Sampa The Great – The Return (4 stars)

Sampa the Great – The Return

Debut album from Australia-based rapper and songwriter

If it might seem odd naming your debut album The Return, it's worth remembering that this is far from the beginning of Sampa The Great's story. The Zambia-born, Australia-based artist drew critical acclaim for her 2017 mixtape Birds and the BEE9, and she's been on a steady ascent ever since.

But there's another return being addressed here. 'I personally feel that people on the continent have a duty to our family in the diaspora, to re-teach our culture, language, spirituality, ways and return our peeps to ourselves,' Sampa recently said of new single 'OMG', a highlight among near-relentless pleasure points. For an artist who has also lived between Botswana, LA and San Francisco before settling in Melbourne, the musician frequently talks up life at the intersection of various identities, and the result is an album that sounds as rich and vibrant as a life lived across continents. 'Music is my way of expressing my return, my self, my beginnings,' the title track proclaims, and suddenly the eponymous return feels as much a journey as an arrival.

Sampa's greatest weapon is frequently the element of surprise. Tracks like 'Summer' and 'Don't Give Up' are positively soporific in places, lulling the listener through the record before something like 'Time's Up' comes and blows it all up. There's a raft of collaborators across the album's 19 tracks, all of which promises an exhausting listen which blessedly never arrives; the whole thing feels like it's over almost as soon as it's begun, at which point the listener takes their own trip back to the beginning.

Could The Return get Sampa The Great's foot firmly in the door of the music industry? We'll let her answer that one, on the gloriously horn-laden track 'Final Form': 'Nah, knock the walls off. Fuck the whole key, we gonna hinge the whole door off.'

Out Fri 13 Sep on Ninja Tune.

Sampa The Great

The poet and singer-songwriter from Zambia performs hip hop material.

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