Interview: Sampa the Great
First appeared on CLIQUE Mag, May 16 2017
Since the release of her acclaimed 2015 debut EP The Great Mixtape, Zambian-born Sampa the Great has been on the rise to dizzying heights with her thought-provoking and emotionally-charged brand of hip-hop.
In 2015, her #1 Hype Machine track Blue Boss was picked up by BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac and hit one million Spotify plays in two months with follow-up release “Black Dignity” receiving similar praise. One of the first artists to be inducted into Red Bull Sound Select’s Australian program, Sampa has performed alongside artists including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Hiatus Kaiyote while headlining festivals like Golden Plains, Sugar Mountain and WOMADelaide.
Today marks the launch of HERoes Act 2, the singer-songwriter and poet’s phenomenal follow-up EP to last year’s spoken word project HERoes. Recorded in Red Bull’s Paris studios, the three-track release features Grammy award-winning artist Estelle and producer Rahki (Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott) and explores the highs and lows of her experience as an artist.
June and July will see Sampa co-headline the national Australian ‘Fire Sign’ tour with REMI, including a stopover at our very own Fat Controller. In the meantime, have a read of CLIQUE’s chat with her about HERoes Act 2 and prepare to have this release on repeat for the next few weeks.
Congratulations on HERoes Act 2, I’ve had a listen and it sounds incredible. How are you feeling about it?
I’m feeling great. I feel I was able to express the point I was in at that particular time. Define how I got in it, how I felt when I was in it and how I got out in the form of three tracks.
The EP sees some pretty impressive collaborations. What was it like working with Estelle and Rahki?
In the beginning, it was quite intimidating. In fact, I spent the first two days being shy, intimidated and shrinking myself. It got to a point where I asked Rahki to send me a beat to write to outside the studio.
I started thinking about home, my family and my journey travelling to Australia to complete my degree. As soon as I thought of that I was re-inspired by the place I was in, a studio in Paris with Estelle and Rahki.
After that it was amazing. Both were very patient and understanding and really let me express myself in our sessions, took time to listen to what I wanted the music to reflect and reiterated “you are an artist” in moments of doubt.
What was the writing process like for this EP? What were you inspired by at the time?
First conversing with Estelle and Rahki about who we are, how we fell in love with music and our journey and experiences with music to date. This really helped in knowing them as people.
We started from scratch. Rahki produced all three tracks (and more) from the ground up and we listened to the different sounds and commented on what we were feeling. Then came writing to those sounds, recording rough melodies on my phone and writing the full song.
Tell me a bit about the backstory behind the first single of the EP, Everybody’s Hero.
Everybody’s Hero was about expressing how I was unable to keep up with the continuous pressure of finding myself as an artist. Due to the fast rise of my music, while simultaneously being portrayed as a type of artist.
What artists are you digging at the moment? Who and what are you most inspired by?
I’ve been listening to a lot of reggae music. Chronixx and Stephen Marley on individuality. I’m inspired by a lot of things, outside music as well.
What can viewers expect from your upcoming tour with REMI?
A huge sense of family and community is what we are bringing to this tour. A safe space for people to come and enjoy good music with their friends and family.
What are your long-term plans for your career?
Continue to grow myself as an artist and my music.
Do you have any advice for young Australian artists on navigating the music scene?
Me being a young artist based in Australia and still growing, I can only give advice from my experience, which would be to really know who you are as an artist and what you want do with your artistry. Build a team around you that understands that, who can build and grow with you.