Following some high-profile collaborations with worldwide superstars like Drake, Kanye West, Solange Knowles and Frank Ocean, Sampha Sisay, known by his stage name as simply Sampha, began gaining some major buzz. Hype and momentum quickly started to build up, as fans anxiously awaited a debut LP from the British singer with the commanding and soulful vocals. Finally, on February 3rd, Sampha released “Process,” a reflective, mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful ten-track album.
Produced mainly by Sampha himself and Scottish music producer Rodaidh McDonald, the album achieves a seamless mixture of R&B, alternative soul and electronic production that fuse to form a cohesive and complete vision. Because Sampha’s voice is so intoxicating and the production is so layered and nuanced, it can be difficult to focus on his lyrics at times. However, glossing over the lyrical content on this project is a mistake. On “Reverse Faults,” the 28-year-old singer and songwriter compares his tendency to sabotage his relationships to a self-inflicted car crash. By the time the chorus hits and the heaviest bass on the record grabs the listener, they too are thrust into the doomed car with Sampha.
“Blood on Me”, the album’s lead single, is a vivid and vulnerable configuration, underlined by an inescapable sense of paranoia, although it features arguably the record’s most infectious chorus. “Kora Sings” is subtly tropical and one of the more sonically upbeat songs on the LP, although the deep and meditative lyrics paint the picture of a mother weeping over the loss of her child.
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“No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)” is a full-on James Blake-Elton John hybrid ballad, where Sampha gushes about his childhood and upbringing over a lush and serene composition of keys. The intrapersonal track is the most accessible on the album, even as Sampha is lamenting the loss of his earliest inspiration, his mother. “Under” features the cleanest composition on the project, as the drum machine sets the stage and the rest of the instrumentation gets laid neatly and patiently atop each other. “Timmy’s Prayer” is co-written by Kanye West and it’s arguably the strongest and most complete track on the record. The song’s main keyboard riff is sampled from Timmy Thomas’ 1972 track “The Coldest Days of My Life” and it’s one of only two samples featured on the album. “Timmy’s Prayer” is silky, vibrant electronic R&B, which features Sampha crooning “I messed up, I know now” which is reminiscent of West’s apologetic pleas on 2010’s “Runaway.”
“Process” is an invigorating yet melancholic look into the psyche of the singer/songwriter who has flown under the radar for far too long. The lavish instrumentation acts as the perfect backdrop as Sampha’s deep and soulful voice commands the eclectic musical dispositions. Fans of pop, soul, R&B, and electronic will all be able to take something thought-provoking and memorable away from this transcendent debut album. “Process” is out now via Young Turks.