Sampha Delivers A Stunning Debut Amidst The Shadows Of Drake And Kanye
Fusing Electronic and Soul for the greater good.
BY Ben Ratliff | Feb 8, 2017 | Music
Sampha’s music often boils down to the sound of his voice: a big and tremulous exhaling, often sliding up into a falsetto, over rich keyboard chords. Born to a Sierra Leonean family in London, he has served as a producer, a guest singer, and a kind of moral compass in songs by Kanye West, Drake, and Solange, and he has put out a couple EPs of his own. But until now he’s avoided making a grand statement, clearly by design. (Listen to a track off his new album in the video below.)
During a recent conversation at a café in Brooklyn, a few nights after his first gig in New York, Sampha told me that he’s had to work to think of himself as a singer and as a collaborator; in his head, he’s still a keyboardist and a producer making tracks alone. “No one knows me like the piano / In my mother’s home,” he sings in a new song. “You would show me I had something / Some people call a soul.”
The challenge for any outsider, especially one nuzzled by Drake and Kanye, is to stay outside even in his big moment. And this is what Sampha manages to achieve in Process, his strange and gorgeous first album.
From Esquire Singapore's February 2017 issue