There aren’t too many things that can make me cry. I’ve sat through the film Up five times and didn’t even shed a tear. During the beginning montage I looked over to a theater full of blubbering moviegoers and I began to seriously contemplate if I was part robot or some sort of psychopath. With that said, my crying rut had officially been broken upon listening to UK artist Sampha’s debut project, Process.
For years, Sampha’s production and songwriting skills was the simmering ember underneath the fire of many mainstream artists. Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Solange are three of the most notable big names. I first caught wind of Sampha on fellow UK artist SBTRKT’s “Hold On.” His sailing vocals rang with pain and emotion while they ran across the xylophone riddled metallic beat. Even on Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” Sampha’s backing vocals on the hook standout against Solange’s whispery and infectious croon. Even in the video watching Sampha and Solange jump up and down in celebration of their black girl and black boy joy is enough to make me want to put a white dress and come through the screen and join them in the celebration.
Where Sampha has helped other artists bring out the raw emotion in their music, he proved on his debut that he needs absolutely no help to make a stellar album all the way through.
Kicking off with “Plastic 100°C”, Sampha kicks it off with a bang. It is rare on music these days that you can appreciate every instrument that is used on the track. But every ping on the guitar, piano chord and drum plays its important part. Every spine-tingling lyric is sung softly amongst the litany of instruments and they all seam to weave together effortlessly.
“Blood on Me” is one of the singles from the album and also one of my favorites. Sampha’s singing gets more aggressive and so does the production on this. The battling piano notes on the chorus are effective in replicating Sampha’s internal battle that he is communicating with this song. This is also a great song to dance to with a breakdown towards the end that will have you on your feet dancing like a moron in the middle of your room (that might just be me).
Oh boy, now hear comes the song that made me break down into sloppy tears. The album then goes into “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”, which is not only a love letter to the instrument that transformed Sampha’s life, but also the mourning of his mother, Binty Sisay, who passed away from cancer in 2015. The stripped down stunning piano melody matched with Sampha’s vocals singing “No one knows me like the piano in my mother’s home” is enough to send even the toughest people into a tailspin of emotions. His layered vocals create a meditative melodic contemplation that is hard to recreate on a recorded track, but Sampha does it.
“Reverse Faults” features a production that represents the switched-up choppiness of Argentian FKA Twigs collaborator Arca’s production. Sampha’s pillowy voice goes from mournful in “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” to sultry and sinful in this one.
“Timmy’s Prayer” has a welcomed old-school R&B-feel to it at the beginning, but Sampha’s versatility and genre-bending genius comes through full-force when the track does a complete change-up in the middle and bursts into a fast-paced indie electronic breakdown.
I wouldn’t ask for anymore for an extremely solid and fluid debut from an artist. Process flows effortlessly and drives you through a road that is filled with an emotion at every turn. Sampha has the makings of an icon and I look forward to seeing what he does next.