What: Haviah Mighty with Zalea
Where: Capital Ballroom, 858 Yates St.
When: Sunday, March 1, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $26.15 (including fees) from eventbrite.ca or Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St.
Tour scheduling is Haviah Mighty’s enemy, but her willingness to criss-cross North America for the sake of her fans is made easier by what the future holds for the rising rapper.
“It’s a busy schedule that is not necessarily routed in the most optimal way, but we’ve got to take these opportunities while we can,” Mighty said, during a California tour stop. “Eventually we’ll get to a point where we decide the routing, but right now do you want to miss an opportunity because of routing or do you want to make it work?”
Tour dates over the past week took Mighty (her real name) to Quebec and California, and her next stop is in Victoria on Sunday at the Capital Ballroom. Next week, the 27-year-old will travel back to California and then home to Ontario, before returning to B.C. for a concert in Vancouver that will be followed, within a week, by a show in Texas. Amid all airport ingress and egress, the Brampton, Ont., resident is hoping to catch up on writing, with eyes on another studio album getting underway his year.
“Having a little free time to creatively express myself is important,” she said. “As long as my mind is not cluttered, and I’m somewhere with a little free time, I naturally gravitate toward that creative element that lives within me. But when I’m stressed, there’s no mental capacity for that.”
Could her follow-up to 13th Floor, her breakout album, dive into the ebb and flow of her rollercoaster ride over the past eight months? Mighty, who was not yet ready to disclose or predict the direction in which she will be headed, is leaving her options open, it would appear. “It’s hard to say what I think the record is going to be, or what it’s going to do, or how it will sound, but more than anything it will surprise me. I definitely can’t call it. I’m in tune with who I am as person now, so I’m hoping it will be something that is still informative, still educational, still fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what it turns into.”
Many others — both within the music industry and outside of it — are eagerly anticipating the recording as well. When she released 13th Floor in May, she was known but not widely-known outside of her native Ontario. She was known better as a member of Toronto rap group The Sorority until its dissolution in November, a decision that likely had something to do with her skyrocketing solo career.
Mighty became the first hip-hop artist and first black woman to win the Polaris Music Prize in September, for 13th Floor, which put $50,000 in her bank account.
She is now one of the top performers of any kind to watch in Canadian music, which makes the idea of her next effort all the more interesting on paper. “I’m hoping it is very impactful like the last record was, but that’s not something you can curate — it either is or it isn’t,” she said. “I hope the effort and energy I put into it will make it that.”
When she started rapping, at the age of 11, Lauryn Hill was a role model for Mighty. But her other influences are less obvious, given that Mighty and her three reggae-loving older sisters and younger brother were “very, very sheltered” during their Toronto upbringing. “I actually didn’t grow up on hip-hop. The area we grew up in and my parents, having four daughters, there were things they wouldn’t expose us to. I was in singing lessons so I had that background, and when hip-hop was brought into the mix, I had the position of loving other styles of music. [Hip-hop] was another element of music that I could add to the palette I already had.”
Her message is inspiring and educational, a rare combination; she’s a thoughtful interview as well, with gaps in the chatter put in place to compose herself before speaking. Mighty comes across as an artist who is talking loud and saying something.
“It can be hard, for sure,” she said of the burden of being in the spotlight. “Having to be on all the time is hard. Things come up so quickly, and you never know what they are going to come. You can’t call it, you can’t prepare for it sometimes. In the same way you’ve got to be on for an interview and on for a performance, you’ve got to be on in other ways too, in terms of the things that you say.”
Though she is considered a music industry veteran, with over 10 years of writing and recording experience, adjusting to expectations is still difficult. And while Charles Barkley once famously said, “I’m not a role model,” at the height of his basketball fame, Mighty has taken her position to heart. She’s committed to helping women and people of colour rise up through music, and on their own terms.
“People reach out to let me know how impactful something I’ve said or something I’ve done or something I’ve released is to them,” she said. “It dawned on me that I could be in a position as somebody who is inspiring others in those amazing ways. There’s a responsibility associated with that I have to be aware of, and the more aware of it I become, the more responsible I try to become. I’m intentional in the things that I do.
“I want to make sure that these things are able to impact people, so I’m very intentional with the things that I choose to share.”