'The Return' by Sampa The Great, album review by Adam Fink

Ninja Tune


Sampa The Great

The Return

Hip hop has been welcoming in an exciting inclusivity over the past couple years. Taking a look at the genres most recognizable stars and you are starting to see more diverse and unique faces. A new addition to rap’s pantheon is the remarkably talented Sampa The Great. The Zambian born, Australian based artist has been challenging hip hop norms for a while now with her appearances on the stages of some of the most widely seen rap artists like Kendrick Lamar and Joey Badda$$ and with her mixtape, The Great Mixtape, which was released last October. Now she’s unleashed her wonderful new debut album, The Return” and quite the coming out party it is.

The album which incorporates Sampa’s cultural heritage mixed in with some classic sounding hip hop and R&B production comes flying out of the gates with the lead off track, “Mwana”. The song sets the tone for the record with its laid back groove, African singing and Sampa’s own unique, buttery singing style. From there the proceedings tend to jump around a bit. “Freedom” has a classic Motown feel with its chiming guitars and bubbling bass line. When Sampa’s rapping kicks in on the track, it’s revelatory. Her staccato yet smooth style is easily as unique as her singing voice. The album is interspersed with voice mails she has received. The first one “Wake Up” is a reflection of being black and a woman in the music industry and the responsibility that carries for her audience. “Time’s Up” features a great guest spot by Krown, who perfectly compliments Sampa’s style. When the refrain of “I’ve seen the industry kill dreams of dreamers”, you can hear the immediacy. “Time’s Up, motherfucker,” Sampa’s not going anywhere. “Dare To Fly” showcases Sampa’s more boisterous verses on the record and it’s clear she can hold her own, easily, alongside some of the genres greats. Album highlight “OMG” is the albums perfect banger. Sampa comes out strong over a minimal groove and horn samples. It comes off as a future classic. “Final Form” takes on a 70s funk vibe with its vocal sample and horn hits. Album namesake “The Return” starts off smoothly with some light electronic piano before really digging in when the drum break hits. By the time the album closes with “Made Us Better”, Sampa The Great has taken the listener on a nice journey. One that shows you she lives up to her moniker.

The Return is a refreshing listen from start to finish. These are just a sample of the highlights on the record but there is a ton more to really dig into here. Sampa can jump from laid back, languid grooves to in your face rap braggadocio without coming off as insincere. It’s a defiant debut and one that people will be coming back to for years to come.

review by Adam Fink

Sampa The Great
Live Dates

24 March – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
25 March – Songbyrd – Washington, DC
27 March – Great Scott – Boston, MA
28 March – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
31 March – The Drake Hotel – Toronto, ON
01 April – Deluxx Fluxx – Detroit, MI
03 April – Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
04 April – Turf Club – Minneapolis, MN
08 April – Barboza – Seattle, WA