It’s just after 9 p.m. on a Saturday and Masego, clothed in a Han Kjøbenhavn tracksuit the color of champagne, reclines in the back of a black Sprinter. Even though he complains that it’s too warm he looks the very definition of cozy. His proclivity for Danish designer duds is the antithesis of the glitter, mesh, and spandex favored by the crowd of 20,000 plus camping out in Bakersfield, California, for this year's Lightning in the Bottle Festival. Masego isn’t the camping type — he’s here to make the people dance.
In the year since the release of his debut studio album, Lady Lady, dancing crowds have been a constant while he lives his life on the road. “I travel more than anybody I know,” the 25-year-old says. Just a few weeks ago, he was in Johannesburg to headline the Ultimate Backyard Flavour Chillas, a festival he was forced to pull out of last year. A few weeks before that, he was traveling across Asia with his band.
“They haven’t really traveled to a lot [of areas], so the inspiration of being new places has been coming out during sound check," he says. "We’ve literally been making full songs during sound check, and that’s been dope." Last week, the multi-hyphenate talent — he plays 34 instruments — celebrated the second anniversary of his FKJ-featured single “Tadow” with the release of its long-awaited music video. “Tadow,” like much of his music, was created during an impromptu jam session that yielded gold.
“I’ve been doing jam sessions forever. I kind of start the vibe and then the specialists add their flare to it,” Masego says. “It’s funny because I was like 15 or 16 when I started doing them and my friend ended up describing what we were doing as trap house jazz. We were people you wouldn’t expect to play such beautiful chords, and the juxtaposition was kind of funny, so I ran with it. I used to think of it as trap, house, and jazz all in one; the best example of that was the Pink Polo EP. Now it’s more so how I approach music. I love when the drums belong to this world, and then the melody belongs to a different world, and that’s all it is.”
As the concept of TrapHouseJazz has evolved, so too has Masego’s approach to songwriting. Where standouts from the Pink Polo EP like “Girls That Dance” and “Bounce” espouse bacchanalian times and light-hearted flirtations, Lady Lady is a more considered missive to the women in his life, both in a platonic and romantic sense. “I feel like anything with my music can be traced back to a woman,” he says.
“I’ve tried to make a career off of being reflective, so my emotions are interesting in the sense that when I’m in the moment I’m so nonchalant, but like two years after a relationship when I’ve figured out all of this stuff I’ll be having jam sessions and also be coming to terms with a feeling from the past or future feeling," he continues. "With Lady Lady I wanted to tell a story bluntly, and that’s what happened. The goal is to get Erykah Badu-ish with it because she super bares her soul and she’s so blunt. I feel like when you have certain experiences and try to put that in a song you’re really putting yourself out there. It’s really easy to hide in metaphor or hide in a solo or instrumentation, but when you’re saying explicitly this is how I feel it’s a bit different — it makes you a more vulnerable person.”
With a warmly received debut in the rearview and months of non-stop touring behind him, Masego’s next chapter involves the typical studio sessions — the Game, 6lack and SZA are just a few of the people he’s been working with — and some well-deserved personal time. “Honestly I’m just trying to finish building my house," he says. "I just want to make a very loving home and live my life for a year.”