Learning to let go: With debut album 'Process,' Sampha reflects on past hardships

Sampha in concert
Sampha performs at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., on April 28, 2017. (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
Sampha performs in The Current studio (full session + interview)
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| 00:20:29
  • Sampha performs in The Current studio (full session + interview) 20:29
  • Sampha - Plastic 100 Degrees C (Live on The Current) 04:42
  • Sampha - Beneath the Tree (Live on The Current) 04:02
  • Sampha - (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano (Live on The Current) 03:44

Singer, songwriter and producer Sampha has a lot going for him. Having collaborated with some of hip hop and R&B's biggest names, Sampha has been featured in popular songs like Kanye West's "Saint Pablo" and Drake's "Too Much."

His soulful voice and lyrics are full of emotion, and having lost both of his parents to cancer, much of Sampha's writing focuses on processing the hardships he's gone through. That, along with his use of simple, repetitive melodies make his debut album, Process, a powerful one.

"The initial idea was this idea of getting things out, whether that be talking to somebody about something or playing the piano and singing about something and not internalizing everything or trying to perfect everything before I let go of my words," Sampha explains. "As a form of trying to process what I'm going through, sometimes you just need to talk to someone else and get things wrong and then create a dialogue."

For Sampha, that someone is often the piano he first gravitated toward at the age of three and still plays to this day. That connection inspired the song, "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano", becoming abundantly clear when Sampha performed the song in The Current's studio.

"It's about the home I grew up in, seeing me grow up in the formative years and how important a part of my life that was and how I never really thought or contemplated that part kind of sailing away at any point until my mother fell sick," he says. "The piano is something that has been in my house and has seen me in all the phases of my life. I just felt like this song kind of somehow articulated that feeling a little bit for me."

Use the audio player below to listen to the full session and hear three songs from Sampha's debut album, Process.

Songs Performed

"Plastic 100°C"
"Beneath the Tree"
"(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"
The first and third songs are from Sampha's 2017 album, Process; the second song is from Sampha's 2013 EP, Dual. Both releases are available on Young Turks.


Sampha - official site

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    Sampha - No One Knows Me Like The Piano (Courtesy of Young Turks)

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