Arts

13th Floor by Haviah Mighty is the first hip-hop album to win the Polaris Prize. Photo: Independent Records

Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty took home the 2019 Polaris Prize on Monday for her album 13th Floor, released in May. 

It’s been two years since Mighty released her solo debut EP, Flower City. 13th Floor is her first solo full-length. She initially gained attention as a member of the hip-hop trio The  Sorority. 

The 26-year-old was also nominated for CBC Music’s “New Faces of Canadian Hip Hop.”

On her album, Mighty encapsulates themes of love, relationships, as well as threading in details of American slavery.  

The album opens with the self-affirming track “In Women Colour,” produced by Toronto’s Obuxum. On the track, Mighty raps about how her skin color has an influence on the choices that she makes as well as how she is viewed by other people. The song also deals with the reality of social ideals being stacked higher against women of colour. 

“Thirteen, the fifth song on the album, is a stand-out. The track pays tribute to the brutality of American slavery over a piano reverb and a cassette player sound effect.  Haviah opens the song with “It started in 1640/ Shackles around my ankles/Melanin meant that I can’t go to schools or read/’cause who’s gonna serve my master.”

On other tracks, like “Squad,” Mighty ruminates on her Canadian identity. 

Tracks such as “Waves” and “Smoke” also feature notable Toronto artists, including Clairmont the Second and Sean Leon. On the dancehall-infused track, “Wishy Washy,” Haviah can be heard bouncing off vocals alongside her sister, Omega Mighty. 

The track “Bag Up” rings similar to the concept of Cardi B’s “Money” in the sense that everything that Mighty is working toward, such as buying material luxuries, is heavily dependent on her earnings. “I be laced down Gucci up/Like my bass loud/movie sub…/I’m just trying to get the bag up,” she raps.

Mighty reaffirms her authority in the 10th track, “Oh My,” which opens with soft violin and acoustic guitar. On this track, Mighty raps that she wants the recognition for how powerful she is: “These diamonds they shine on my teeth/I’m way too fly for my feet/Try me I’m a wild beast.”

The last track “Kiss It,” brings the album to an end, with her hype lyrics over a steady beat while Mighty lets listeners know about all the things that she looks for in a relationship. 

Haviah Mighty will be performing in Ottawa as part of The Sorority with fellow Polaris nominees Snotty Nose Rez Kids on November 23 at Club Saw.