Pledging with The Sorority
For Keysha Freshh, Haviah Mighty and Lex Leosis, hip-hop is more than a genre — it’s something that is a part of their DNA.
The Sorority first met performing during an all-female cypher (a freestyle rap session), on International Women’s Day in 2016. The video went viral, prompting the Toronto-based MCs to join forces. Two years after that, the group released their debut album, Pledge.
And since then, they haven’t slowed down for a second.
Through their creative minds and collaboration, the group have produced ‘90s-laced tracks like “SRTY” that deliver a proclamation to the power of sisterhood and the strength in sticking together, especially in an industry (and world) that tends to pit women against one another.
Currently in the studio and performing across Canada, ALTo chatted with the group about the power of hip-hop, and navigating the music scene ahead of their #IWD19 anniversary.
Please note that the following has been edited and condensed.
Your music talks about sisterhood, respect, and the importance of women supporting each other. How have your experiences influenced your music?
Haviah Mighty: Thematically, and I think I’m speaking for the group, our music and writing work together so authentically. I know for myself, I’m pulling from everyday experiences, my personal experiences, work, the way that people navigate me and the way I am forced to navigate others. I write from my heart and so, I find being the person that I am, being a woman, being a rapper, all of those things naturally become a part of the narrative that I choose to speak on. Even if I am writing a story that is fictional, thematically I’m pulling on some sort of personal experience or some sort of personal experience I’ve had with a friend or family member. I feel like just pulling from the things I’m going through are naturally going to get those female topics and narratives.
What does the expression through the genre mean to all of you?
Lex Leosis: It has elements, it has people, and history and roots. It’s not just something that appears on iTunes or the radio, it’s embedded in communities and people and history. It’s so much bigger than a genre. So, when I think of hip-hop, I think of peace and love and community and respect and sharing each other's stories and gifts and bragging about great talent and our city and getting to know other people’s perspectives in a really amazing and talented package.
Haviah: It’s a necessity. I think we're a part of the culture and I think hip-hop is a culture and we’re just participating and being a part of it. We’re contributing in an element that resonates with us the most and what that means to me is the ability to live my truth. It's a blessing to be able to do it in the crew that I have and it means the world to be able to go on the stage and share my messages through culture and to a community that resonates and identifies with my culture.
Keysha Freshh: Right, and one thing I’d just like to add is, Lex had mentioned it being not just a genre and even as someone who is a fan of all genres…we made a proclamation in one of our early records called “Ladies Night” where it was said, “Y'all still aren't putting females on your festival stage.” It’s like the doors are opening and we’re all trying to get through the floodgate, and that is something that is important to all of us as women, that we keep getting these opportunities and we keep sharing them and we keep opening the doors for all the women coming behind us.
Listen: The Sorority, “Ladies Night”
How would you describe the rap scene in Toronto?
Keysha: I would describe the rap scene in Toronto for us as pretty much dominated by women. A lot of people don’t even really realize, the journalists who are covering it are women, a lot of the behind the scenes people who are booking or at the labels are women. Even showcases like HoneyJam, they’re run by women so, I fell like it’s something we definitely have our foot in. Just as far as the artists go, there are a lot of talented female artists that are out here making great music and making an imprint in the world, and not just in Toronto or Canada. Across the border, you have American artists who will show love and shout-out to a lot of Canadian talent who are women. I think we’re making waves and noise and definitely being seen.
Do you think there are still challenges for women in rap and hip-hop in Toronto?
Lex: Respect is just a really big thing and you know, we’ve all put in our time. I think I’ve put in the least amount of time but I’ve put in 10 years and I know Keysha and Haviah have put in more time than that so, we take ourselves and our craft very seriously and we hope that people take us just as serious when we get booked or when we’re doing an interview or making music in the studio. We want that respect from an MC standpoint.
Keysha: I think there are challenges for women in music, period. Not just in hip-hop or one genre. It’s just a challenge to kind of be respected. I think it’s cliche that we always have to be putting an exclamation point on the fact that we’re women. Anatomy aside, we do this. We make music, we’re MCs, we’re talented. Haviah says this all the time, people will see her coming into a venue and just assume she's just this chick and then she comes on stage with a high-energy, and then you see the sound guy scrambling to get her mic right because they didn't take her seriously in the sound-check. It’s just about getting that respect. You know, the same way you would respect Jay-Z when he comes to a venue, respect The Sorority when we come into a venue.
Any advice for other female artists out there?
Lex: Being a woman in music or in any kind of aspect in life is that you really stand behind your morals and beliefs and speak your mind and hold your space. It’s kind of hard to tell people to not have fear but I guess the cheesier version of that is to believe in yourself and believe that what you’re doing is important and that your message and your work has value and should hold space.