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Album Review: Sampa The Great – As Above, So Below

Poet and rapper Sampa The Great looks home to her Zambian roots with her greatly anticipated sophomore album, As Above, So Below. This album marks a new chapter in Sampa’s anthology and is her first release of new music since 2019’s ARIA Award and Australian Music Prize-winning debut album, The Return, which made her the first musician in its 15-year history to win the latter award twice.

Immediately we are introduced to the African influence that carries us through the album, as the opening track begins with the resplendent, mystical sounds of the Mbira (thumb piano). Sampa tells of ‘demons coming’ before a spoken word outro in Bemba, one of the native languages of Zambia.

Musically, too, the album sees Sampa connect with her home and culture, which differentiates from her previous work. The record features collaborations with Southern African creatives, as well as executive production by award-winning Zambian producer Mag44. Zamrock’s influence is rife amongst each track, with central track ‘Can I Live?’ featuring the iconic Zamrock band W.I.T.C.H paving way for Sampa’s powerful vocals and lyrics that question the path of artistry. In ‘Mask On’, a sample of a Zambian nursery rhyme forms the bedrock for Sampa and Joey BadA$$’s resonating notions of disappointment in the representation in the music industry. Lead single ‘Lane’ follows with a woozy vibe and synth bass before a breathless, fierce verse from Denzel Curry. These are just three of several eclectic international collaborators, with other names including Kojey Radical, Angélique, Chef 187, Tio Nason, and Sampa’s own sister, Mwanjé, who features on the triumphant ‘Never Forget’.

‘Let Me Be Great’ rounds off the album with a symphonic declaration of the album’s wide-reaching message to be yourself. Spiritually revitalised, As Above, So Below is a manifesto of self-validation, womanhood, pride, and joy told through Sampa Tempo’s memories of Africa. The album hears Sampa poised with a more matured and reassured voice as she reaches a poignant moment in her life and journey as a musician.

As Above, So Below was released 9th September via Loma Vista Recordings

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