If you phone Lance Sampson, a.k.a. Aquakultre, his daughter might chime in.
“She loves the phone,” Sampson says with a warm laugh after the squeak of a cheerful toddler cuts him off mid-sentence.
Sampson is a Halifax-based hip hop artist who’s making a steady rise in the local and national music scenes. But firstly, he’s a father.
“Family is number one. That’s kind of what I’ve always preached getting into this music thing,” says Sampson.
Recognition and collaboration
Sampson recently released “Pay It Forward,” the second single off his upcoming record — Legacy. It’s a project about just that: Sampson’s past, his future, and the family he and his partner have built together. If “Pay it Forward” is anything to go by, the rest of the album promises silky smooth beats layered with Sampson’s narrative songwriting and refined rhythm and soul.
As a hip hop and soul singer, Sampson has his music right where he wants it.
In 2018, he won CBC Searchlight — a competition that finds the best unsigned Canadian musician of the year. As part of the prize for winning Searchlight, Sampson was selected to be in the 2019 Allan Slaight JUNO Master Class. (The annual program mentors up-and-coming Canadian musicians.) Most recently, Sampson spent a week in Calgary’s National Music Centre recording Legacy, taking his family along for the trip.
Sampson came onto Halifax’s hip hop scene in 2015, taking on the moniker Aquakultre in 2016. After one night playing at the north end’s Seahorse Tavern, he teamed up with three Halifax music scene regulars: Nick Dourado, Jeremy Costello and Nathan Doucet.
As a group, they played Sackville, N.B.’s SappyFest and eventually decided to become the band Aquakultre, diverse musical styles playing into one project.
It’s since been a collaboration that Sampson says has changed the trajectory of his music.
“It’s brought my awareness for how good being different is,” said Sampson.
Stories behind the music
The diversity of musical background of the band is clear in “Pay it Forward” with the song’s reverberating vocal track, reminiscent of The Weeknd or Twin Shadow’s music.
“I’m recalling the days I made a promise to myself I would change,” sings Sampson midway through this track that talks about community change and making a difference in the next generation.
Last fall, Aquakultre released “I Doubt It,” the first single from Legacy. The song was written not long after Lido Pimienta’s performance at Halifax Pop Explosion in 2017. During her set, a white photographer refused to move when Pimienta requested white women to move to the back of the room to create space for women of colour in front of the stage. Sampson’s song is about community, about strength in the face of opposition.
But the song also serves as a love letter to Sampson’s original neighbourhood: Halifax’s north end. In the music video for the track, he’s shown living out a day in the community, talking to people on their front steps, visiting coffee shops and ending with the electricity of a live performance at the Seahorse.
Sampson says Legacy marks a culmination of sorts.
“That retrospection of me finding out who I am,” Sampson says.
So, who is he? He’s a devoted father who says he puts his family first. That means music takes a back seat when considering his future, which now includes a career in plumbing.
Would he quit his day job to give Aquakultre full-time attention?
“Are you crazy? No!” he says with a laugh.
Hope and inspiration
Sampson hopes Legacy will inspire others who learn from his story: his stint in prison, his decision to change his priorities and his celebration of where life’s at now.
“When they know my background, they know my story,” says Sampson. “They can look at me, and if they ever have any doubts about things they can be like, ‘Hey, this guy has been through it, and he’s changed his life. Then I can too.’”
Legacy is produced partnership with Black Buffalo Records and will be released this spring. Album release parties are planned for Halifax and Toronto.