After bursting onto the scene in 2011 – almost solely crafting the lyrics to SBTRKT’s debut album – the mononymous Sampha Sisay has, up until recently, enjoyed a career as a rather enigmatic nomad.
Previously collaborating with the likes of Drake and Jessie Ware, Sampha had a go himself with 2013’s Dual EP. A tantalising glimpse of his potential as an artist in his own right, Dual propelled Sampha to 4th place in BBC’s Sound of 2014 award – ahead of such names as George Ezra and Chance The Rapper.
Last year he once again rose to prominence, featuring on three of 2016’s most important pop culture offerings: Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Frank Ocean’s visual album Endless and Solange’s A Seat at the Table. Having proven he can hold his own working alongside established industry stalwarts, Process marks a signal of intent by Sampha to forge his own trademark sound – and it’s one that truly speaks to the soul.
Plastic 100°C opens on a sincere note, poignantly addressing the stifling nature of a health scare, before arguably the most familiar single released from the record thus far, Blood On Me. Here, Sampha’s normally measured delivery is unequivocally stripped bare, with the hook – “I swear they smell the blood on me / I hear them coming for me” – a raw and exasperated cry from a desperate man, on the run from nightmarish assailants.
Kora Sings has Sampha’s pure voice crooning over a somewhat bangra-esque beat – complete with an electronic twist – before the truly heartwarming ballad, (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano.
Take Me Inside and Reverse Faults follow, with the former a softly rasping number and the latter possessing a space-age sound that Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker would be proud of, topped off by a bassy and trap drum-ridden hook that emphasises the quality of Sampha’s production skills.
Under is a claustrophobic and suffocating number – but not without Sampha’s consistently eloquent lyricism – before the intriguingly minimalistic ode to a lost love, Timmy’s Prayer. This combines a mantra-like, repenting delivery with a hypnotic melody, which sounds as much like a digitised Scottish marching band as it does an electronic oriental symphony.
Next, comes the lamentable and touching imagery of what could’ve been in Incomplete Kisses, before Sampha fulfils his Process with another delicately beautiful journey of self-discovery in the emotionally charged What Shouldn’t I Be?
In Process, Sampha has demonstrated – with consummate ease and an incredible talent – just what he is capable of when left to his own devices. He is able to bring the listener to their feet to dance, or almost to their knees with sorrow. Sampha, once an apprentice, has become a true master in the making.
Process is available to pre-order now and is released this Friday (Feb 3) via XL Recordings.
Words by Jonno Mack