The first time you listen to an artist is a transcendental and defining moment. Suddenly our world is shut off, and our ears transport us to a place that makes us feel something, a magnitude of feelings, or nothing at all. My first instance hearing Sampha was one of those otherworldly moments. His croon on Drake’s ‘Too Much’ was so delicate you want to cry. Ironically his voice and the punch of that line had all of us thinking and ultimately feeling too much. The way he packed an abundance of emotion into one unassuming lyric was just beautiful and had everyone who did not know anything about Sampha wanting more.
More would come by means of two EPs and various vocal features and songwriting credits on some 2016’s biggest albums including Solange’s A Seat At The Table and Franks Ocean’s Endless. Everything from him seemed like a flame burning in a ferocious wind, mesmerizing and full of life but diminishing before we could revel in its grandeur. If we thought he’d disappeared, we were wrong. This year Sampha released his much-anticipated debut album Process. The flame never went out and now was wrestling strong against the wind.
Process is, of course, up for the 2017 Mercury Prize. At its core Process is an album about loss. It’s a subject that’s common in popular music and artists have long been shedding their souls through conceptual albums based on past experiences of defeat, sorrow, self-discovery, and love lost and found. Usually, when we think of music triggered by deep emotions it’s spurred by heartbreak, but throughout the album, we learn Sampha’s loss is of a different kind.