Sampha’s debut album, “Process,” expresses the turmoil of continuing on after the death of a loved one and the resulting shifts in one’s viewpoints about life.
“Process” is listed under the neo-soul and alternative-R&B genres and released Feb. 3, 2017. In an interview with Nylon magazine, Sampha dug into the contents of his album and his inspirations behind the songs, explaining that his father died of lung cancer when he was nine years old. In 2015, shortly after his brother suffered a stroke, his mother also died of cancer.
In his first song on the album, “Plastic 100 °C,” he belts out his emotional anxieties with life, saying that “the sun is melting him away.” He relates his emotions to clips from Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s exploration to the moon, where Armstrong says, “I’ll work my way over into the sunlight here without looking directly into the sun.”
Sampha also goes on to sing about his physical worries, including a lump on his throat that he fears could be related to his family’s history with physical health.
“Oh, sleeping with my worries,” he sings. “I didn’t really know what that lump was, my luck.”
In “Kora Sings”, he talks about how his mother sacrificed her entire life to provide for him and his brothers. From there it jumps to her battle with cancer where he says that he always believed in her ability to persevere. He juxtaposes his pained vocals with more upbeat and almost cheerful production in the background.
“You’ve been with me since the cradle. You’ve been with me you’re my angel. Please don’t you disappear.”
“She says she can’t turn tables. Well I say you don’t know how wrong you are. You don’t know how strong you are,” Sampha sings in the chorus. However, following his mother’s death he finds himself broken and in denial. “You’ve been with me since the cradle. You’ve been with me you’re my angel. Please don’t you disappear.”
“Timmy’s Prayer,” one of the final songs on the album, reviews Sampha’s nihilistic views on life after his mother’s death. He recalls the times that his brother called him a dreamer and thinks about how his life and views have evolved thus far. Although Sampha used to be religious he currently struggles with his beliefs. Towards the end of the song he states that he’s been thrown out and turned away from the gates of heaven.
“Sunshine and blue skies, yes I recall. But now there’s a darker blue,” he sings. “The sun sinks and you’re not there.”
In Sampha’s final song on the album, “What Shouldn’t I Be?,” he finally seeks to resolve the issues that he has discovered within himself. In a quiet ballad, he expresses that he is finally in his own skin again, realizes that his life isn’t all about himself and that he needs to move on. He also seeks to revive his relationship with his brother, who he has not spoken to in months.
“What shouldn’t I be?” He asks as he ends the album. “It’s not all about me.”
Sampha will be opening for The xx at the WaMu Theater in Seattle on April 24 at 8 p.m.