Sampha’s Process is a wonderful album. It’s a mix of intertwining sounds, thoughts and feelings — a kaleidoscopic record of slick R&B production, lachrymose piano melodies and heartbreaking loss, with the unifying falsetto of Sampha’s voice tying the whole project together. It’s of little wonder musical diversity is his greatest gift, as Sampha has marked his career as a beatmaker, vocalist and songwriter for the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Solange — to name a few. His skillset is in full effect on his first full length record, as Process is aptly titled: an album in which Sampha hasn’t yet found his musical niche and is happy to experiment within his own repertoire.
With the exception of the previously released “Bad Blood,” which feels ill-suited to the record, Sampha succeeds in his goal. Process experiments a great deal, from the hallowing melody driven “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” to the more upbeat percussion-based “Incomplete Kisses.” The tracks themselves do not feel out of place, however, as Sampha wonderfully transitions from song to song, creating a sense of fluidity throughout the album.
The production is sparse, and the minimalist aspects employed by Sampha allows his voice the breath and space it deserves. Sampha’s vocal range has always been remarkable, and the closed off “bedroom” style production of his EP Dual served to hamper rather than enhance his tone. Free of these constraints and placed in a studio, Sampha’s voice can finally shine on his debut album.
In 2010 Sampha’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. After several years of remission, her cancer returned in 2014 and she lost her life to the debilitating disease in 2016. Hardship wrecks Process, and like a ship cast out at sea during a storm, Sampha feels isolated and alone, lamenting the death of his mother. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is emblematic of this feeling of despair, as Sampha sings of her love: “You took a part of me and never let me go.”
Process is a masterful debut album by Sampha and one that was a long time coming. It is often said the transition from EP t0 LP is the greatest a new musician has to make, and Sampha succeeds marvelously in this regard. Process proves Sampha’s musical longevity and anticipates his future fame to come. His final track must be viewed as a question then, as “What Shouldn’t I Be” remains open to Sampha’s wonderful musical interpretation.