After spending over five years collaborating with an array of world class talent like Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and Drake, offering his sensational vocals on their tracks, 2017 is finally the year of Sampha himself as he finally releases his long-awaited beautiful debut album Process.
Whilst we were reminded of his unique vocals over the years as he popped up here and there on his own EPs released in 2010 and another in 2013, and on other artists tracks as mentioned, Sampha was otherwise occupied away from music caring for his sick mother who fell unwell not long after his collaboration with Beyoncé and sadly passed away during the process of writing this album.
Having already lost his father as a young child, it is hard to ignore the raw emotion and passion projecting throughout the album that is relating to his family and the loss of his parents, which makes it all the more intense and emotional.
Although track “Kora Sings” sounds fairly upbeat, with the production sounding similar to SBTRKT’s music (a group that Sampha is so often working with), it is actually an open confession about his feelings towards his mother, “a mother needs her sons, oh she needs them near, we don’t have to talk, I just need you here”, “you’ve been with me since the cradle, you’ve been with me, you’re my angel”.
Similarly on track “No One Knows Me Like The Piano“, he references his piano in his mother’s house – written about when he moved out of home to do some recording, but had to move back due to his mother falling unwell again. He admits the song is a metaphor, because the piano is in his mum’s home, suggesting perhaps that the piano is all he has left in that house, making this track the most passionate, emotional and chilling track on the album, revealing the true depth of his unhappiness.
Despite Process being filled with the feelings and confusion of grief, it is wonderful to see Sampha relieving himself and his talents on his bedroom produced album, finally! The production and instrumental on each track is perfect to his sound – a balanced bundle of soul, R&B, electro and dance, not to mention the perfection of his vocal control.
His soft, flawless voice is presented no better than on track “What Shouldn’t I Be“, a mellow and stripped back creation filled with just his voice and the simple plunking of a harp, where he presents his impressive range, which transforms from a high burst to a low whisper.
There are plenty of more upbeat moments on this album that are written about different topics. For example ‘Blood On Me’ is a hectic and busy blend of acoustic piano, electric drums and instrumentals as Sampha desperately sings out “I swear they smell the blood on me, I hear them coming for me”, referring to strange characters that appear to be chasing him.
There is a sense of sheer panic in his voice and in some cases he even sounds out of breath, a completely different sound. This haunting and edgy sound is something that features a lot throughout this album, with the theme of ghosts and spirits cropping up a lot in reference to his late mother.
Track “Plastic 100°C” however, is written about feeling under pressure, like plastic melting in the heat, supported throughout by a humming gospel choir giving it a spiritual feel once again, a chilling strum of a harp and his beautiful piano playing, giving the track have a serious intense feel similar to in “Blood On Me“.
His effortless vocals and precise production really has created one of the most sensational and unique albums released in a long time. His ability to reveal himself in attempt of dealing with his grief is inspirational, and what a way to do it, by using his talent as a way of producing a beautiful and raw recollection of his feelings.
Sampha’s Process is out now via Young Turks, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Mia Woloszczynska