Sampa the Nice’s Dynamic Leap

Whereas learning at San Francisco’s Academy of Artwork College, Sampa the Nice encountered an “intense tradition shock” — one that just about stopped a journey of self-exploration and expression of her African tradition.

“Being visited with the precise actuality of how the world works and the way the world sees me as a younger African lady, that have was enormous sufficient for me to really cease expressing myself,” she says of this time interval, which contributed to a two-year lull in writing.

However that point in America was eye-opening for the now-29-year-old, serving to her develop into considered one of modern rap’s most valued voices, because of her fearlessness and unparalleled potential to explain the world round her.

Rising up in a creative household, the Zambian-born, Botswana-raised Sampa Tembo began taking piano and singing classes round age 9. Throughout this time, she began journaling and poetry, sparking an affinity for songwriting. The younger Sampa discovered the “catharsis” of “being heard” as the center of 5 kids, and, later, writing offered her with the flexibility “to doc [her] existence.”

“[My ‘why’ as a writer] is to exist and to really feel,” she tells SPIN over Zoom, brushing her brassy pink aspect bang away from her eye with a smile. Regardless of it being almost 8 p.m. her time when she calls from Lusaka, Zambia, she’s vivacious whereas discussing her writing course of: “It’s a really therapeutic expertise that additionally permits your self to see you thru a fowl’s eye view versus [through] tunnel imaginative and prescient, which is normally how we undergo life as human beings.”

Sampa’s early appreciation for hip-hop, particularly acts like 2Pac and Lauryn Hill, helped her notice the connection between poetry and music. In round 2013, after her time learning in California, Sampa moved to Australia to pursue an audio engineering diploma and begin engaged on her music profession, unbeknownst to her mother and father. Her first undertaking, 2015’s The Nice Mixtape, launched her sharp fusion of political, social, and religious themes, amplified by African, hip-hop, and neo-soul-inspired sonics.

As her fan base expanded, so did her music, from the reflective strategy of 2017’s Birds and the BEE9 mixtape to her eclectic debut LP, 2019’s The Return. She collected 4 ARIA Awards between 2019 and 2020 each for her album, her empowering single “Ultimate Kind,” and her total artistry. She additionally, crucially, carried out because the opening act for musicians like Hiatus Kaiyote, Little Simz, and Kendrick Lamar on her come-up.


“I bear in mind doing the sound verify [for Kendrick’s Auckland City Limits show in 2016] and his setlist was on the bottom,” Sampa says. “It received me pondering [that] I actually ought to take this factor critically, as a result of I’m right here at some extent the place I’ve the chance to specific myself musically and be an artist for an artist who I’m impressed by. That’s once I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be an artist.’”

Sampa The Nice’s second album, As Above, So Under, represents her energy as an African girl. Birthed after a return house to Zambia throughout the early days of the pandemic, the undertaking explores Sampa’s interior ideas (“I could be arduous, I could be tender, I could be something underneath the celebrities,” she affirms on the confidence-boosting intro “Shadows”) and her most prideful moments but (“I feel [giving a fuck] is beneath me now, I ain’t even trippin’ no extra, no extra, no extra,” she raps and sings with conviction on the energetic “IDGAF,” which options British-Ghanian artist Kojey Radical.)

“It’s been an important journey again house,” Sampa says of her time in Zambia. “Simply having the ability to come again to the place that impressed me, [journeying] again to why I began being an artist within the first place, connecting with my youthful self who wished to specific herself.”

Sampa says As Above, So Under gives a “lighter air” than her earlier initiatives, the results of “shedding away” the necessity to show who she is: “[The album is] extra of the concentrate on why I’m making music and why I like expressing myself by means of music, versus defending [why I’m] making music and defending who I’m.”

Sampa the Great
(Credit score: Travys Owens)

Her aplomb on wax takes the type of an alter-ego, Eve, who permits her to “be the girl that [she’s] all the time wished to be,” remaining steadfast in a area she was apprehensive to affix as an African girl. “A lady who raps will not be even within the dialog in the case of what individuals anticipate from African girls,” she notes. “It appears like I’m breaking a stereotype and altering the course of what we outline as what an African girl ‘does’—and I’m tying that to the primary girl, scientifically, being Eve.”

All through the album, Sampa pays homage to the music and cultural affect of the African diaspora — a “full-circle second.” Zamrock, a Zambian-created fusion of African music with psychedelic rock and funk, percolates all through the affirming “Can I Dwell.” International icon The evocative vocals of Angeliqué Kidjo, who “paved the way in which for African artists,” punctuate the introspective finale “Let Me Be Nice.” Zambian musicians Mag44, Sam Nyambe, Sammy Masta, and Solomon Plate are credited alongside Sampa as producers. “These are artists who I noticed rising up, who [expressed] themselves musically and impressed me to push our tradition and our nation ahead,” she continues.

This quest for private liberation has not been simple for Sampa — her stage title, she notes, serves as extra of a lifelong objective quite than a braggadocious moniker. However all of those cases have formed her type, sound, and spirit.

“For me, [being ‘the great’] is that this objective to realize, to be the best model of myself,” she says. “It was extra about ‘I’m going to be the largest model of myself, and that would be the sum of the good versus me,’ particularly at the moment. I felt the alternative of that when ‘Sampa the Nice’ was created.”

“The factor that I don’t type of give myself a small pat on the again for is the braveness that it took to create these initiatives,” she provides. “They symbolize one thing greater than me, and I used to be loud and daring in that illustration. I’ve loved the method of the journey as an alternative of specializing in the vacation spot.”

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