Haviah Mighty returns to Victoria for her first performance as a solo artist, March 1 at the Capital Ballroom.
And this return is a triumphant one: her album 13th Floor won the 2019 Polaris Prize – Canada’s juried, non-commercial recording honour – and made her the first hip hop artist and first black woman to ever receive the award.
“The fact we have an award ceremony that acknowledges bodies of work rather than sales or politics or relationships …
as an up-and-comer there’s only so far I can go,” Mighty says of a system that tends to reward established artists and those who play by the industry rules.
The March 1 show in Victoria, part of a cross-crossing North American tour, will give attendees a chance to experience her explosive solo show, filled with in-your-face intensity and fast, technical flows that have caught the attention of people around the industry and earned her opening slots for such acclaimed artists as Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Nelly, Method Man and Redman and others.
“My goal is always to create a live experience that is different, something fresh and new and inspiring,” Mighty says. While her songs are often peppered with riffs on important social issues, “I also have a lot of fun with it, even if it is a serious subject (in the song). I think I’ve done a good job of finding that balance in an live setting. It’s exciting!”
Singing since age four and rapping since she was 11, the native of Brampton, Ont. listened to a variety of artists growing up, from Lauren Hill and 50 Cent to the Broadway version of the Lion King written by Tim Rice and Elton John. Throw in the likes of Bob Marley, Celine Dion and Ludicris and you’ve got a pretty diverse set of influences.
“I responded to songs and the way they made me feel in the moment … I remember listening to 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” she recalls of the American rapper’s 2003 release. “It was the concept of telling stories that were not necessarily relevant to me, but I still felt them. I think that was when I recognized the power and impact of an album.”
She and the three other MC’s who formed the Toronto-based hip hop group The Sorority in 2016 gained a following thanks to their high-energy live performances. Their lone studio album Pledge (2018) received favourable reviews and was named one of CBC Music’s favourite Canadian albums that year.
After a North American tour, Phoenix Pagliacci left the group in early 2019, but Mighty, Lex Leosis and Keysha Fresh continued touring. By later in the year, Mighty says, with each of the members still working on solo projects as well as fitting in The Sorority’s commitments, the stress began to show.
“We had decided to put our best foot forward and navigate as we go, as things changed, and we were doing that for quite some time,” she says. Eventually it became difficult for them to harness the same level of energy that had launched them as a group and they decided to go their separate ways.