of them have not just created a lane for themselves, but have managed to kicked down doors in respect to making their presence known. One of these regional powerhouses goes by the name Haviah Mighty.
Hailing from Toronto, Haviah first rose to prominence in 2016 as a member of the hip hop group The Sorority, before releasing her debut EP Flower City in 2017. Her debut album, 13th Floor, was released in 2019, and won Canada’s esteemed Polaris Music Prize, awarded to the best full-length album from a Canadian artist across genres.
Still, Haviah, like many in her rank, has faced barriers to entry when it comes to crossing over south of the border. Such success takes strategy that Haviah is all too familiar with. One element in her plan involves engaging with American audiences through more collaborations which she does today (April 30) with the arrival of her “Way Too Fast” cut, featuring North Carolina’s Jalen Santoy.
“The idea for ‘Way Too Fast’ started in 2019, a year where I spent a lot of time reflecting on the momentum I felt in my career,” she says. “I felt this internal surge of self-belief – it was belly deep, at the pit of my core. From then on, and to this day, I thoroughly believe I have what it takes to achieve my wildest dreams. This song is a reminder to dream big, and to not put a cap on your goals and limit your potential. As a people, we’ve come so far. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the work that has yet to be done, but sometimes, we have to remind ourselves of the inevitable rewards as well.”
Recently speaking with The Source, Haviah opened up about this journey in self-belief as an artist thus far, femininity in an increasingly male-dominated industry and world, and her commitment to giving fans just a little bit more. Catch “Way Too Fast” below and get acquainted with Haviah Mighty via our exclusive conversation.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Source: How old were you when you started writing music?
Haviah: Pretty young. I started writing music pretty young, because I was in music lessons from four to eleven. So, before I was 8 I was starting to structure songs. I started recording when I was 14, and started actually locking in those ideas and mapping them out. But, my sisters are all piano players so we always had pianos in the house so I was always trying to do what they did and make words to go with it.
What inspired you to start writing music?
I would say the singing lessons and being surrounded by a musical household. Having three older sisters that were playing piano but could also sing; parents that reinforced the value of musicality, it made it very easy to gravitate towards it.
Who would you say were your biggest influences, while coming up?
My sisters I would say, my parents too. In terms of artists, Lauryn Hill for sure just as a woman singing and rapping while playing instruments and doing something different than everyone else was at the time. The dreads, the dark skin, just very relatable to me. Recognizing that someone like me could take up that type of space in the ways that she was and be unique in the way that she was.
If you could name 3 of your top favorite songs from your catalog, what would they be and why?
I definitely think 13 Floors is my strongest body of work. So, probably off of that project I’d say my top 3 songs off the top of my head would be probably “Blame,” Wishy Washy,” and “Thirteen.” The reason why I say those three is because l think that they’re very different. “Thirteen” because it is my most impactful song, the songwriting is the strongest, the impact is the deepest and I think it’s just a very effective record–like a very deep record that came from a place that I can’t explain, I think my goal is to make records like “Thirteen,” but that doesn’t happen all the time.
“Wishy Washy” I would say is up there too because it’s me tapping into a bag that people don’t really know I can really do. It’s more of a reggae vibe. I’m singing a little bit more. think people just expect me to bring the bars all the time and “Wishy Washy” is kinda like a pop record but with a reggae feel which I think shows my potential audience and my existing audience how far we can take this sound and how much fun we can actually have and I collaborated with my sister on that record and I think she absolutely killed it. And I would say “Blame” because I think “Blame” is the most recognizable song in terms of what people expect from what I can do. It showcases my ability to sing and rap and produce and I think it’s closest to my sound; my palate. The trap elements, the upbeat kind of fast flow, and I think it shows my flexing a little bit lyrically.
As a woman in what would primarily be considered a male dominated industry what have been some of your biggest challenges?
In the beginning of my career I don’t think I recognized what place I held as a woman and I guess what I was doing that kind of broke down some of those walls; those preconceived notions that are negative about women and what our expectations are. I didn’t realize at first that I was so non-conforming but I think over the last few years I’ve learned how much I don’t fit in and how much that’s kind of my niche. I think what’s so important to me is staying true to me as an individual instead of adapting or trying to adapt to fit trends or like make records that’ll do better because I’ve seen it done. I’m trying to really stay on this path and not deviate, and one of the easiest ways to deviate would be to look at what the male rappers are doing and how I can tap into what their doing to gratify myself and get that success, or even what the mainstream female artists are doing.
I’m sure it would be a little bit easier to get a bit more views off top if I was to adjust, but I know what’s me and I know what’s not, and I think authenticity is the best-selling point of any individual. That’s what makes people connect with you the most.
In the spirit of what you just said, how important it is to incorporate everyday things you do such as putting on makeup into your overall brand?
For me, it’s super important because I’m like, that’s the type of individual that I am. Like, I talk way too much. I like to let people into the process. And, you know, I think that there’s a uniqueness to the way that I do things because I don’t think I kind of grew up understanding the way society kind of is supposed to function.
So there’s certain things that make me, I guess, a little bit different or set me apart. And I think sometimes it would be interesting for people to see, you know, what that process is. Some artists, you know, their main thing is their music. I worked at a music retail shop. I worked a long time away for like four years. And I got really used to that DIY process and like letting people in, talking about what I do and like. You realize how helpful it is just to have those conversations. So for me, just hopping on social media and letting people into a little bit of my process, it shows that you’re a regular person just like them. And I think people are able to connect with you better when they don’t feel like you’re inaccessible. I value that a lot.
What is the most difficult part about trying to break through Canada and into the US?
I think it’s just actually strategizing so that you’re including the U.S. or including the UK. All you really know is the Canadian landscape. And I think there is a big restriction in the Canadian landscape because we have a lot less people and a lot less opportunities in particular genres. I can’t tell how many times I’ve met people that are like, “Man, if I knew a rap contact, I’d connect you.” It’s like we actually have a restriction in terms of people and the way that we can kind of push content just with our numbers. And then on top of that, we don’t have a lot of the same resources in terms of people that actually work in the industry on the rap side. We have a lot of people working more on the rock side and other industries that have been more successful in the Canadian landscape musically. I think the biggest thing is just trying to focus on Canada, but also trying to utilize a strategy that will take me outside Canadian walls.
I saw as of recently that you started incorporating more of your family in your videos. How important is it to you to have your family involved in your career?
They’re my biggest inspirations. Before I can think of a celebrity, I think I’m lucky to still be very close with my family and have been close with them. And they’re just they’re my main validators. So to put those people in my work, you know, especially my dad, who’s just I don’t know, people find him very interesting. I think it’s just really cool because people get a sense of who I am a little bit more.
If you could give any piece of advice that you wished you had received at the start of your career to any upcoming artists pursuing their career what would that piece of advice be?
You have to care what people’s opinion is to a point. And then at a certain point, you can’t care.
You have to understand how to take constructive criticism so that you can grow whatever it is that you’re doing to be the best thing that they can be. But, you also have to understand that, is your decision at the end of the day and you have to drive the ship. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been making music while not really believing that I deserve to take up space. I also know that you might have to put the work in before what you want comes back. You have to really grind and the universe eventually will pay you back. But you have to believe. Believing means anything you make, you need to put it out there. You need to monetize it. If it’s possible to do so. You need to connect with as many people as possible. So if you’re making something and you don’t feel like it is good enough to post, you don’t believe in it, period.
What should hip hop fans in both US & Canada expect from Haviah Mighty in 2021?
I’m dropping a lot of music for the fans that are already engaged. I’ve dropped five singles in the past five months. So, I’ve been busy and they’ve been pretty eclectic. I have more singles coming out this year. I have some surprises coming out this year as well. This is a busy year I think I can say. And there’s a lot more music to come as well. I’m constantly trying to evolve as an artist and as a human being. I’m constantly trying to be the best version of myself and I’m trying to find the best ways to connect. So it’s not going to be just music. There’s also content that I’m going to be creating. One mistake I think I’ve been making is not letting people see that side of what I do.