Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, and now based in Melbourne, talented musician Sampa The Great’s music has always been personal and heavily inspired by her roots and home. Her debut album The Return is a soulful and inspiring album celebrating her identity in a profound and relatable manner, making it a pretty insightful and exciting listen. Despite slightly excessive 19 tracks and 1h17 minute run-time (for me it’s way too long for an album), the project does have a lot of highs that perfectly capture her artistic aura.
“Mwana” featuring Mwanje, Theresa Mutale Tembo and Sunburnt Soul Choir starts the album with a soulful and tribal rhythm, with beautifully sung melodies and a short but introspective verse from the talented rapper. “Freedom” has a silky smooth instrumental, with keys and synths giving this track such a soulful tone. He talks about what freedom means to her, giving her own perspective based on her experiences growing up and making it in the music industry. Tracks like “Time’s Up” with South Sudan (Melbourne-based) rapper Krown and “OMG” bring unsettling and aggressive rapping to dark and hard-hitting production. It’s great seeing London-based jazz group Steam Down show up on “Summer,” while fellow Australians Silentjay and Mandarin Dreams feature on “Brand New” and “Don’t Give Up,” respectively. The jazz influence on this project is clear, especially on the latter half of the album, as Sampa flows effortlessly throughout these tracks, telling her story through snapshots of her past, and with incredible wordplay and lyricism. Overall, while at times a bit too long, this album sees Sampa The Great wear her influences on her sleeve, creating a dynamic and interesting album highlighting her story in an animated and engaging way.
Listen to Sampa The Great’s new album The Return below via Bandcamp and don’t forget to support! Released via Ninja Tune.