Sampha’s “Process” is a cathartic album that’s going to carry listeners through to the spring. Typically behind the scenes in other artists’ music, Sampha’s first solo album is truly his own creation, but it’s also a statement. The combination of Sampha’s gorgeous vocals and meticulously crafted musicianship on “Process” will leave you teary-eyed and reflective, but also strangely inspired.
Sampha, whose full name is Sampha Sisay, isn’t a household name yet, but he’s created many relationships with important people in music over the last decade. The 28-year-old Londoner was first known for his features on electronic producer SBTRKT’s self-titled album in 2011, and he went on to work with some of today’s most influential artists.
In the past, Sampha has worked with Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Katy B, FKA Twigs and upcoming Chicago rap queen, Jean Deaux.
Sampha’s music can be placed in the R&B genre, comparable to an artist like James Blake. “Process” is similar to much of Blake’s work and other groundbreaking artists and touches on many different genres of music.
The dark and brooding single, “Blood on Me,” closely resembles dance music and is likely to become a club hit. Songs “Kora Sings” and “Under” also dabble heavily with electronic music influences, heavy synth usage and crippling beats.
The big, beautiful ballad on the album, “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is the perfect example of why this album is meditative for listeners but therapeutic for Sampha. It’s safe to say that Sampha has had his share of struggles, and these struggles come through in his music.
His father bought a piano for his family when Sampha was three years old and he quickly learned how to play it. Sadly, Sampha lost his father in 1998 and his mother in 2015 to lung cancer. As the youngest of five siblings, his outlet became the piano. In the second verse on “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” “They said that it’s her time, no tears in sight / I kept the feelings close,” it addresses his sadness about the death of his mother.
On the third track of the album, “Kora Sings,” Sampha reflects on the separation he feels from his mother now that she’s passed. He sings, “You’ve been with me, you’re my angel, please don’t you disappear” and “We don’t have to talk / I just need you here.” His steady but intense falsetto convinces us of an urgency he has to have his mother still by his side and the internal struggle that causes him to feel this urgency.
“Process” also discusses Sampha’s own personal health struggles. He sings on “Plastic 100°C,” “It’s so hot I’ve been melting out here / I’m made out of plastic out here.” The song “Plastic 100°C” is a cry for help: There’s a mysterious lump in his throat that appeared in 2011 and doctors have not been able to diagnose it.
Other songs on “Process,” including “Reverse Faults” and “Timmy’s Prayer,” which was co-written by Kanye West, deal with heartbreak and loss in regards to both his parents and his romantic relationships. On this track Sampha sings “Took the brake pads out the car / And I flew / Smashed this window in my heart / And I blamed you,” with purely soulful vocals, making you believe every word he says and allowing you to feel his pain along with him.
“Timmy’s Prayer,” which definitely contains hints of Kanye West influence, discusses regrets after a failed relationship: “If ever you’re listening / If heaven’s a prison / Then I am your prisoner” over a strange, sorrowful beat but with very romantic lyrics.
On track 10 “What Shouldn’t I Be,” Sampha sings about his brothers: “I should visit my brother / But I haven’t been there in months.” The reflective thought he shares with his listeners is one he might have not even said out loud to himself yet.
Sampha really stays true to this word with “Process”: he doesn’t hide anything and shares his heart with us. The transparency of Sampha’s real feelings is why this album works so well. This fantastic album pulls you in and leaves you grappling with how he feels, prompting you to listen to it multiple times. This “Process” is a process you want and need in your life.