On Feb. 3, British singer Sampha released his highly anticipated debut album “Process.” The album comes after years of collaboration with some of the biggest names in the music industry across multiple genres. Sampha first received recognition working closely with electro-pop producer SBTRK, appearing multiple times on the artist’s popular 2011 album “SBTRKT” and his 2014 album “Wonder Where We Land.” He has also branched into hip-hop, receiving co-signs from major artists such as Drake and Kanye West and appearing on Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” (2013) and Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” (2016). More recently, Sampha was featured on Solange’s highly acclaimed R&B album “A Seat at the Table” this fall. Despite all of these major accomplishments, Sampha’s lengthy period as an exclusively featured artist put into question whether or not he could create a compelling solo album. This debate, however, should be put to rest with “Process.” Sampha demonstrates that he can hold his own by crafting one of the best albums of the year so far.
“Process” is one of the most unique albums to come out of pop music in a while. Sampha has a distinctive sound that cannot be found in any other artist. On “Process,” he combines his beautiful voice with excellent production to create an auditory odyssey. Listeners should be prepared to experience a powerful emotion throughout the album. On songs like opening track “Plastic 100˚C” and “Blood On Me” the anguish and torment in Sampha’s voice is haunting. Perhaps the most moving moment on the album, however, is “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” The song, unsurprisingly, is accompanied by a piano, which plays a slow and simple but powerful melody. Sampha sings about his loneliness, his love for his mother and music as an outlet for personal expression. The track’s melancholy is so tangible that it cannot help but rub off. The following piece, “Take Me Inside,” is almost equally as tender and emotional. It builds on “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by layering on electronic production to the piano.
Another interesting element on “Process” is “Kora Sings.” The track is one of the more upbeat parts of the album, with its lively production and empowering lyrics. “Under,” the 7th track of the album, also moves its listeners. The electronic production work here is incredible, and Sampha once again delivers vocally. Perhaps my favorite track on the album, however, is “Timmy’s Prayer,” which was released in 2016 as a single. “Timmy’s Prayer” appears towards the end of the album as the eighth track out of 10. The song is a slow-paced love ballad that is incredibly touching. My one complaint with the album is probably the concluding track, “What Shouldn’t I Be?” The song is very ethereal, and while the theme lacks assurance, I think the album would have been better served to end on a strong song like “Timmy’s Prayer.”
Despite this last complaint, the album is well done overall. Sampha finds strength in simplicity. “Process” is 10 tracks long and only has a runtime of about 40 minutes. As such, Sampha’s voice doesn’t become boring or too repetitive. The album features very little filler, superfluous elements do not distract from Sampha’s ideas. Sampha tells incredibly personal and emotional stories through his amazing and unique voice over tight production. In short, “Process” has lived up to all and surpassed the expectation of what a solo Sampha album should be, and it will be interesting to see what he does from here.
Overall rating: 8.5/10