Haviah Mighty had never been to a protest before George Floyd was murdered by police on May 25th, 2020. As Floyd’s death set off demonstrations around the world, though, the Canadian rapper joined the fray, simultaneously penning “Protest,” which premieres Friday with a video by Kit Weyman and Chrris Lowe. The song is off her upcoming mixtape, Stock Exchange, which drops this fall.
“They made me feel some sense of hope,” Mighty tells Rolling Stone of the protests. “I’ve never seen, in my life, that sort of support from my community. It was a beautiful thing to see. It felt hopeful, where at least the people on the ground level want this.”
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The video for “Protest” opens with Mighty sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with a literal target, alternating between shots of her dancing on the bleachers with a crew of friends and dark, murky scenes of Mighty rapping in a beret reminiscent of the Black Panthers. “Y’all need to broaden your scope,” she raps. “Picture you got darker skin and broaden your nose/I be sick when I be thinking ‘about the trauma we know/This shit is scripted, watch the drama unfold.”
The Young Dreadz-produced song rapper MC Yizzy, who added some U.K. flavor to the track. “I think what [Young Dreadz] did was provide a production that allowed this theme to live on it,” Mighty says. “From the very percussive sort of aggressive verses and the U.K. drill vibe to these almost ethereal almost sensual keys that, to me, represented a sense of hopelessness but hope at the same time. So my feelings about the George Floyd murder and the percussion became a mirror in a way.”
“The writing process came very much around the time of the George Floyd murder,” Mighty adds. “When that happened, some of these conversations felt and looked very different, because we were in a pandemic and everyone was home. I had never seen the discussion picking up that way in my lifetime. It inspired me to think about it from different perspectives. I was inspired to go to my first protest and see what that energy felt like in real life and contribute to that energy.”
Mighty started out as a member of the hip-hop group the Sorority, gaining acclaim when her debut album, 2019’s 13th Floor, earned renown, in part, for its tackling of social issues and racism and winning Canada’s Polaris Music Prize. Stock Exchange was largely put together during the pandemic, which gave her plenty of time to think about the effect lockdown has had on conversations about race and police brutality.
“I thought constantly about the idea that these conversations were only happening because we were in a pandemic and everyone is available to have these conversations,” she says. “It made me fearful about these conversations becoming null and void once things changed. So writing this song, and knowing it wasn’t going to come out until way after this instance, it felt important to talk about that because no matter when I put it out, it’s going to be a reminder that the protest discussions need to continue.”
The pandemic also caused her to reflect on the value of art and artists today, especially during a time when musicians are forced to keep creating without any audience response and validation. Hence, the title of Stock Exchange.
“Resources were different and analyzing how the songs were doing, the process just became completely different. [The music industry] is almost like trade, or like the stock market,” she says. “That’s the perceived value of that thing. And then that perceived value of that thing that you made becomes the value of your artistic narrative, which becomes the perceived value of you as an individual. So now you’re basing who you are and what your worth is off of shares and stats and values. You don’t have a human connection to balance out that data. … I’m not performing, so I don’t know how [the music] is being perceived in the real world.”
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