Flow Naturally: The World Of Sam Akpro

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Peckham makes gems. A statement that is proved time and time again, and for the latest instalment in SE15’s series of exceptional talent we have been gifted Sam Akpro. Although it’s early days in terms of his musical journey, with a sound that fuses far-flung influences without limitation he is more than equipped to go the distance.

His debut EP ‘Drift’ released in 2021 laid a clear and encouraging path that has led directly to his latest EP release ‘Arrival’, a subversive fusion of post-rock, jazz, funk, and no-wave. “The first EP was me being quite naive, in a good way and a very positive way. I think a lot of people will say the same thing, that they wish they could go back to when they were at that point and they weren’t overthinking anything.”

What jumps out first about Sam Akpro upon meeting him is how highly he speaks of his friends and the influence they’ve had on his creative confidence. “I had a friend whose house I used to go to after uni and he used to be making beats all the time.”

Watching his friend use Logic inspired him to start making beats and the procurement of a laptop courtesy of student loans made it possible. For him, this would be the first drop in what would become an ocean. As he started moving into the realm of music his old world of studying Biomedical science at Kingston University fell away and before long he had opted out of his degree to pursue his passion. “I started making beats and then I got a guitar the year after in 2019. I’d never played before but obviously, when I was a kid, I played violin at school. I wasn’t really learning songs. I wasn’t trying to copy something, it’s just a cool thing to play.”

Sam started sharing his music on SoundCloud in January 2019, finding welcome success and laying the groundwork to cultivate a dedicated and supportive core fan base. Citing the 1000 true fans theory, which states that only 1000 dedicated fans are required to actively support an artist’s career, as something that resonates deeply with his purpose. “Where music started for me was on SoundCloud, with House of Pharaohs and that kind of era. SoundCloud was very, very sick, even to this day I have followers on there that have been there since the night it started.”

His mother’s Gambian background and his father’s love for gospel and highlife music had a hand in shaping his ear but arguably the largest component of his creative tapestry comes from his love for skate culture and the connections he developed kicking around the streets of South London. The freedom, exploration and individuality of the culture brought new modes of expression for him. “It’s madness… and the culture when you meet all the people in it, it’s really good. Because obviously, it’s not just the painting, it’s going to steal the paint from the shop all of that just like running around tracks or behind the block late at night.” 

Waxing lyrical about his inspirations he mentions that Sonic Youth and The Alchemist were crucial in the development of his sound, but above them all stands the king himself, J Dilla. He became obsessed with the drums and sampling techniques of the era and wanted to experience that process for himself. “The Shining album innit, that’s a mad album. Like it’s hip-hop but there’s more than that in there. A lot of it started from sampling. Once I took it out of my bedroom and to the band it became something bigger.”

The songs he ends up releasing are usually the ones created in a short amount of time. These fast-developing ideas serve as the foundation for his tracks. ‘Trace’, for example, was created in an hour and was kept for four years before being re-recorded and released. Once it was out Sam combined it with a music video that transforms Peckham into a dark, psychedelic animation. Mentioning that he wanted it to be like a fever dream so people could understand his associations with his home turf. This intuitive approach coupled with a longer development time means he can slowly add and subtract elements, tweak the music, and try out new ideas, refining the tracks over time. “Some of my best stuff comes from moments when I wasn’t consciously trying to control the outcome, I want to allow the music to flow naturally”.

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Words: Naima Sutton
Photo Credit: Holly Whitaker