Happy under the radar, Sampha details the patient, intense period behind his 'Process'


Sampha is enveloped by a cluster of monumental canvases dedicated to black life. It’s the morning after a sold-out show at the El Rey and the British singer wanted to see Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown.

Romance, loss and alienation are a major thread of Marshall’s work. They’re all topics Sampha leaned on for “Process,” the debut from the experimental electronic soul producer-singer and the work that brought him to this month’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Released earlier this year, “Process” came after the singer, born Sampha Sisay, had spent the better part of a decade as a go-to collaborator.

Drake, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Kanye West and Solange have all worked with him. Quite content with being under the radar, he was unsure he’d ever step to the forefront.

“I’ve always been quiet and pretty shy,” the 28-year-old said, his voice quieting as he got lost amid paintings depicting public housing projects as lush, romantic idylls.

A pair of EP’s released through indie imprint Young Turks (2010’s “Sundanza” and 2013’s “Dual”) introduced his falsetto — delicate and with a thick South London accent — to frequent collaborators SBTRKT and Drake. After gaining a following, Sampha decided to “muster the courage” and write an album.

“Before that period, I just felt like I wasn’t quite ready,” he admitted. “Not necessarily in a musical sense, more so for the thought of being out there as a solo artist.”

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