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Sampa The Great embraces new horizons with As Above, So Below

"As Above, So Below"

Release date: 09 September 2022
8/10
Sampa the great as above so below art
08 September 2022, 00:00 Written by Sebastien Grech
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“People were labelling me Australian hip-hop, without finishing the sentence.”

Three years on from her breakout debut The Return, Sampa the Great touches on many of the same themes; the globe-trotting experiences and insecurities which propelled her to international limelight. But this time around the Melbourne-based artist moves confidently forward, reconnecting with her sprawling roots while embracing new horizons. It’s an engaging listen, which draws us further into the mind of the Zambia-born, Botswana-raised singer-songwriter (real name Sampa Tembo).

As Above, So Below kicks off in mystery mode. The opening track, "Shadows", sounds as though it might have been produced by British electronic music producer Four Tet. Textured keys and sparkling percussion are layered on top of Tembo’s eerie vocals. The result is an immersive, semi-hypnotic soundscape that immediately demands your attention.

Rich instrumentals are a highlight throughout. Executive producer 44 Mag is the architect responsible for delivering this opulent, at times abrasive, tapestry of sounds which partner brilliantly with Tembo’s raw, convincing vocals. The beats are thrillingly unpredictable. In “Mask on”, a juddering bassline abruptly descends into a dreamy hip-hop melody. Guest vocalist Joey Bada$$ comes to life as the serrated instrumental transports us into unfamiliar territory.

On the amapiano influenced "Bona", Tembo strikes a fearless tone, demanding her that critics “run back” what is hers. Her wining confidence lights up the infectious grooves that make up “Can I Live”, with Tembo in her joyous, carefree element. The 9th wonder-esque “Lo Rain” is another highlight. Luscious vocal harmonies are partnered with '90s-style boom-bap percussion, marking the record’s short-lived, enticing excursion into neo-soul. Moments such as these give glimpses into what the songwriter is capable of when she focuses on just one genre.

Quibbles are minor. A surprisingly detached Kojey Radical derails the momentum that Tembo gathers on “IDGAF”, while in “Tilobilo” the album loses some of its urgent focus. As Above, So Below ends on a celebratory note. The album’s closing track, “Let me be great” perfectly epitomises the overall message – be yourself, without external judgement. Sampa The Great's latest offering ensures that she will remain a beacon in her home continent of Africa and beyond

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