Sampha - Process - Review
This past Friday featured many album releases worthy of a review. Big Sean, Syd, MUNA to name a few - but Sampha's Process jumped out and grabbed my attention more than any. He goes by his given name - Sampha Sisay, not a stage name. He features a simmering, flawless falsetto over a mixture of trap, pop and piano. There is a soothing nature to his voice, but also a pain when he cracks sonically at times to emphasize certain lyrics. One such time came on the opening track, recounting an incredibly horrifying moment on tour when he found a lump in his throat; "Oh, sleeping with my worries, yeah, I didn't really know what that lump was, my luck". He starts this album off with a bang - instrumentally and emotionally. FYI - he's ok now. For an incredible cover-story detailing his backstory, check out this story from 'FADER'.
The second track is 'Blood On Me', which has been out as a single since September 2016. For some, this will be the standout of the album. It features a wonderfully placed cowbell over banging drums and of course beautiful piano. We witness his fear expressed as he roars during the chorus; "I swear they smell the blood on me/ I hear them coming for me, yeah". Later he adds to this point; "I'm so alone now, swervin' out of control now". It's a hauntingly beautiful track. '(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano', is the 4th track on Process. Sampha has gone through a lot in life already, with both parents passing away before he turned 20. This song tries to grasp at something constant - and catches hold onto his times growing up in front of his mother's piano. It is a deep, moving, and personal song; "No one knows me like the piano in my mother's home". He sings; "You assure me I have something, some people call it soul". This song is short in terms of words, but vast in terms of the depth behind them.
I mentioned earlier that he sang over a trap beat on this record - and that would be 'Reverse Faults'. The first half of the song starts off with a spacey, winding synth and snappy drums, and switches midway through into a bass-heavy, hi-hat and snare concoction that will get you shaking your booty. Sampha follows this one with his latest single, 'Under'. It features a slinky drum line and excellent layering with a minimal beat which helps to show off his lyrics; "We're together on this balcony, yeah/ I'm still swimming in those eyes/ you made it rain like you own the sky". The interpretation is somewhat implied, but I like to imagine him being swept over by someone romantically with that writing. Later on my theory would seem to be confirmed, be that good or bad; "And yes, I'm under your spell/ under/ waves come crashing over me/ I'm somewhere, an open sea/ I'm gasping for air".
The first single released in anticipation for this album is the 8th song on the record, 'Timmy's Prayer'. For most of us, we had only heard Sampha featured on acts like Frank Ocean, Kanye West, or Solange. Needless to say he has the credentials to be where he is - but he needed to step onto the scene in a big way in the leadup to his debut solo album, and that he did. Sonically we are blessed with a track that doesn't follow a traditional beat progression at all. His tracks instead follow a lyrical flow, helping to emphasize certain moments. One such moment came near the beginning of this track as he describes coping with loss; "My ribcage opened, my heart ballooned/ I, I've lost another one/ I'm on the floor, tryna dress my wounds/ address the fact it was mine to lose/ I, I didn't try enough". Later he describes trying to pass along his love for them after they're no longer around; "I'm singing so blindly/ can you hear me, can you find me?/ if you find me, wanna tell you I love you so".
Sampha wraps up Process with 'What Shouldn't I Be?', a slow, soft, contemplating track. The resounding theme on this one is something our parents tell us as we move out into the real world; "You can always come home". In this scene though, it is something that he is only momentarily considering. With the personal pain and trials he's gone through already in this record and in his life, we can understand the reason he avoids going home. He sings; "I should visit my brother/ but I haven't been there in months/ I've lost connection, signal/ to how we were". I don't know about you, but I'd be a mess without my parents. Add in a lost connection to my brother, and I'm not sure how I'd get by.
Sampha has released a beautiful piece of art that should 100% be listened to straight through. It's only 40 minutes long, so try to take the time at some point this week and fully invest in it.
You can find the links below. Enjoy!