Album of the month
Sampha 'Process' (Young Turks)
Let’s bring you up to speed on Sampha. Songwriter; producer; owner of a once-in-a-lifetime voice. The South London-born artist of Sierra Leonean heritage who rocked up on Jessie Ware records over half a decade ago, became the go-to vocalist for SBTRKT and slowly built a rep so impressive that he’s featured on records by Drake, Kanye West and Solange. So: why’s it taken so long to get here? Life. The passing of his mum after a long illness; the lump in his throat that freaked him out (but proved to be benign). The wait is worth it, though: ‘Process’ is a moving, musical autobiography of futuristic, soulful electronica and brittle r’n’b. That lump, and its effect on his psyche, rears its head on ‘Plastic 100˚C’, which muses on his vulnerability accompanied by plaintive koras – a subtle, recurring link to his African heritage – and celestial choir, introducing first-time listeners to a voice for the ages.
The album’s personal nature continues with ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’, which features just Sampha’s voice, piano, understated percussion and birdsong. “I have something/ Some people call it soul,” he croons. Today, overwrought emotion is often mistaken for soul, but Sampha is no construct – with him, you truly believe. The pace picks up, imperceptibly, on the stoned urban shanty ‘Timmy’s Prayer’, while the album concludes with ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’, built only upon a swollen chord and synthesised harps. With a voice like his, Sampha’s ingredients can afford to be simple. He is, perhaps, the UK’s finest vocal talent since Amy Winehouse. If that sounds like too much pressure, then he’s already shown he has the courage to step back from it. Back home to his piano. Family. Music. Always the answer. Stephen Worthy