The Burning Sun: Sampha

Process doesn’t feel like an album that was just waiting to happen. It feels inspired. Motivated. Forced, you could even say. Like a journal entry of an event so cataclysmic you absolutely had to write about it. And thankfully, Sampha did.

If you think this is the first time you’ve heard of Sampha, I can absolutely assure you that you have heard of him before. He’s collaborated with Solange on ‘Don’t touch my hair’, with Kanye on ‘Saint Pablo’, Frank Ocean on Endless and Drake on Nothing was the Same. In fact, he achieved vine stardom (when this was still a thing) because of ‘Too much’ off Drake’s Nothing was the same. This isn’t to say that Sampha is some sort of puppet master, ghost writing at the strings of major artist. Sampha’s voice is just honest. Plain and simple. When the rapper is trying to make you understand his struggle, Sampha’s voice is there to highlight everything in bold. Look at Kanye’s second verse from ‘Saint Pablo’:

Cause if I’m up way too much, I’m out of touch
I’m prayin’ a out-of-body experience will happen
So the people can see my light, now it’s not just rappin’
God, I have humbled myself before the court
Drop my ego and confidence was my last resort

Wow. This is Kanye actually being humble. Not to say that he’s the egomaniac he presents himself as, but in one of the few times that he isn’t being a total jackass, he has Sampha holding it down with this:

And you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
Wonderin’ whether God’s gonna say hi
Oh, you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky
And you wonder where is God in your nightlife

In 2014, Sampha lost his mum to cancer. His reaction to it fills the brim of Process and it is utterly heartbreaking. From start to finish, he bares his soul. On ‘Plastic 100c’, through the veil of outer space, he talks about how life can be when everything is changing unbearably fast:

I love those mornings, when the sun’s up
Smoking in the lobby, waiting for my name to pop up, yeah, pop up
Usually I’d run home, and tuck the issue under
Oh, sleeping with my worries, yeah, I didn’t really know what that lump was, my luck

This event hit him hard and still, right up until the end, he never gave up. On ‘Kora Sings’, he says:

A pillow on your face soaking up those tears
Who’s anyone to say you should have no fear?
A mouth full of smoke really made things clear
You’ve been with me since the cradle
You’ve been with me, you’re my angel
Please don’t you disappear

On ‘(No-one knows me) Like the Piano’, he brings the hammer down on everything he’s been feeling in three short verses. It’s a ballad, but not in the conventional sense. Not a husband to a wife or a lover to another, but a boy appreciating what his mother has done for him. From raising him to simply bringing a piano into their home.

There’s a running theme in this album: The burning sun. Sampha’s trying to escape everything that has happened to him. Running like they smell the “blood on me”. But like the burning sun, he can only run so fast, so far. This doesn’t mean he’ll stop running.

Rated: 4.1 / 5

Image: Rolling Stone

Lyrics: Genius

Colour Outside the Line

Kid Cudi is a flawed artist. But that doesn’t stop him from excelling. Or, at least, trying his hardest to.

If you were to take the albums of most artists and turn them into pictures, the collage would  be more or less cohesive. Green Day’s would be anti-establishment and political, Eminem’s would be violent and extremely elaborate but Cudi’s would be abstract. We have Cudi the Rager and Cudi the Rocker. Cudi the Rager gave us the first and second Man on the Moon and Indicud. Cudi the Rocker gave us WZRD (his project with Dot Da Genius) and Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven. While a large part of his fanbase is with the former, this project brought the two together.

Growing up, I didn’t have the privilege of having my music tastes nourished by Illmatic and Reasonable DoubtAll I had was So Far Gone and Man on the Moon. These records established a lot of the music I listen to now and for that I shall forever be grateful. With Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’, Cudi is doing the same thing for this generation. He could have given us Man on the Moon III, another rock album (that we can live without) or just stick to acting. Instead, he grew. He isn’t the man on the moon. He is the man on jupiter; A planet with 67 moons. Because of him we have Travis Scott, Raury and, arguably, Kanye West.

This record is a return to form. The brilliant singles ‘Frequency’ and ‘Surfing’ plot out the album trajectory pretty well, ‘The Guide’ is as psychedelic as ever and ‘All In’ is the Mike Will Made It persona that you didn’t know existed. While I’m typically not fond of albums  longer than 13 songs, Cudi has done it brilliantly. We have more Andre features that we know what to do with, a Willow Smith duet that absolutely kills it and a masterful feature from his spiritual twin, Travis Scott.

Cudi bears his soul to us. His fractured soul. His volatile soul. As he says in ‘Swim in the Light’, you could try and numb the pain but it will never go away. Cudi is an artist not afraid to embrace emotion but wise enough not to check his girlfriends phone when she’s in the bathroom. This last few years haven’t made been easy on him. His breakout single ‘Day ‘n’ Nite’ is still his most successful single, the reception for his last project was utterly atrocious and depression has been at the forefront of his existence but instead of cowering in the shadows, he brought all of them together and gave us this.

Maybe we should live our lives like Kid Cudi. Colour outside the lines a bit more.

Rated: 3.8 / 5