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Sampha Stakes His Claim To Spotlight On His First Solo U.S. Tour

Music

The artist played a sold-out show in New York last night

Imagine, if you can, a Sampha concert. There's the artist on stage; he's in a spotlight, with nothing but a piano and his undeniable vocals carrying him. His music is as mellow as music gets, after all. It’s only right that his set would follow suit.

But when the 27-year-old took the stage at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, New York, last night—the third stop on his first U.S. solo tour—he was joined by a full band, including singer Kelsey Lu, who opened the show and lent her cello playing talents and breathy, haunting voice as backup.

Opening up the night with an upbeat version of his unreleased track “Plastic 100C” (he played a more subdued rendition for The Fader this summer), it was clear this wouldn’t be a concert that the performer—or the audience—spent simply swaying back and forth. His introspective lyrics were still present—“You touch down in the base of my fears/ Houston can-can-can you hear/ And we both had to harness our pain”—but the atmosphere was decidedly livelier than the message they paint.

It’s unusual for an artist to go on tour preceding an album, yet Sampha did just that. “I’ve been finishing up my album,” he informed the crowd. No release date was mentioned, but he shared a couple of tracks, most of which had a trippy, slightly overproduced, electronic tinge to them—including one that would feel right at home on a going-out playlist, and which prompted the singer to give us an extended taste of the moves he showed off in Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” music video.

In between, were classic ballads, like a somewhat strained performance of “Too Much,” an emotional rendition of “Happens,” and “Can’t Get Close,” from his 2013 Dual EP. The last of which takes on a new, aching meaning once you take in the fact that his mother passed away last September. His father died when he was nine. “Father, hope you're listening/ Mom, she's doin' alright cause God's listening,” he croons. But Sampha doesn’t allow the sentimentality to linger for too long. Once we get around to “Blood On Me,” he becomes his own hype man. At one point, taking the microphone from the stand to sing and continuing his two-step bop toward the edge of the stage. It feels out of place to use "lit" in the same sentence as Sampha, but there it is.

Up until this year, the singer was, more or less, a background artist. He made his way to the music scene in 2011 by way of SBTRKT. He became somewhat of a household name when Drake borrowed his vocals on Nothing Was the Same and was selected to work on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo shortly after. Most recently, he proved himself worthy of a seat at Solange’s table with a feature on “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Other than that, he’s remained pretty firmly in the shadows of bigger artists. But if last night was any indication, he’s more than ready to step out from behind the scenes.

Sampha's is not a concert you should witness through your phone—or the person’s in front of you. It’s one for which you make a point to be present. It was engaging yet introspective, moody yet entertaining, and, most of all, unpredictable. Sampha once told us in an interview:

Sometimes I listen to my music and wonder what will people think of me. It’s very melancholic, isn’t it? But my life isn’t totally miserable, you know. I can be quite silly, as it happens. It’s just that, for whatever reason, I only express one side of me in my music. I suppose one of my challenges now is to express more of myself, to channel my inner Kanye, perhaps. I’m working on it.

And though his concert didn’t include theatrics like a floating stage, soliloquies, or a mosh pit, it showed an animated side his fans aren’t used to seeing. And one to which we’re grateful to bear witness.

For his final song, “Indecision,” Sampha circled back to the intimate version we all assumed would follow him through the night. His bandmates put down their bows and drumsticks, and he ended the show performing as he does best: with a spotlight, a piano, and his undeniable vocals carrying him. 

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.

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