“Sampa the Great”: redefining music and culture

Photo: The Guardian

It’s not often that you come across an artist complete with a sound and lyrics that make you sit in admiration and thought. With a voice and sound just as bold and distinctive as her stage name, Sampa the Great reminds her audiences of the brilliance and power of music.

The Zambian-born, Botswana-raised  and Sydney based artist grew up around traditional Zambian music echoing through her home and  was later inspired by the growing American hip hop scene.

Growing up around the prominent hip hop culture and music scene, Sampa was constantly inspired by the iconic sounds of Tupac, Lauryn Hill and even Kendrick Lamar, who she opened for before his Sydney show earlier this year. 

But despite her hip hop influences she has still been heavily inspired and grounded to her African roots, being inspired by Mos def and Knaan to name a few.

Her most recent album released in 2015, The Great Mixtape’, showcases the cultural blend between her African and Hip Hop influences. The album is embedded with urban beats mixed with Sampa’s sweet but clean rap, almost sounding alike a female-version of Kendrick Lamar.

But the thing that makes this album different to what I have ever heard, is the fact that the album starts and ends like a story, educating listeners about African culture, women and the world we live in today.

Sampa’s lyrical talent is particularly profound in tracks like ‘Revolution’ and ‘F E M A L E’ which both are conversation starter songs.

On the one hand, ‘Revolution’ features samples from speeches of Malcolm X, Leo Muhammad and black activist, Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhummad emboldened over a mellow beat, reflecting Sampa’s boldness in addressing issues that go beyond the music.

Then you have ‘F E M A L E’ which starts with an up-tempo jazz beat that makes you feel as if you are going back in time or visiting some hip 1930’s bar, this is contrasted by Sampa’s urban yet punchy vocals celebrating the R&B tradition of the ‘curvy’ body which is often rejected by western culture.

In essence, the album speaks volumes in a raw, humanistic and insightful way like none other in the Australian music scene which is essentially why it is such an innovative and cultural delight to the ears.

For those interested, ‘The Great Mixtape’ is available now on Itunes.

Sampa the Great will also be touring in 2017 for Laneway Festival. Get your tickets here.

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