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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Liner Notes: R&B artist Sampha shares ponderings and piano progressions in new album ‘Lahai’

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Illustration by Isabel Su
Sampha released his anticipated sophomore album “Lahai” on Oct. 20.

There is a significant chance Sampha is your favorite artist’s favorite artist. With past collaborations alongside Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and Solange, the soulful Sierra Leonean South Londoner built up an astounding amount of anticipation for his new album.

Sampha’s sophomore album “Lahai” was released Oct. 20, six years after his debut album “Process.” In between the projects, Sampha released an array of prominent features and became a father in 2020. While “Lahai” may lack the electric, emotional highs we’ve come to expect from Sampha, the project is full of beautiful vocals, sophisticated production and a cohesive motif.

The title of the LP highlights Sampha’s renewed focus on legacy, love and connection — Lahai is Sampha’s middle name and his grandfather’s name.

“Lahai” begins with an introspective tone. “Stereo Colour Cloud (Shaman’s Dream),” the opening track, finds the singer-songwriter exploring his feelings on fatherhood. Sampha is strolling through his mind, singing, “Subjects mysterious like time and love / Walking through them now.”

The intro and outro of the opener feel like dialogue from sci-fi film “Blade Runner 2049” and like a more pastel take on Lil Uzi Vert’s 2020 album “Eternal Atake.” The clash between Sampha’s gentle glide over piano keys and the seemingly dystopian accents bring an unexpected dynamic to the album.

Alongside the futuristic production, the fifth track “Satellite Business” includes a brisk 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 in a robotic cadence. The song is under a minute and a half long, but the album’s themes of self, legacy and loving memory persist.

While Sampha entangles futuristic sequences with angelic choruses throughout the first seven tracks, the eighth track, “Only,” sees a departure from that pensiveness.

Produced by El Guincho and Sampha, the whirring of drum machines and the roaring of chopped trumpets create an exaltant track.

The urgency and energy of the song “Only” is what fans have come to expect from Sampha through previous guest appearances, as it is reminiscent of past performances on Drake’s “Too Much” and Ye, formerly Kanye West’s, “Saint Pablo.”

On Kendrick Lamar’s “Father Time,” another massive feature, Sampha comes on like Mario Götze in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final. These are just a few examples of the exhilarating moments Sampha has proven he’s capable of. On “Lahai”, however, Sampha appears uninterested in recreating any similar moments. “Only” is the singular track with particular zeal, and ultimately doesn’t deliver a signature moment.

To conclude the project, “Rose Tint” finds Sampha once again reflecting on the topics that clearly take up real estate in his mind: connection and self. “Preoccupied with my own hurt / Lost the art of connection,” he sings as he illuminates his final thoughts of the album.

With a lack of familiar energetic hooks on “Lahai,” guest appearance-esque moments don’t seem to be a priority to Sampha. “Lahai” grapples with a series of profound themes brought by fatherhood and a myriad of internal tug-of-war.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @JacksonWeier

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