Photo by Yung Yemi

After a fiery performance at the NXNE festival stage in downtown Toronto, Haviah Mighty is still in constant motion, waving to fans and chatting with photographers, all while assisting her crew with equipment takedown. The rising hip-hop star has performed four times throughout the week, including at halftime at a Toronto Raptors outdoor viewing party in her Brampton hometown, and her energy hasn’t diminished. On top of that, Mighty’s most ambitious album to date, 13th Floor, was released a month ago to acclaim, earning her a spot on the recently announced 2019 Polaris Music Prize Short List.

Mighty is a commanding presence on stage. Her raps are dexterous and her movements are athletic. Though only a small number of people were present at the start of her show, her electric performance turned passersby into a captivated audience. And by the time she played her last song, the crowd stretched down Yonge Street for more than half a block.

When Mighty jumps from the stage to greet her fans after the show, she speaks with the warmth and enthusiasm of an artist who genuinely appreciates her audience. She says one of the most consistent aspects of her live shows is the “upbeat energy I’m getting back from the audience, no matter where the show happens or what the audience is like.”

Even when she plays to a large audience, which she is doing more often, Mighty aims to connect with individuals: “It’s important to connect with people by looking at them, by being in the same space as them, by sharing the experience with them and creating less of a separation,” she says backstage after her gig. This sense of connection creates a “more rewarding” experience for her audience and for her.

In conversation, Mighty is engaging and self-assured. “I feel more confident in what I’m saying,” she says, when she finally sits down to relax. Her confidence is evident in the type of music she included on 13th Floor. On “Blame” and “Fugazi,” Mighty’s swagger and production quality rivals that of some of hip hop’s biggest names.

Her growing acclaim has also given her the platform to address meaningful subjects. “Thirteen” is a moving song about slavery in North America and the ways it reverberates in the present as systematic oppression of Black people. She released the song now because “the social climate was ready to hear it and I was ready to say it,” she says. “I wasn’t going to release an album with a bunch of songs that were fun but not speak on something I feel passionate about.”

Her passion is evident in her performance of “In Women Colour.” She performs the song so her audience will learn more about her and understand her “very personal experiences” as a Black woman in Canada.

“There are many young women just like me who need to hear this,” she says. “I feel triumphant that I have overcome the things people have said. Had I let it change who I am as a person, ‘In Women Colour’ and 13th Floor wouldn’t exist.”

As Mighty’s star continues to rise, she says, “I’m hoping that what I add to the industry can continue to push hip-hop in the direction of being more accepting so more people will understand the music women are making and enjoy it.”

This article was originally published in BeatRoute Magazine.

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