Date: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023

Genre: R&B / Hip-Hop

Saturn returns at 29. Astrologers say it brings re-evaluation and change, a cosmic wake-up call. Time to choose a more considered path as the charms and delusions of youth waned. Masego’s 29th birthday found him in yet another foreign country chasing… something. Love? Glory? Money? Some other high? And wondering why.“I really did reach a crossroad,” says the billion-streaming jazz/ hip-hop/ R’n’B multi-instrumentalist prodigy born Micah Davis. “I was receiving all the things that they say that you’re supposed to be fulfilled by and I wasn’t fulfilled by it. I had to do a re-evaluation of a lot of things. I said I won’t follow the path of another famous folk. I’m going to move and build my own life from scratch like the beats I create.” Masego is that movement. It’s a grand, eloquent, and somewhat mischievous one, from an artist who thrives on mixing contemplation with extroversion, smoldering romance with knowing humor and studied musical discipline with exhilarating flights of intuition. “Masego”  is only his second album after the quiet storm of 2018’s critically embraced Lady Lady, a series of EPs going back to 2015, and the frankly phenomenal signature song, Tadow, that wrote his name on the world. But the story this album tells — literally, in vignettes reflecting the contours of his life in all shades of his vast musical palette — encompasses a long journey in pursuit of something higher.Black Anime,” he says, starting at track one, “was a combination of a dream I’d had when I was maybe 18 years old and a dream I had in 2020. When you decide to be an artist, you’re trying to create what you think is missing. In 2020, when I began writing that song, I wanted to go back to that initial vision I had when I was younger: ‘I want to build my own world’.”So begins a meticulous act of reconstruction in vivid scenes, from the hand-to-mouth busking days of Sax 5th Avenue to the rush of that first contract to the big, fat global success flex (did we mention those billion streams?) of Masego’s Marching Band. “It’s just a need for therapy disguised in bravado,” he jokes. “But I love a nice braggadocious song.”The heart of the matter, of course, is love, in all its glittering and then strangely vanishing glory. Afraid of Water, Down In The Dumps, You Play With My Heart, and a crafty cover of Frank Ocean’s Lost are just the beginning of another story that first seems to fit somewhere inside the bigger arc of ambition, before becoming hopelessly entangled with it.

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. 

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