Rap Song of the Week runs down all the hip-hop tracks you need to hear every Friday. Check out the full playlist here. This week, Sampa the Great shines on “Let Me Be Great,” a standout track from her sophomore album, AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.
Like many people, Zambian-born poet and rapper Sampa the Great sought refuge at home during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Returning to her place of birth unexpectedly helped free Sampa of some of the heavy expectations she was carrying after the success of her debut album, The Return.
“A beautiful thing happened where I got to relocate back home,” she told GRAMMY.com. “As uncertain and scary as it was, I got to work with artists I saw growing up. Then, I got to journey back to the young Sampa, who dreamed of being an artist, and revert to the reasons why I wanted to be an artist in the first place.”
One of those artists was Beninese trailblazer Angélique Kidjo, who contributes transcendent vocals to “Let Me Be Great,” the closing track on Sampa’s new album, AS ABOVE, SO BELOW. Reflecting Sampa’s commitment to telling the story of her rejuvenation through the lens of African history, the standout cut features exhilarating production giving way to her self-assured delivery.
“A queen named Lauryn said you can conquer any Hill,” Sampa raps. “That’s how I feel/ My vision, I’m impeccable/ Every strength gained, every stage detectable.” Those certainly sound like the words of an artist whose expectations as a worldwide ambassador were lifted after connecting with her younger self.
Billed as the first project “created in Zambia with a Zambian Executive Producer, African visual team, and majority African producers and artists,” AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is ambitious enough to allow Sampa to live up to the second half of her moniker.