Sampha – “Process” Album Review

Before even starting, I’d like to point out the inaccuracies I’m seeing all over the place in terms of what musical genre to categorize this album as. With the exception of some minor influences and flourishes, this is NOT Hip Hop, rap, EDM, or even Electronica (Although that latter label might come somewhat close to capturing Process’ essence). This is Soul/R&B (or let’s call it “Neo-Soul”) as good as it gets these days. While I’d rate it 9.5 out of 10 if I could, I’ll settle and present my four reasons for a solid 9.

* While Sampha has been associated as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer for the likes of SBTRKT, Jessie Ware, Drake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Solange, FKA Twigs, etc., his debut album is far less grandiose and fussy than those others’. It has an honest rawness and emotionality rarely attained by his collaborators.

* When he uses electronic elements, they are carefully and subtly chosen for full effect, as in the turbulent yet meditative K-O punch of “Reverse Faults” and “Under” (Tracks 6 and 7).

* Process’ focus remains on Sampha’s keyboard and vocal prowess. His vulnerable and nuanced falsetto absolutely tugs at your heart (unlike, say, Bon Iver’s similar voice on his sterile recent effort). Nowhere is this more evident than on the breathtaking “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” I truly doubt we’re going to hear a more beautiful ballad the remainder of this year.

* This is an album that, while varied in its tones, is delicately unified by an overall sense of yearning for beauty amidst a world full of mortality and grief. It is heavily reflective while ultimately remaining hopeful and spontaneous.
Yes, this is a resoundingly successful debut release, and I (for one) look forward to hearing more of Sampha’s talented trek through what has become a rather barren R&B landscape.

Solange – “A Seat at the Table” Album Review

 

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Solange’s new album is beautiful and powerful at the same time. A unapologetically soulful soundscape that sheds light on the pain and joy of being black and a woman.

Solange’s latest offering feels more like a diary than an album. Every song and note is soaked in the imagery of what it’s like today being a person of color. Each song seems to pose a question to the listener from one cut to the next. There is no denying that this album is necessary in the times in which we now live. With her velvety vocals over each funky beats she pulls you in and begs you to pay attention.

There’s so much power and emotion in each song, whether it’s knowing when to move on like in “Don’t wish me well” or the command to turn the song up and be proud of your blackness in “F.U.B.U. or diving into the “angry black girl” stereotype and people constantly questioning when they fail to see the reasoning behind social uprisings in “Mad”. Even the interludes were wonderfully created like Master P’s telling of how he turned down his first deal because he believed in building himself from the ground up or his idea to build his label was shaped by his grandfather’s beliefs. One thing that stood out for me is “Interlude: Tina Taught Me.” Ms Tina states that “It’s such beauty in Black people, and it really saddens me when we’re not allow to express that pride in being Black; and that if you do then it’s considered anti-white. No! You’re just pro-Black. And that’s okay. The two don’t go together. Because you celebrate Black culture does not mean that you don’t like white culture; or that you putting it down. It’s just taking pride.” I believe Solange, herself, summed up my feelings best recently when she said “I think it’s one of the most incredible moments of the album because she so eloquently breaks down black pride. And the fact that black pride does not mean anti-white. We had to do this out of necessity. We had to find that rhythm, that glory, given the circumstances and the cards that we were dealt. We have to be allowed to celebrate that.” And that’s what this album fills me with. The need to celebrate my heritage, pride in my ancestry and the need to empower my brothers and sisters.
By Mari Wilson