Sampha, a Wounded Voice for Drake and Beyoncé, Steps Out With ‘Process’
Sampha, the experimental British pop singer and electronic producer, sounds like someone who has seen things.
For years, some of the biggest names in music (and the best talent scouts) — including Drake, Beyoncé, Kanye West and Solange — have deployed his lush, tender soprano, which can feel wounded but never weak, to telegraph their vulnerability. Through guest appearances on tell-all songs like Drake’s “Too Much” and Mr. West’s “Saint Pablo,” Sampha has made himself a go-to collaborator for those in search of emotional heft.
So it’s peculiar, then, given his ability to touch souls with his voice, that Sampha (born Sampha Sisay) long shied away from singing. As a child, he was known at home mainly as a dancer, doing Michael Jackson moves at the urging of his four much older brothers. When a career in music dawned on him, he thought of becoming a producer like Pharrell or Timbaland.
“When I started, I was just making lots of beats, and I wasn’t even intending to sing over them,” Sampha said last month in a low murmur, trailing off more often than he finished sentences. “I didn’t even have a microphone at home — I would have to go to someone else’s house to record.”