Sampha – Process Review
WRITTEN BY KARAN TELI
First things first, my apologies to Sampha. I personally made a list of the 10 most anticipated albums of 2017, and Sampha’s Process was not on the list. Again, my apologies.
You may know London’s very own Sampha as the singer featured on Kanye’s add-on to TLOP, ‘Saint Pablo’ or if you’ve known for a while, from Drake’s Too Much on Nothing Was The Same, almost 4 years ago. That’s how long we’ve been waiting for his album. He’s managed to stay in the background, while giving us substantial features and working with some of the music industry’s biggest and best names, such as on SBTKRT’s albums, Beyonce’s self-titled 2013 album, Solange’s album, Frank Ocean’s Endless and his very own Dual EP. In previous interviews, Sampha has called himself ‘an instrument’ rather than a musician or artist, but Process was his time to shine as the star, front and centre. Releasing on the same day as Big Sean’s I Decided and Syd Da Kyd’s Fin, two eagerly anticipated albums, it would have to take something special for an album to stand out between the 3.
Sampha made sure he delivered that something special. The sensational ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ was released August 2016 to great acclaim, but it was the release of (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, and the live performance on Jimmy Fallon that had people saying enough is enough, we need the album. The featureless album is 10 tracks, long enough for Sampha to show his soft yet powerful falsetto vocals, piano skills and most importantly, his great song writing. He is without doubt one of the best songwriters in modern R&B.
On Process, Sampha tackles sensitive and personal issues, including the loss of his mother to cancer, specifically on the emotional ballad ‘Kora Sings’, his own personal health struggles while on tour, which he acknowledges on the albums intro and my personal stand out track ‘Plastic 100°C’ and how he is coping with his new fame and stardom, while trying to maintain and stay true to himself and who he is. He emotionally admits his neglect of his family, particularly his brother on the albums outro ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’
There aren’t many happy moments on the album; it’s covered in serious emotion and is an album that will create serious emotions within the listener, but will stand as one of 2017’s best records, even though it is early. The instrumentals throughout the entire album are minimal, Sampha’s unique voice is the instrument that he is most comfortable using. In a genre where a prominent handful of male artists create songs that are either about love or lust towards women, and an even smaller handful do it well, it is refreshing to hear an artist pour his heart out without just referencing what may or may not be love towards the opposite or same gender.
Process was clearly not made to be a commercial smash and skyrocket to #1 on the Billboard 200, but that doesn’t mean a star has not been born. Sampha may never become a household name and rise to the popularity of other singers in his generation, but his talent, not to mention the respect he had gathered from other artists in the music industry will always make him a great artist to those that truly appreciate great music.
Process will not win a Grammy, but we could be looking at the next Mercury Prize winner, and in 2017, we really do ask ourselves, which award means more or does either even mean anything anymore? Have we finally reached the point where all that matters is what the fans and your peers think, rather than the accolades that a faceless award show can offer you, while you must have ticked every box that they believe classifies as a piece of work as ‘good music.’