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.
Sampha has never been interested in the recommended route. First popping up on most radars in 2011 via collaborations with SBTRKT (also serving as his live support) and Jessie Ware, and truly broke through in 2013 as the latest Drake's muses on Nothing Was the Same. All this was eras ago in the merciless pace of the music audience's interest, yet he only saw fit to drop an understated, but promising, EP in the form of Dual.
OVER THE PAST FIVE years, hip-hop and R&B's biggest names have been beating a path to south London to collaborate with Sampha Sisay; a versatile singer-songwriter whose soulful falsetto switches between emotional vulnerability and raw power with ease. Sampha's solo debut sits somewhere between the ghostly avant-soul of Frank Ocean and James Blake's emotionally wrought electronica, its stylistic breadth exemplified by the lovers jam-meets-electro shanty of Timmy's Prayer, Blood On Me's paranoid gallop and the sub-Saharan flavours of Kora Sings. "I have something, some people call it soul," Sampha sings on (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, the album's centrepiece, a moving paean to his late mother and the instrument she encouraged him to master.
Sampha, full name Sampha Sisay, has built his trade by being a reluctant artist. Tipped as a star on the rise at the beginning of the decade, his EP releases ('Sundanza' and 'Dual') packed delicate but virtuosic vocals over warped, fractious beats. Dexterous in his ability to unify disparate soundscapes, black heritage music through a prism of futurist underground greyness -- Sampha was merely scratching the surface of his abilities.
You'd be forgiven for thinking Sampha Sisay was the new saviour of contemporary soul and R&B. Such has been the level of praise heaped upon his long-awaited debut album Process that before even listening to it, the idea it could be anything less than perfect now seems impossible: it's difficult to wade out from the noise and not just agree that the emperor's new clothes sure are beautiful. And how could they not be? This is the golden boy who has lent his sweet vocals to all number of impressive artists: Solange, SBTRKT, Kanye.
Whether you know it or not, you've probably heard Sampha's voice — on the chorus of Drake's "Too Much," maybe; haunting Beyoncé's "Mine"; on Kanye West's "Saint Pablo"; or, more recently, backing up Solange on "Don't Touch My Hair." Point is, the UK singer, songwriter and producer has been ubiquitous for the last few years among his peers; his debut LP Process should make him ubiquitous, period.
Though he was touted mainly as a producer when he dropped his Sundanza EP in 2010, Sampha made a name for himself as a singer and writer ….