The winner of CBC Music’s 2018 Searchlight competition, Halifax hip-hop artist/singer-songwriter Aquakultre, isn’t ready to give up his day job just yet, but after emerging on top of over 2,000 entries from across Canada, he’s got good reason to. Prior to submitting his entry, the 25-year-old musician (given name Lance Sampson) had earned local recognition as one of the best rappers in the Halifax scene, but that was just a sideline to his full-time gig as a plumber.
It’s also just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the story behind the song Sampson submitted, which ended up swaying Searchlight’s panel of music industry pros and celebrity judges. As noted on the Aquakultre Bandcamp page, “Sure” came into being while Sampson was doing a stint in prison, and was allowed to have an acoustic guitar. The plaintive ballad with a subtle hip-hop beat offers a moving message of hope while showcasing Sampson’s pure tenor.
As Searchlight judge Allan Reid, president and CEO of CARAS/The Juno Awards and MusiCounts, stated in a press release, “It’s all about being unique, and standing out from the crowd. As soon as we first heard Aquakultre and the combination of hip-hop, acoustic guitar, and his soulful voice, we knew it was something special.”
With the win, Aquakultre now has a busy year ahead, including a place in the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class artist development program, culminating with a performance during Juno Week 2019. Sampson has also earned a one-week residency at Studio Bell in Calgary, home of the National Music Centre and its recording studios, in addition to a performance slot at this year’s CBC Music Festival at Toronto’s Echo Beach.
To hear more, go to aquakultre.bandcamp.com
Congratulations on winning CBC Searchlight. What motivated you to enter, and how have you been celebrating so far?
I want to say it was an Instagram post that motivated me. I tried for the Juno Master Class thing last year and got slept on. I haven’t been celebrating at all. Every day remains the same.
How long have you been making music, and what inspired you to start performing?
I have only been making what I call my best music for a year now. I always wanted to take on different characters when I was young, so it’s only right that I hit a stage up.
What made you choose “Sure” as the song you submitted, and what's the story behind it?
I chose it because it felt like this style was the kinda thing Searchlight was looking for. I make a lot of different stuff, but this was the first song I’d ever written on guitar, and I was in jail when I wrote it.
You also work as a plumber. How do you plan on balancing your two careers now?
Music is not my career, plumbing is. Period. Unless someone tells me they got 240 million dollars for me, plumbing will remain my job.
What can you say about any new music you’ve got in the works?
“Sure” and the project it is on is like a year old, so it’s dope that it's getting the recognition it is now. I got all kinds of new projects on the go, the people—if they are real fans—will just have to wait for it to drop.