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R&B Virtuoso Sampha Delves into Personal Reflections and Piano Mastery in His Latest Album ‘Lahai’

by Madonna

Sampha, the artist known to be a favorite among favorites, has consistently left a lasting impression through collaborations with industry giants such as Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and Solange. The soulful Sierra Leonean South Londoner’s much-anticipated sophomore album, “Lahai,” was released on October 20, marking a six-year hiatus since his debut album, “Process.” In the interim, Sampha made notable guest appearances and embraced fatherhood in 2020. While “Lahai” may not exude the electric, emotional crescendos that have come to define Sampha’s work, the album is a testament to his beautiful vocals, intricate production, and a unifying thematic thread.

The album’s title, “Lahai,” underscores Sampha’s renewed focus on themes of legacy, love, and connection. Lahai represents both Sampha’s middle name and his grandfather’s name, symbolizing a deep-rooted and personal exploration.

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“Lahai” embarks with an introspective tone. The opening track, “Stereo Colour Cloud (Shaman’s Dream),” finds the singer-songwriter delving into the experience of fatherhood. Sampha navigates the labyrinth of his thoughts, singing, “Subjects mysterious like time and love / Walking through them now.”

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The intro and outro of this track evoke a sense of dialogue reminiscent of the sci-fi film “Blade Runner 2049” and offer a softer, more pastel rendition of Lil Uzi Vert’s 2020 album “Eternal Atake.” This juxtaposition of Sampha’s gentle piano melodies with the subtle undertones of a dystopian future introduces an unexpected dimension to the album.

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Amid the futuristic production, the fifth track, “Satellite Business,” engages in a rapid internal dialogue: “Looking in the mirror, I can see a limit… Through the eyes of my child, I can see an inner-vision,” which Sampha delivers with a robotic cadence. The track may be short, but the album’s overarching themes of self, legacy, and cherished memories persist.

The first seven tracks interweave futuristic elements with angelic choruses, creating a tapestry of sound and introspection. However, the eighth track, “Only,” marks a shift in tone.

Co-produced by El Guincho and Sampha, the track brims with drum machine rhythms and the blaring of chopped trumpets, creating an exultant atmosphere. The urgency and vitality of “Only” align with the high-energy moments Sampha has brought to the fore in past guest appearances, echoing his contributions to Drake’s “Too Much” and Ye’s “Saint Pablo.”

On Kendrick Lamar’s “Father Time,” another monumental collaboration, Sampha bursts forth like Mario Götze in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final. These moments stand as testaments to the exhilaration Sampha is capable of delivering. Nevertheless, “Lahai” diverges from this energy, showing Sampha’s willingness to explore more contemplative realms. “Only” is the sole track infused with that distinctive zeal, albeit refraining from delivering a signature Sampha moment.

As the album draws to a close, “Rose Tint” sees Sampha once again contemplating themes that evidently occupy a significant place in his mind: connection and self. “Preoccupied with my own hurt / Lost the art of connection,” he sings, shedding light on his concluding thoughts.

Despite the absence of the lively hooks found in his previous work, “Lahai” showcases Sampha’s capacity for deep introspection and masterful piano compositions. The album wrestles with profound themes rooted in the experience of fatherhood and the intricate internal struggles of self-discovery.

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