Date: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023
Genre: R&B / Hip-Hop
For those who came in late, maybe parts of Masego’s backstory need to be spelled out here. The singer-songwriter mother who directed the church choir in Virginia, and the Jamaican father whose roots he retraced on 2020’s Studying Abroad EP. The teenaged hip-hop obsession, the university jazz studies, the birth of his bespoke genre, TrapHouseJazz, designed to digest all this and more; the narrative genius of Outkast, Duele; Djavan, the intoxicating Brazilian mystery of Trio Mocoto and Joao Gilberto…
With Masego, all this accumulated inspiration has simply become the atmosphere that he breathes; the landscape for seeking deeper self-knowledge and purpose through music. With the input of an expanding cast of collaborators, it’s in a state of charged evolution.
“In the past, it’s been, ‘Hey world, I’m talented! Look! I’m Spinning plates!’,” he says. “But now it’s become, “Visit me in the place you can truly belong. Learn from me. Share with me.” I’m still leading and innovating with instruments and doing all the things but I’m really setting the stage to allow my friends to shine.”
Production-wise, “when it comes to finding what I consider the strange kids, those outliers, those people that I think are like savants, you’ve got to go to where they’re at. [Kelvin] Wootan is the gold, the glue, and the guide that made the album with me and he’s in Huntsville, Alabama. His studio was set up like a Black Willy Wonka factory…
“Then there’s the king of artistic structure. The architect. Louie Lastic, I had to come to where he was as well. Even though I do not enjoy driving to his private rick Ruben-like island.”
“It’s tough to find hidden gems but it’s rewarding when you do,” Masego says, “It’s refreshing when you think someone is something and they surpass your expectations. They really make music that is beautiful and pure while existing in an industry that is… not what one would imagine it to be.”
Oh yeah, industry. It’s the challenging reality, in the album’s back half, that fuels our hero’s disillusionment and ultimate resolve. As he comes to question the tastemakers (Who Cares Anyway) as well as the dating game and his own, often fanciful romantic ideals (Bye Bye My Love, 2 Sides, You Never Visit Me), he comes full circle to that childhood world of his own making: the nostalgic simplicity of Remembering Sundays and Eternal Sunshine (Firepit).
“I do have a realization in the end that the music industry is the business of relationships,” he says. After finding your tribe, you all can maneuver it and get your art to the people. It’s rare to be heard when art is so accessible, so I consider it a privilege and a blessing.”
“I realized that I can go anywhere in the world and find someone that has heard and scored their life’s movie to my music. This music thing went from a hobby to a job. That [last] song is saying, “I choose to learn the game I’m in and figure out how to get my friendship to how to win at it, keep your soul and represent something for others that aspire to be heard.”
So what does the new world of Masego’s own design look like from here? Well, he’s quietly built an animation studio, premiering some of these images in his Coachella performance. He’s shared many of his new aesthetics on his social media pages and has spoken highly of the innovative projects Remarkable places has worked on globally.
And to the rumors of him silently stepping away from music he responds with this. “Here’s the thing. I make music every day of my life. I’m not going to stop doing that. That’s how I breathe. That’s who I am, But I’m in no rush to put out art just for the sake of it. I’m all about storytelling and I have many years of stories left to tell and share.