Two years after winning the Polaris Music Prize for her excellent and incisive album “13th Floor,” Haviah Mighty says the accomplishment “jump-started” her career, increasing demand for her as an entertainer.
“My guarantees for shows went up a lot,” said the 28-year-old Toronto rapper, singer and songwriter during a phone interview to promote “Stock Exchange,” her new mixtape that’s out Friday.
“I think that the biggest thing the Polaris Prize offered other than just feeling really happy to be rewarded for my art … was that my performance opportunities really excelled and that was something I didn’t think one accolade could do.”
The Polaris Music Prize, an annual Canadian competition that determines the best album of the year, also awarded Mighty’s “13th Floor” the top prize of $50,000 in 2019 and immediately put her on the radar for endorsement opportunities.
“Just by being approached by multitudes of companies and festivals because they heard ‘This is the girl who won Polaris,’ so it was validating things for those people because Polaris is about artistic merit.
“So it was an injection of opportunities that wouldn’t have come my way if not for the win. And we’ve maximized those opportunities as much as possible. To be in the position that I am now and make more progress during a pandemic year … if I hadn’t won Polaris I wouldn’t have had that injection.”
Perhaps it’s little surprise then that the dozen songs on “Stock Exchange” ended up sharing a theme, although Mighty swears that wasn’t her intention when she began releasing songs individually in 2020, with topics ranging from self-motivation and reliance (“Tesla”) and marked racism (“Protest”) to potential romance (“Coulda Been U”).
“‘Stock Exchange,’ the title, was more of a reference point of initially having an anti-theme concept of songs and just wanting to put them out,” Mighty said. “But I then realized that the theme amongst the songs was actually the value, or perceived value, of those songs once they were released and how that was helpful, in terms of unintended business, but a bit of a plague in terms of not being able to differentiate your individual value as an individual person in the real world.”
Because the pandemic was in full flight imposing isolation on everyone, Mighty says all of the reaction was online.
“It was really interesting in only having perception of digital aspects and comments and likes and engagement,” she observed. “Human connection and in-person feedback wasn’t happening, so we had those digital constructs to validate how good we were doing that month.
“For me, it was really enlightening to learn how to differentiate the value of my business that month versus the value of me as a person that month, and also understanding that it’s like a stock or a bond: a commodity of perceived value.”
By putting songs out as she finished them, Mighty defined her project as a mixtape rather than an album.
“I think calling it a mixtape or an album is really just about intention,” Mighty said. “Because I didn’t really intend for it to be a body of work with the origin process, that’s kind of why I called it a mixtape. It is a multitude of records that are not thematically connected. But putting each record out month to month led me to see it being a body of work.”
Mighty says when she records what she considers to be an “album,” there’s a common idea that she wishes to explore in the topic she chooses. But the pandemic prompted her to be a bit more spontaneous and “Stock Exchange” reflects that impulse.
“I just wanted to put out singles and have those songs live as individual things. In a time of chaos, I couldn’t really fathom what the concept of what I wanted to say would be.”
She co-produced the majority of the project with her brother, Prynce2x, in her basement studio.
“He just understands my sound,” she chuckled.
“I’m just lucky I have someone around who can show me the proper instrumentation on a regular basis and knows me … he’s great, he understands the chord progressions that I like and he lives with me.”
Mighty, whose sister Omega Mighty also has a burgeoning singing career, says that she and Prynce2x have complementary styles.
“We are very different, but he’s easy to work with. Because I’m really good with melodies, having used real instrumentation in college that included intricate chord progressions. He’s really good with percussion and feel, and the low end, strong 808 and I’m not as good at that.”
Seven out of the dozen songs on the new mixtape feature plenty of input from guest artists located around the globe: U.S. rapper Old Man Saxon chimes in on “Antisocial”; Toronto’s TOBi lends his talent on “Good On My Own Tonight”; Barcelona-based Latin Grammy winner Mala Rodríguez serenades during “Flamenco” and Brampton’s Astrokidjay contributes his flow to “Coulda Been U,” to name a few.
Mighty says she’s very particular but also hands off when she chooses her collaborators.
“I don’t really want to have too much input because art is vulnerable, and the whole idea of collaboration is working with people that kind of get the idea and get the vision.
“I’m not trying to collaborate with people for clout or for views or for plays; I’m really trying to add artistic value to the songs.”
Originally, Mighty was booked to play the Phoenix Concert Theatre on Friday for an album release party, but an undisclosed health issue unexpectedly hospitalized her in October and forced her to cancel.
“We had to cancel a lot of things, postpone a lot of things, reschedule a lot of things, but I do think things generally happen for a reason. The lesson learned is that health and business should not be held one above the other.
“Hopefully in 2022 (when she opens for an Arkells cross-Canada tour in February) I will be back to normal.”
Either way, she’s beginning to find inspiration for her next album.
“I’m thinking ahead,” said Mighty. “A lot of ideas came to mind: things I couldn’t fathom I would feel plus things I still don’t think I can fathom as to how I can work it into the music that I make.
“Going forward, I already have a lot of ideas that I’m conjuring up, which is nice. I’m getting my brain prepared.”
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