Sampha – “Blood on Me” (Singles Going Steady)

"Blood on Me" offers a thrilling slice of aural tension and gives yet another reason to keep a close eye on Sampha's solo career

Adriane Pontecorvo: Like so many of the best stories, Sampha’s new single begins in medias res: he’s a man on the run, full of breathless desperation and a need to keep moving. Suspense fills the track, and the track sounds like it could fill a theater; simple as sparse keys, repetitive drums, and a small choir of voices are, they come together in a cinematic masterpiece, with Sampha’s vocal performance taking top billing. The fear and adrenaline in his voice sit against a hint of melancholy, an added depth that leaves me wanting to know the narrator’s whole story. Regardless of whether or not there ends up being any more to know, “Blood on Me” offers a thrilling slice of aural tension and gives yet another reason to keep a close eye on Sampha’s solo career. [9/10]

Dan Kok: Sampha’s feature appearances with Drake and Kanye West have certainly gained him some hype as a big up-and-comer in the next few years. “Blood on Me” is the second single from his upcoming full-length debut and it’s promising to say the least. The beat is so simple it might actually be a stock drum beat on a midi keyboard, but Sampha’s construction of harmonies give the song incredible complexity. The song’s breakdown is almost choral in it’s sound and that element gives the track depth that sets it apart. It does take a few listens for that depth to really sink in, but as the elements reveal themselves, it becomes a really unique and interesting track. [8/10]

Andrew Paschal: “Blood on Me” showcases a depth of shadow and darkness that I had not previously associated with Sampha. His delivery here is urgent, paranoid, desperate, and wounded, and is complemented by plunky, creeping keys and a backdrop of monkish, reverent vocals. In places the song approaches dystopian imagery, and you can imagine Sampha running through a desert wasteland as he pants out the lyrics. While not spelling this out explicitly, the track could be interpreted as an address on racial violence and persecution, with Sampha invoking in the very first line the “grey hoodie” that has so often been used as a symbol for demonizing and pathologizing black men. Regardless of Sampha’s intent, this is a strong and exciting performance. [7/10]

Max Totsky: I didn’t know I needed Sampha’s solo album so badly. He’s been around for awhile as his somber, soulful vocal performances were part of what made SBTRKT’s debut such a landmark. Although his profile has only increased after being put on by Drake and Kanye and Frank Ocean, I never appreciate his presence as much as I should, instead seeing him as some sort of catalyst to a very specific spectral atmosphere. With “Blood on Me”, it seems like the indisputably talented vocalist is zeroing in on his potential. The beat quietly knocks and bumps as Sampha’s vocals strive to maintain the instrumental’s nonchalance even while holding onto a towering torment (“I swear they smell the blood on me”). The song itself is raw and understated but Sampha’s performance is oh so huge, gripping onto the same obvious splendor that makes his voice such an effective tool for collaboration. [8/10]

Michael Pementel: Kicking in with an old school hip-hop beat had me right off the bat. Piano is introduced with beautiful keys, with this ghostly aura in the background that echoes throughout the track. It’s beautiful and haunting already, and then with Sampha’s voice, there’s the one-two hook. Those vocals: full of soul, passion, and sorrowful. This track is the sort of banger that doesn’t hit the dance floor, but hits the heart. This is soul and R&B doing something different, and damn does it pay off. [8/10]

Landon MacDonald: A four-minute reminder of why I am glad Gotye has yet to follow up 2011’s Making Mirrors. The uber-emotional chorus never earns its keep, and by the fifth time around, it is plain unwelcome. After featuring on two of this years best records, The Life of Pablo and Endless, I guess I was hoping for a little more to hold onto. [4/10]

Chris Ingalls: Sampha’s vocals are frenetic and urgent and the music provides the perfect accompaniment: a tight yet complex beat and an arrangement that’s both ominous and sympathetic. I’m hearing a bit of a Peter Gabriel vibe — exotic, emotional, chilling. [8/10]

Scott Zuppardo: The snappy drum and percussion beat mining over Sampha’s layered vocals is not too shabby. I’m admittedly new to even opening my ears to this type of music but with tracks like this it makes my easing in a smidge more milk toast. To be completely transparent, you can’t sleep on the Young Turks record stamp either. A perfect soundtrack to a blunted Sunday or monday night, still licking your wounds from the weekend past, a third eye cleanser. [8/10]

SCORE: 7.50


October 12th – London, UK // Corsica Studios

October 19th – Montreal, QC // RBMA Festival – Fairmount Theatre

October 20th – Toronto, ON // The Underground – Drake Hotel

October 23rd – Philadelphia, PA // Johnny Brenda’s

October 24th – Washington, DC // U Street Music Hall

October 25th – Brooklyn, NY // Baby’s All Right

October 29th – San Francisco, CA // Swedish American Music Hall

November 1st – Los Angeles, CA // Red Bull Sound Select – The Palace Theatre