Interview – Haviah Mighty

Recently I had the opportunity to send rap sensation Haviah Mighty, coinciding with the release of her brand new album Flower City, a list of questions ranging from her musical philosophy, creative processes, and opinions regarding the state of Canadian rap and hip hop.

Her fifth studio release, Flower City is an open-love letter to her hometown of Brampton, Ontario,  and an exploration of life’s dichotomies and people’s developed polarized personalities.

After sending a gluttonous amount of questions – approximately twenty one of them –  the instructions were simply “read through the questions, pick some to answer, and enjoy.”  In true Haviah Mighty over-achieving style, she chose fifteen of them to answer. Also, check out her video for “For Free”:

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me!

Thanks for reaching out with these interview questions for Canadian Beats.ca.  Let’s get right into it!

Starting with a good introduction question, who are your major musical influences, musically and lyrically? 

My family, for sure! My sisters… they really helped sculpt my sound. My little brother. He’s only 15 so he keeps me in the know. And my parents aren’t ‘Yes-men.’ They don’t like my work unless they like my work and it’s evident. It keeps me working harder and more realistically. They’ve been showing me so much love recently, and I think it’s because they’ve seen the growth and they know it’s real.

Speaking of people who like your work, who is the awe struck little girl in the front row of your promo photo and where was that performance? It’s a though she is a younger version of yourself seeing her future-self performing live.

To be honest, I’m not sure who the little girl is. She just happened to be in the audience – and yeah, you’re right, it feels as though she’s really pulling something out of the performance. That’s my goal at all times, is to motivate, to inspire. It’s nice to see a moment like that, captured on a lens. And quite naturally, too. No posing, no planning.

There is a definite natural sense in what you do, from your singing, rapping and performing.  What is your take on the state of Canadian rap and hip-hop? Is it at all an advantage, or a disadvantage, being a Canadian in such a vast industry?

Hmm. Canadian urban music in general needs a bigger platform. I definitely feel there is a disadvantage to being creative in the urban scene versus other scenes in Canada because of the stigma Hip-Hop has garnered in the music industry here, and the avenues available for Hip-Hop artists to showcase their art. However, I do feel things are improving in terms of a variety of music being showcased and given a chance to shine in Canada. I’d like to hopefully open some doors on that front.

As a creative member of the Canadian hip hop scene, what rap artist, in your opinion, is poised to explode onto the rap scene?

I’m feelin’ The Sorority. Maybe I’m biased because I’m in The Sorority, but it’s a group of 4 ladies (Keysha Fressh, Phoenix Pagliacci and Lex Leosis are the other three) and we just ooze female empowerment through our initiatives, efforts and BARS. I’m often amazed at what I’m able to do with these ladies – we don’t make music, we make statements. I think The Sorority is on the way up! We just had our latest single ‘Ladies Night’ premiere on FADER. And we plan to keep going!

What are your favourite albums to listen to on vinyl, either from a musical or production stand point?

Anything I can scratch to. I like to DJ a little bit so when I am using a turntable, I’m probably trying to harness my scratching technique a little more. Otherwise, anything I enjoy. My dad got reggae vinyls for days! I enjoy listening to the records he owns when he plays them. Which is quite often.

If time and space were not an issue, what would be your favourite dream opening gig or collaboration?

There’s so many artists I’d love to show support for live, but a few artists I’ve admired over the past couple years include: Lauryn Hill, Chris Brown, Tory Lanez, Jazz Cartier, Devontee – to name a few. It’s kind of a weird list, but I’d like to make it a little weirder and slot 50 Cent in there. He’s the reason I shine the way I do haha.  Just kidding.  I’ve admired the work of many musicians over the years and normally, I gravitate towards wanting to work with the artists whose styles would naturally compliment mine.

To continue with the idea of diverse musical collaborations, if you could write or perform with a performer or group in a different musical genre, who would it be and why?

I think I’d like to link up with a piano composer. I gravitate towards piano melodies and they inspire me to write entire songs. So, in theory, Beethoven or Chopin or someone like that would be a very interesting partnership.

If you wrote a Broadway Musical based on your life, who would you cast to play your role?

Maybe a blend of Rihanna and young Teyana Taylor to represent the little tomboy inside. It’s tough to say. I think I’m quite unique, and not to toot my own horn because I think that also means I’m odd, but I do genuinely think it’s difficult to find someone who is quite as weird as I am.

Having a unique personality ties in well with having such a unique name.  Besides having the coolest name in show biz, how does your name, Haviah Mighty, influence your musical choices or life philosophy? Is Haviah a deration from Havilah?

My parents, coworkers, friends, and the government, call me Haviah Mighty. That’s my name. I don’t think it derives from anything particular, and maybe I need to ask my dad one more time, but he’s told me he made the name up just as I’d been born. Normally when people ask me what my name means, I say “It means my daddy loves me.” ‘Cause I don’t really know what else to say.

Considering all the rhymes you have written, it is probably the only time you aren’t sure what to say!  The ska / rock / rap vibe version you recorded of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is an amazing re-arrangement of a larger than life pop song. How did that project come about? 

More importantly, what influenced you to write the line “rhymes longer than my arms are / flames like Charizard?” One it’s brilliant and two….it’s just brilliant. Discuss, please and thank you!

Aww hahaha! I’m so glad you took the time to watch that cover. It was so much fun.

Honestly, I work at Long & McQuade in Brampton amongst some really talented musicians, who are also my coworkers. I’d been so focused on my album, on rap, on trap, and I really enjoy singing and doing alternate styles, so I came up with an idea to cover a pop song. “Sidewalks” by The Weekend was the original idea, but “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran was more crossover and my coworkers seemed really down to be involved. I set a timeline for when it needed to be released by, and we got to work.

The “rhymes longer than my arms are/flames like Charzard” lines are actually lyrics I wrote for another song and I just…never finished writing that song. The flow fit, and I just wrote about those few bars to have something to say over “Shape of You”. I always like to throw a little bit of ‘me’ in there, despite the content or topic.

You have this great, precise, mid-range timbre to your rapping voice whereas your singing voice has a bigger open sound. Is that your natural tone of your voices and ranges or one you have honed and work on? Or a bit of both?

Wow, you really pay attention to detail. I’m shocked at the unique nature to some of these questions!   Haha but in any case, it’s all natural. I am unable to put on different voices or timbres – I can really only train what’s already there in terms of abilities like control, and to an extent, range – but not much! I think it’s more the fact of having a trained ear. I’ve taken singing lessons for several years which, above anything else, trained my ear for garbage identification. So I know when something is out of range, out of key, not appealing to the ear – and I fine tune my singing and rapping skills based on this assessment which, in turn, comes off as a honed tone I’ve worked on. But it is quite a natural tone. Natural affects these things too – drinking, smoking, whatever I did or ate prior to recording – but always natural.

Starting a musical career at the age of 17 is a bold decision, as most people at that age are still trying to figure out their place in the world. When did you know music was going to be your career path?

In 2009, I won a competition after having remixed Chris Brown’s ‘I Can Transform Ya.’ I got an opportunity to meet him and see him live in New Jersey. That was incredible, and it showed me that you can actually be rewarded for making music. I was in love with Chris Brown at the time so I was honoured. Following that, I remixed ‘Look At My Hair’ and that got a lot of love – ended up on WorldStarHipHop and led to my second album #EIGHTEEN. That small run of success was definitely the moment I decided this was the number one priority!

Having such a vast career in such a short period of time, you have a solid fan base of fans who would have grown up with you over the last seven years.  For fans who are finding you for the first time, what do you want new listeners to take away from Flower City?

Good music, fun messages, positivity – I don’t want my listeners to hear a female when they listen, I want them to hear an artist, a singer, a rapper – I think this project is strong enough to help shift that negative projection female rappers get. ‘Cause it’s not accurate, and I try to prove that on each song.

The art work for your new album Flower City is quite striking. Who created your album cover-art and how was the concept conceived?

Jawn Taboika of 40ozHeroes and I designed the front cover together. We came up with the idea – I got a map of Brampton, he found an origami rose – I got to folding, he helped – he got to editing, I helped – and voila! The cover is spectacular, you’re right. I wanted to make Brampton look good!

And Brampton definitely does look good.  Well done!  What is the next step in Haviah Mighty’s career? (Feel free to answer this question in the third person.)

The next step for Haviah Mighty is to continue to climb. So much was accomplished in the 2016 fiscal year but it doesn’t stop now – it GROWS! Haviah Mighty is aiming for bigger shows, more important content, possibly her own shows, perhaps a tour, growing with The Sorority – there’s so much to come. As an independent artist with no management and no booking agent, it’s safe to say 2017 will be full of productivity – and surprises! More than anything, Haviah aims to bring her fans more incredible music!

And Haviah’s fans will appreciate it!  Thank you Haviah for the time and for answering the last question using a great, professional wrestling manager speech! 

Havaih Mighty’s great new album, Flower City, is available now on iTunes.  Follow Haviah Mighty in the digital universe at her website www.haviahmighty.ca, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/haviahmightymusic/, and Twitter: @haviahmighty.  

The Riz is a prolific multi-genre songwriter, lyricist, writer and bassist for “Demolition Rock” sensation Ultimate Power Duo. A staple of the Saskatoon music scene, he has toured extensively across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The Riz is also the composer and saxophone player for R. Muttering, an avant-garde soundscape improvisational electro-acoustic performance art and recording group. Besides his Bachelor of Music in Music Education (B. Mus. (Mus. Ed.) / B. Ed. (Mus.)) from the University of Saskatchewan, he has amazing comic and vinyl collections.