Sampa the Great - As Above, So Below Music Album Reviews

Sampa the Great - As Above, So Below Music Album Reviews
The rapper continues to explore identity and belonging on her second album. Recorded in her native Zambia, it folds together zamrock, polyrhythmic percussion, and choral harmonies.

When Sampa the Great became one of Australia’s most celebrated rap acts, the Zambia-born, Botswana-raised artist was determined to remind listeners of her African origins. Her response was The Return, a sprawling mix of jazz rap, earth-toned R&B, and self-affirming spoken word that used the displacement of diaspora to explore the meaning of home. Across the 77-minute album, Sampa took solace and found family in the collaborators that sustained her an ocean away from her homeland. That journey of self-acceptance continues on As Above, So Below, where Sampa folds zamrock, polyrhythmic percussion, and choral harmonies into her roving music. Though her rapping remains impersonal, she sounds renewed on these homegrown songs, the anxiety of her past music replaced with relief.

Sampa recorded the album in Zambia over a two-week period, working with local musicians and producers who understood and expanded her cultural reference points. In Australia, she often had to play translator when she wanted producers to incorporate Southern African elements into her music, a process that underscored the very remoteness from home she was trying to lessen. Her collaborators on As Above, So Below let her be a denizen rather than a liaison, allowing her to truly showcase the place and culture she loves, not just evoke it. She never unlocks the full potential of the change in setting, but the arrangements are inspired.

The album is leaner and punchier than its restless predecessor, trading winding verses and interludes for streamlined songs of celebration. Produced by gospel artist Mag44, along with Powers Pleasant and Solomon Moyo, the songs prioritize rhythm and groove with a mix of live instrumentation and buoyant drum programming. As Above, So Below isn’t a wall-to-wall transcontinental party like GoldLink’s Diaspora, WurlD’s My WorlD With U, or Amaarae’s The Angel You Don’t Know, but the mood is festive. “MaskOn” begins with a rhythmic Zambian nursery rhyme padded with bass kicks and shouts, then slinks into a swaying blend of hi-hats and blues guitar reminiscent of UGK’s country rap. “Can I Live,” a collaboration with one of the surviving members of pioneering zamrock band W.I.T.C.H., opens with gospel keys and percussion and builds to a psychedelic electric-guitar freakout. Sampa and crew seem hell-bent on packing the album with details and nods to Zambian music, every track a byway to some bustling hub.

Sampa’s limber singing and rapping fit snugly into all this motion. She performs in both English and the Zambian language Bemba over a pittering marimba arrangement on “Tilibobo.” The growled verses of “Can I Live” lean into the grit of her throaty voice, the strain conveying her irritation. On “Lo Rain,” which channels the lullaby rap of Noname, her double-time flows swing with the drums and keyboard melodies.

On a technical level, these songs offer the best performances of Sampa’s career, but in terms of style and emotion, they fall short. Despite the homecoming mood, Sampa often sounds distant, her rhymes functional and indistinct. The odes to African achievements on “Never Forget” are self-affirming but grayscale. “Who took fabric, made that shit classic/That shit aint average/We did,” Sampa boasts flatly. “Let Me Be Great,” in which Sampa declares herself a lion and a king while demanding respect, is just as generic. There’s no hunger to her delivery, no slap to her chest-thumping. Though heartfelt, her embrace of Zambian music fails to unlock new dimensions to her writing or sharpen her perspectives on home and herself. Sampa flies her flag, but never flaunts it. That anonymity doesn’t sink As Above, So Below, but it dampens the thrill of Sampa tapping into her roots, and underscores her shaky fundamentals as a rapper. Despite her dexterous flows, she lacks presence; her songs signify the many places she’s been and people she’s met, but rarely bring those connections to life.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sampa the Great - As Above, So Below Music Album Reviews Sampa the Great - As Above, So Below Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, September 19, 2022 Rating: 5

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