Album Review | Process by Sampha

In the past couple of years, British singer and songwriter, Sampha, has been on the rise. He was featured on Drake’s record Too Much and his latest feature was his hook on Solange’s single, Don’t Touch My hair. His vocals are even lightly woven into Beyonce’s beautifully daunting track Mine. Along with substantial features, his EP Dual gained attention and traction in the summer of 2013. Last Friday, Sampha finally followed up Dual with the release of his new debut album, Process.

Throughout the album Sampha shares his struggles with handling the pressures of fame, love, and the death of his mother. He is grappling with many different feelings such as heartbreak, regret, and grief and he’s trying to find his footing on the ground again. This album was therapeutic for him. It seemed as if it was more for him than it was for us. This is  why I believe the album was titled Process. Sampha is trying to process all these different situations and feelings in hopes of finding something more.

Sampha illustrates this journey not only through vivid lyrics but also through thoughtful, scaled back, yet intricate, production that had electronic and R&B undertones. Thoughtful, because the themes of the tracks were inextricable to how the instrumentals were crafted. For example, the track, Reverse Faults, is about Sampha feeling remorseful for shifting the blame for his faults onto his partner. He talks about, in him doing so, he pushed his partner away and now he regrets it. What I found interesting about the instrumental was that he manipulated it to sound as if it was going back and forth–in reverse. Its chaotic sound illustrated how tumultuous the relationship was.

Another example would be the track, Under, where Sampha talks about this unescapable attraction he has for this woman. He compared it to feeling like he was underwater. Ironically enough, even the production, at some moments, had the same intensity as crashing waves. Even at the beginning of the track, where Sampha chants “under” many times, it sounds as if he’s underwater.

One of my favorite songs was (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano because not only was it beautifully raw and emotional but I also found it relatable. Growing up, I use to play the piano as an escape from the hardships I was going through. In the track, Sampha talks about similar feelings. The piano–or music in general–was able to pull him through hard times. He also makes it a point to highlight that the piano was in his mother’s house: “No one knows me like the piano in my mother’s home.” I think that was to purposefully point out how him finding refuge in music has helped him cope with his mother’s death. It also shows how his love for music is related to his mother–exemplifying their significance in his life.

The “process” theme was dominant throughout the album. At the beginning of the LP, Sampha introduces his conflicted feelings with intense tracks such as Plastic 100 Degrees Celsius and Blood on Me. In the core of the album, Sampha shows better understanding of how to grapple with these different feelings in songs such as (No one Knows Me) Like the PianoReverse Faults, and Take me Inside. Later in the album, Sampha shows that he has accepted his circumstances and now he wants to continue to grow and find himself. That’s evident in the closing track What Shouldn’t I Be?

I found it interesting as a closing track because it wasn’t exactly a conclusion but it illustrated his growth. Although he’s asking questions about where he fits into this grand scheme of life, he shows he understands more than he did before. For example, in one line he asks, “What shouldn’t I be?” but in other lines, he says things such as: “It’s not all about me.” “Challenges come and they go. I need someone to help me down.” It shows that he has grown as a person but he still has room for more growth and understanding.

Overall, this album was stunning–from the weight of the lyrics to the smooth, crafted production. This album showed expeditious growth for Sampha as an artist and as a person. This is a great addition to his already astounding discography.

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