Haviah Mighty’s 13th Floor is rich with community and confidence, and a compelling argument for changing paradigms and destroying stereotypes.

The widely-accepted, ignorantly superstitious practice of skipping an apartment building’s thirteenth floor doesn’t actually erase the presence of that unlucky level. It hides its existence while leaving it in plain sight. You can’t un-count the thirteenth floor, but you can willfully choose to ignore it. Brampton-based rapper Haviah Mighty draws a subtle yet powerful parallel to this erasure of an uncomfortable-for-some truth to the systemic ignoring and marginalization of women, people of colour, and people living in poverty on 13th Floor, her first solo long-player.

Mighty grew up an impoverished black girl in a largely white, inner-city neighbourhood — the perfect recipe for none-too-subtle racism to flourish and deflate any notion of self-worth and ability. The Mighty family had other ideas for their children, though. As she recently told SOCAN’s Words and Music, the family moved to from Toronto’s Gerrard Square to Brampton where things started to change. “I felt, kind of loosened a bit,” she explains. “I was allowed to ride my bike, I could cross the street, I was allowed to go to the park with my sister,” and where previously Mighty was tagged as a student with attention and learning issues who needed medication to succeed, she began excelling.

13th Floor rises from the solid foundation of friends and family that Mighty has continued to gather around her from those early days in Brampton. It is first and foremost a celebration of culture and community that revels in optimism without ever sugarcoating its creator’s reality. Her sister Omega Mighty guest-verses on “Wishy Washy”, an unapologetic indictment of those unable or afraid to make a commitment to stand in support of another’s ambitions and dreams (“So many times you tell me that you’re really sorry, but all I really hear is that you’re — ‘Wishy Washy”); her brother Mighty Prince steps behind the production board for “Blame”, the beat-heavy “urban folk from the 6ix” that perfectly frames Haviah Mighty’s signature rapid-fire flow. “In Women Colour” is undeniably 13th Floor’s thesis statement, a reclamation of her gender and skin colour, facets that many dismissed as barriers: “I gotta do 2 times more to get 4 times less,” she states, “But it’s cool cause I’m sharper in the end.”

Sharp is an understatement. 13th Floor dances on a red-hot razor’s edge that cuts through the societal bullshit. There’s no hiding or ignoring Haviah Mighty; 13th Floor forces listeners to stop, pay attention, and reconsider our preconceived notions of what hip-hop sounds like and who represents the genre. It’s an album rich with community and confidence, and a compelling argument for changing paradigms and destroying stereotypes. If nothing else, Haviah Mighty has reclaimed and recast thirteen as a very potent and powerful magic number.

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