Sampa The Great first graced our pages six months ago after the Zambian poet, singer and songwriter released "Mona Lisa," a song that encourages young women to never compromise their integrity in the name of achieving success. Her conviction on the record, combined with the socially conscious message, immediately caught our attention, which ultimately led to us following her on SoundCloud.
That decision paid off in spades when, last month, the Sydney-based Sampa released HERoes Act 2, a three-track EP with British singer Estelle (of "American Boy" fame) and producer Rahki (of Kendrick Lamar collaboration fame). The collaboration was made possible by Red Bull Sound Select, who curated a studio session between the three creatives in Paris.
Now, almost two years removed from her introductory project, The Great Mixtape, we caught up with Sampa to discuss her international roots, creating her three song EP in four days and the 2Pac song that changed (pun intended) her life.
You're from Zambia, you live in Austrailia and the song was created in Paris—what international influences, if any, went into the creation of "Everybody's Hero"?
The creation of these songs was mainly where I was in life. It really was a snapshot, a moment in time that I was in.
How is your music directly and indirectly influenced from your time in Africa and Australia?
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As a Zambian raised in Botswana, the way I listen to music—the rhythms, beats, tones and harmonies—has a direct impact my music. Influences also stem from my surroundings, such as being based in Sydney, from both these stories and poems are created.
How did you connect with Estelle and Rahki? What was it like working with them on new material?
Through the Red Bull Sound Select program, which is an artist development program designed to support and uncover local music talent. Red Bull Australia curated the meet and suggested some artists to collaborate with. We ended up meeting with Rahki and Estelle in their Paris studios to record and it was amazing. 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 traveling 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 Estelle and Rahki were very patient and understanding and really let me express myself in our sessions. They took the time to listen to what I wanted the music to reflect and reiterated, “You are an artist” in moments of doubt.
How long did it take to complete the three songs, including "Everybody's Hero," from start to finish?
They were written in a day. We had studio sessions from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day for four days. "Everybody's Hero" was written the night before the next studio session. I don’t remember exactly how long it took to write it.
Who or what was your introduction to hip-hop?
My introduction to hip hop was Tupac Shakur. I remember walking up the stairs to my cousin’s room when I was seven—and that was a journey for a short seven-year-old. The first thing I heard was "Changes" and I stopped dead in my tracks and sat [down] to listen to the song twice. I forgot what I went up to his room to get—I still do to this day.
And how about your hero—who is your hero?