When the three-song suite HERoes ACT 2 from Australian rapper Sampa the Great her landed in my inbox, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. The unconventional origin of Sampa Tempo caught me off-guard. First of all, rappers from Australia haven’t had the greatest track record in the States, but it took exactly four bars of her verse on “Paved With Gold” to change my mind and make me a fan of Zambian-born, Mos Def-inspired, diminutive lyrical powerhouse from Sydney. You’d think Sampa would get tired of people underestimating her, but instead, she just keeps grinding.
Sampa’s lyrics stand strong even without accompaniment, as she demonstrates in a brand new freestyle, that we’re premiering above. She flexes the multisyllabic rhyme patterns in the stream of consciousness sprawl that she will soon become known for, with incisive bars that convey both self-assurance and self-consciousness. Sampa’s performance in the video proves her to be every bit as dynamic in person as in her pen game. She is captivating and charismatic as she vents and unspools her serpentine flow, expressing confidence that “life will turn out as it’s meant.”
In her bio, Sampa relates the experience that set her on the path to becoming an intriguing, inspiring new voice in the rap game. After asking a group of boys at her primary school if she could join their rap group for the talent show, she was met with that devastating, dreaded response that meets far too many girls who want to participate in “masculine” activities like rap: “You can’t rap with us, because you’re a girl.”
Well, now the joke’s on them. Taking in the words and rebel spirit of Lauryn Hill, a kindred soul in the typically male-dominated arena of hip-hop, Sampa dedicated herself to becoming not just a great female rapper, but a great rapper period. Where many aspiring emcees — male, female, and other — are entirely too comfortable with learning the basics and just coasting on charisma, it’s easy to hear the time, dedication, and effort Sampa has put into not just drilling the fundamentals of rap, but truly mastering the craft. Her hard work has led her to a deal with Red Bull Sound Select and that three-song EP, HERoes, Part 2 in collaboration with producer Rakhi and star British singer/rapper Estelle.