Song of the Week: Haviah Mighty Channels Her Jamaican Heritage on “Obeah”

Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, rapper Haviah Mighty channels her Jamaican Heritage on “Obeah”.

Multiculturalism asks us to acknowledge and embrace the diversity within our own communities. Most of us try to live out that idea, recognizing that others experience the world (even the same community) differently than us and draw from different sources and traditions to cope with the daily challenges that we all face. That’s the crux of “Obeah”, the latest song by hip-hop artist and 2019 Polaris Prize winner Haviah Mighty, who our own Wren Graves describes as “one of the most exciting voices in hip-hop today, equally comfortable with windows-down bangers and mind-bending conscious raps.” On “Obeah”, Mighty turns to her Jamaican heritage for guidance against the trap of falling in with the wrong crowd. For those of us not familiar with the concept of “Obeah”, Mighty explains:

“I’ve navigated life off the strength of my parents’ teachings, and one of those notable teachings is to be mindful of the company you keep and of those you call your friends. Being of Caribbean descent, I’ve heard many stories throughout my life of ‘Obeah man’ and ‘Obeah woman’ from family and friends, ‘Obeah’ being an occult power and celebrated secret religion that disturbs the natural flow of events by way of spells, spirituality and hidden practices.

“Though difficult to define, it is a religion of resistance, a belief that you can manipulate yours or other peoples’ destinies – often used in the context of those people that are close to you but aspire to cause harm to you by thought or action. This song, using this Jamaican reference, speaks directly to the idea that the energy around you can bring you down, and that sometimes it’s those that are closest to you that you need to be aware of. This theme is one many can relate to as they grow within their chosen realms.”

Mind the company you keep surely isn’t an idea unique to Mighty’s Jamaican heritage. It’s a lesson that all of us — regardless of culture — must learn if we’re ever to truly be at peace and feel secure in our surroundings. In this way, multiculturalism actually brings us together: pointing out different ways we handle similar dilemmas. In “Obeah”, Mighty addresses the matter, as Wren Graves writes, “over a dark, thumping beat. Mighty spits out lyrical dangers with an intensity that teeters on the edge of paranoia. She approaches the hook with a Jamaican patois, rapping, ‘Watch dem friend deh/ Watch who you keep close ya/ Your glow up they phobia/ Some might come with Obeah.’

“The track comes with a music video directed by Jesse Dart,” Graves continues. “It starts with her real-life father, here credited as Mr. Mighty, warning her about ‘bad, negative energy,’ and giving her an amulet of protection. But the rapper foolishly sets it aside, opening herself up to dark machinations.” While Mighty may not exactly believe as her father does, she does come to understand that his generation and their heritage aren’t without some wisdom that still rings true in 2021. Not only does “Obeah” bang like few other tracks have so far this year, but Mighty’s interest in where she comes from and what that can mean in her own life is a deep well of compelling ideas to draw from. Let’s hope she continues to ward off bad energy while embracing her past.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director

Honorable Mentions

Cherry Glazerr – “Big Bang”

Cherry Glazerr have returned with a new song called “Big Bang”. For this one, the Los Angeles garage-rock band continue to move in the poppier direction that their last couple singles have hinted at. “Big Bang” begins with a weepy acoustic guitar lick and a melancholy baseline that Clementine Creevy whispers over, but eventually some swirls of piano and strings raise up behind her, and the song explodes into dream-pop grandeur. “I still call you when I need escaping,” Creevy belts in a soaring register that she hadn’t yet perfected on previous releases. It’s a really infectious and beautifully done tune, and if her next album sounds anything like it, then we’re in for a treat. –Eli Enis

TEKE::TEKE – “Meikyu”

Montreal-based septet TEKE::TEKE have announced their debut album. It’s titled Shirushi, and it’s due out May 7th via Kill Rock Stars. To celebrate the news, they’ve shared a new single called “Meikyu”, a volcanic song that grows more powerful the farther along it gets. Over thundering drums and singer Maya Kuroki’s soaring vocals, the song transforms from a slinky melodrama into an all-out instrumental affair that shows off the band’s collective strengths. The accompanying music video, animated by Kuroki and guitarist Serge Nakauchi-Pelletier, merges live performance footage with drawings, paintings, and explosive florals, further drawing out the mood of the song. –Nina Corcoran

Francis of Delirium – “Let It All Go”

The Luxembourg-based band Francis of Delirium have announced their new EP, Wading. It drops April 2nd via Dalliance Recordings and is preceded by lead single “Let It All Go”. On the song, Jana Bahrich’s lyrics pour out in an intimate stream of consciousness. While she’s capable of a belt that recalls some of Alanis Morissette’s fury, she’s also comfortable speeding, catching a frantic emotional state in a rockslide of syllables. Yet, this frenzy leads her off a cliff — she screams, “Your face, it touches my face,” and the guitars fall out beneath her. With grand theatricality, she builds the song back up from the bottom, starting with repeating, “Let it all go,” and using, “Aren’t you tired of being alone?” to vault back to her previous heights. “Let It All Go” also comes with a trippy claymation video directed by Bahrich. It shows faces being constructed, playing instruments, and then getting ripped apart again. –Wren Graves

Ora the Molecule – “Creator”

Norwegian avant-pop artist Ora The Molecule has signed to Mute Records and announced her debut album, Human Safari. To pair with the news, she’s shared its elastic lead single, “Creator”. According to a press release, the 12-track Human Safari was informed by songwriter Nora Schjelderup taking the opportunity to really examine the world around her. Touching on themes of community and empowerment, the record’s rhythmic synth jams inspire a sort of instinctive camaraderie that’s typically found on the dancefloor, and “Creator” is a great introduction to her musical world. Blending elements of new-wave, disco, and contemporary avant-pop, the song is buoyant and frisky, but also artful and slightly ajar from a straightforward dance-pop tune. It also comes paired with a fantastic music video, directed by Tanmay Chowdhary, that follows Schjelderup and her precocious little sister shuffling around town to prepare for an impending apocalypse. -Eli Ennis

Syd – “Missing Out”

Syd has returned with a new solo song called “Missing Out”. It marks her first solo release since her Always Never Home EP, which dropped way back in 2017. With a dark wave of synths and a slowly crunching beat, The Internet member delivers the perfect self-actualizing anti-Valentine’s Day ballad. “As far as I can see, you and me could never be/ ‘Cause we didn’t spend the proper time tryna work it out,” Syd sings. “Hope you findin’ what you need or what you seek ’cause now I’m free.” –Ben Kaye

Top Songs Playlist

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