Before Sampa the Great took on a name that will hopefully propel her one day into the same space as some of rap’s greatest artists, she was Sampa Tembo, a young MC who is trying to find her niche in the world of music. Born and raised between Zambia and Botswana, Sampa moved to California when she was 19 and a few years later, she left to study music production in Sydney, Australia. Even with all of her worldwide experience, Sampa was still nervous and terrified before she stepped on stage for the first time.
“I was at a jazz and hip-hop freestyle night with my sisters. I think it was like three or four years ago. I remember her pushing me to jump on stage and I was really scared. I jumped onstage and the crowd went wild. This was in Sydney, Australia,” the 27-year-old recollected. “I was like ‘Oh, maybe I can do this thing for real.’ A couple of people were like try rap out and that’s kind of how I started this.”
Heralded as one of the contemporary African music scene’s most promising newcomers, Sampa quickly made a name for herself in Australia and she’s been on a steady rise since. With a musical palate infused with the influences of her Zambian heritage and classic hip hop from the likes of Tupac and Lauryn Hill, Sampa has been finding an even broader audience and fan base. She released a steady stringle of singles and EPs before dropping off her breakout debut album, The Return, to much acclaim. Of all the tracks she released so far, Sampa says “Don’t Give Up” is one of her personal favorites.
“It’s really easy to make songs about your wins or celebrations. But to make a song when you’re really down and out, and you feel like, ‘This is it. I’m depressed, it’s over,’ I feel like that’s a really important music to make because as human beings we get to that point,” she said.
Recently named BET's Amplified Artist of the Month for September 2020 (and the first-ever global artist to receive that honor), Sampa promises that 2021 is going to be an even bigger year. Dubbing it a “music exodus” of sorts, she teased brand new music videos, films, and albums.
“When you start out, you’re definitely trying to find out what music you like [or] what sound is yours,” Sampa said. “You will definitely get a more assured Sampa and you will definitely hear more experimental sounds because I want to challenge myself musically.”
Hear more about Sampa from the artist herself below. Get even better acquainted with the fast-rising lyricist via our specially-curated Pandora Playlist here.
(Photo by Marc Grimwade/WireImage)