[Young Turks; 2017]
A lot has happened since Sampha’s promising 2010 debut, Dual EP. Instead of capitalizing off of his first effort, Sampha instead spent the next seven years supporting his mother as she suffered with cancer. She passed away in 2015, and he would soon after discover his own health scare in the form of a lump in his throat. The result of this seven year hiatus from releasing music is Process, an album with a depth and maturity far exceeding that of most debut, full-length efforts.
The album as a whole is one of bereavement. The impact of his mother’s death rises to the surface throughout. “Cora’s Song” takes on the perspective of a son witnessing his mother in her final days, Sampha pleading ““You’ve been with me since the cradle/ You’ve been with me, you’re my angel, please don’t you disappear.” Album closer “What Shouldn’t I Be” contemplates the double-edged sword of love and pain that comes with family, singing “Family ties/ Put them ’round my neck/I’m walkin’ ’round high/ A ghost by my side.” But the album doesn’t always look at the death in a negative light. The album’s finest track, “(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano” is a celebration of how his mother and father shaped his love of music and help him find himself via his art.
“(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano”:
Over the course of those seven years away from his solo work, Sampha collaborated with a list of heavy hitters including Kanye West, Drake, Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs, and Solange, and the music on Process seems a direct result of these interactions. Tracks like “Plastic 100 C” and “Take Me Inside” are blurry R & B odes reminiscent of Ocean’s Blonde while “Reverse Faults” and “Blood On Me” display Sampha’s skills as a DJ, creating sparse, icey layers that mirro that of FKA Twig’s altered realities.
“Blood On Me”:
Seven years may seem like a long time to wait for a debut, but it’s evident on Process that this period of percolation allowed Sampha to take on the project with confidence, focus, and an unflinching honesty that cuts straight to the heart of the listener.