The recently released LP from Sampa The Great titled The Return is a wholesome easy listen; Nineteen tracks split into four sections by interludes, Sampa clearly portrays her versatile, experimental style while moving through genres. From melodic, harmonised gospel infused to MF Doom or Brockhampton influences, Sampa accommodates for a wide range of moods, with an instrumentally well produced and well structured project.
Focusing on her relationship with the industry and the expectations to constantly produce music; alongside calling herself the “house n***a of this country”, The Return depicts Sampa’s route to independence in music and life, with an undertone of struggle and anxiety to break from the subjects of immigration and racism in Australia, where she has been based for the last six years.
The opening two tracks are by far the lightest, soulfully blended, the album has clear influences from artists like Kanye West and Estelle, while still incorporating a resemblance to neo-soul, at points feeling like you’re listening to an Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill album.
Sampa gradually flows into an ensemble of five uncensored, more raw experimental rap songs, projecting the type of music she’s more accustomed to making. “Time’s Up” to “OMG” stand out alone as an EP within the album, with a noticeably raised lyrical input and a more personal connection to her. “Dare To Fly” stood out to me as the early pinnacle of the project, matched by Kwes Darko’s production of “OMG”.
From the “Light It Up Interlude” onwards, the pace slows down, staying more stable and comfortable for what is the most filling section of the album. Sampa demonstrates a type of honest and more regular rap, with sounds of MF doom in “Final Form” coming through, and Badu in “Diamond In The Ruff”.
Being the safest section of the tape it sometimes feels like you’re listening to filler tracks, however it’s clear that time and energy’s been put into the production, the album does lose the experimental feel and at times its originality.
The final four tracks really serve as a finale of this album; from the “Give Love Interlude” to the final seconds of “Made Us Better” were taken into a trance, flooded by loopy chords on the bass, guitar and piano throughout, it’s a strong ending to the project.
Musically it steps up, transitioning from software production to live instruments which complements Sampa’s style, the song “Don’t Give Up” encapsulates the entirety of the album in my opinion, with a bassline and saxophone that draw out raw emotion in a soft track.
Overall The Return serves its purpose as a light easy listen, without too little or too many features we’re given an insight into the unfiltered style of Sampa, taken through an array of emotions with a track for everyone.
Sampa The Great’s The Return is out now via Ninja Tune, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Jackson dos Santos