Sampha Credit: Jamie-James Medina

What do Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Frank Ocean’s Endless, and Kanye’s The Life of Pablo have in common? Well, besides being some of the most talked-about releases of 2016, they all feature golden vocal contributions from London singer, songwriter, and producer Sampha Sisay, better known as Sampha. (Kanye didn’t actually add the knockout “Saint Pablo” with Sampha till months after he first dropped Pablo, but I’m counting it all the same.) Sampha has been a pop quantity since 2011, when his work on SBTKRT’s self-titled Young Turks debut helped define the London producer as a cultural (if not commercial) hit. Sampha inked a deal with the same hot UK label, and after years of allowing his voice to suit the ideas of his collaborators he just dropped his debut solo full-length, Process. A recent Fader cover story mentions that Sampha’s father, who relocated the family from Sierra Leone a few years before he was born, decided to buy a piano when Sampha was three.And you can hear Sampha’s emotional history in the tinkling of ivory keys and in the tremble of his voice on the bare ballad “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” His performance does a great job of letting listeners into his world.   v