Born in Zambia, Sampa the Great lived in the United States, Australia, and Botswana. With multiple African and Diaspora experiences, her music and style are very Pan African. Her work is Pan African in a very organic way. It does not claim to be conscious or preach about Pan Africanism, it just is. Because of this, as a listener, there is joy in listening to music that speaks to our multicultural Black identities. In this interview, she talks about existing as a Black person in different cultural spaces and her interactions across the continent and in the Diaspora.
Sampa the Great also talks about her experiences with racism and self-identification while studying in the US in the early 2010s, and later after she moved to Australia. She also talks about the differences between racism in the US and racism in Australia. She delves into the differences in the social unity of Black people in the US and in Australia, where in the US there is a division between Black immigrants and multi-generation-US-born Blacks and in Australia there is an understanding of the importance of Black unity in the face of living in societies that are held up by institutional racism.
As an artist, Sampa the Great released her first mixtape in 2015 while living in Australia. Several singles, EPs, and mixtapes later, she released her debut solo album, The Return, in 2019. The album peaked at No. 12 on the Australian music charts. She went on to win Best Hip Hop Release at the 2019 and 2020 ARIA Music Awards, Australia’s top music award. In 2020, she also won the ARIA award for Best Female Artist and Best Independent Release.
Sampa the Great has been very outspoken about racism in Australia through her music and performances. She has also been outspoken about the role of women in hip hop and the importance of representation as an African artist on an international stage.
This episode is the last of the special series that we did in partnership with Words Beats & Life. The series was recorded and live-streamed with students in the Hip Hop in Africa class at Howard University and George Washington University.