The Return cover

The Return

Released

Born in Zambia, based in Melbourne, and resonating everywhere, Sampa the Great spends enough time on her Ninja Tune breakout The Return searching out her place in the world that it becomes clear that she belongs everywhere. With a buzzy thrum of a voice and a flow that recalls the on-point rhythm-dekeing, sing-song emphaticness of Yasiin Bey, her presence as a rapper is arresting even when she’s caught up in artistic self-doubt and outward skepticism (“Freedom”) — though the defiant assertiveness and diasporic pride in cuts like “OMG” (“Never underestimate your highness/Dripped in melanin, Galaxy’s finest”) and “Final Form” (“Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh/Greatness in me, you can’t make me feel less”) are where her power really shines. That she balances these ferocious assertions of hip-hop bonafides with equally poised excursions into neo-soul and R&B-inflected jams (“Leading Us Home”; “Don’t Give Up”) only reveals the kind of stylistic breadth that puts her square in the tradition — and the company — of Missy and Lauryn.

Nate Patrin

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