The name might not be immediately familiar, but chances are you’ve heard the lovelorn tones of British vocalist/producer Sampha several times over the past three years. The 24-year-old gave SBTRKT’s 2011 self-titled future-garage masterpiece its heart and soul, made sweet music with Jessie Ware on the twinkling bass-pop duet of “Valentine,” and most recently guested on two tracks on Drake’s third album, Nothing Was The Same.
Throw in several collaborations with funky house maestro Lil Silva (“On Your Own,” “Salient Sarah”) and a brief hook-up with two-step revivalist Koreless under the guise of Short Stories, and you begin to wonder how Sampha has found the time to focus on his own solo efforts. But following the release of his second EP, Dual, earlier this year, he’s now being finally tipped to make that elusive mainstream breakthrough on his own.
Born and raised in South London, Sampha Sisay developed an eclectic taste in music thanks to his father’s habit of buying everything from the Spice Girls to Malian singer Oumou Sangaré during his weekly trips to the record store. Inspired by grime collectives such as Roll Deep and Ruff Sqwad, he took up producing at age thirteen and went onto release his first EP, Sundanza, through the Young Turks label in 2010.
After lending his silky-smooth vocals to five tracks on SBTRKT’s debut album, Sampha went on tour with the enigmatic masked man, produced Jessie Ware’s cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” for her Mercury Prize-nominated Devotion, and appeared on stage with Drake for a performance of “Too Much” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Sampha has also recently premiered a solo piano-led version of the latter track, while the jittery woozy R&B of “Without,” the Frank Ocean-esque balladry of “Indecision” and the ghostly gospel of “Can’t Get Close” have also all helped to position him as one of the most emotive crooners on the electro-soul scene.