Embark on a Musical Odyssey with Masego
The musician discusses the creative process and vision behind his highly anticipated sophomore album
The musician discusses the creative process and vision behind his highly anticipated sophomore album
Text: Olivia Novato
We live in a world of schedules and timetables, of shifts and agendas. Instructed when to work, when to relax, even when to be creative, we walk to the beat of a predetermined drum. 29-year-old artist Masego, on the other hand, allows his creativity to operate on its own timeline – one that he is in no hurry to change. “I think music decides when it should be created. It’s not something that I want to follow my schedule,” explains the multi-instrumentalist-slash-singer, who released his self-titled album Masego earlier this month.
A multi-layered ode to his growth as both a man and a musician, the new album exists as an auditory scrapbook of sorts — a musical odyssey through the five years since his debut album, Lady Lady. Here, each of the 14 tracks guides the listener – and, in some ways, Masego himself – through a lengthy sonic quest for something more.
Is it fame? Is it money? Self-advancement? Love? Whatever the prize may be, this billion-stream multihyphenate has always looked to elevate his career, his life, his energy.
From the early hit “Tadow,” which bump-and-grooved its way into Internet virality as a TikTok sound, to the ethereal 2020 Don Toliver-collab “Mystery Lady” that glides into your head and stays indefinitely, Masego is no stranger to success. With a Spotify backing of nearly 7 million listeners, He sees it, he recognizes it, he may even appreciate it, but he also understands that the intoxication of digital streams and followers isn’t tangible. Until those impressive numbers are bodies swaying in a crowd, that fan love is lost.
“I think all this Internet love – I can't really feel it,” says Masego as he prepares to embark on tour later this week. “I like to actually be near people to see if it really affected them how I feel it should.” Ah, the true sign of an artist. This is someone who crafts each lyric and elects its each beat with the methodical intentionality of a storyteller. He knows exactly what he wants you to feel and how he wants you to feel it.
All you have to do is listen.
VMAN caught up with Masego to chat new music, his upcoming tour and how he's been since taking on music full-time.
VMAN: You just released your album last week. How have you been? How has that experience been for you?
MASEGO: It's been cool. It's really emotional working on something for two years. I'm just kind of taking it day by day to make sure I can celebrate.
VMAN: This album took you two years. How does this kind of differ from your previous work? Like what was some of the inspiration behind it?
M: I think your art changes as you as a person changes. I'm growing as a man, I'm growing as a musician. I think inspiration is the same as usual. Travel, perspective, conversations, relationships and experiences. And then all of that pours into the art, over time. It's mad emotional because it's like asking somebody, “Hey, how are you different from age 15 to 21?” You know? And it's, like, mad life that happens between that time. My last album was in 2018 and I was a completely different person. So I think it's just a lot of life happening and it's reflecting the art.
VMAN: Did you feel more pressure going into the release this time around? You've grown a lot as an artist, how does that affect the pressure you put on yourself or the pressure you feel?
M: No, I didn't feel pressure. I feel like if anything, I put some intentionality on myself to level up and to just become who I see myself as. But other than that, it's just business as usual.
VMAN: You’ve spoken previously about just kind of getting inspiration from a lot of different types of artists. How would you say your wide range of musical influences come together on your new album?
M: I think when you're kind of doing the 9 to 5 loop, you're kind of passively listening to music sometimes. But I think since my time freed up, because I was blessed to be able to do music full-time, I can really sit with an album. Then, I can sit in the place that it was created. So, if it's Brazil, I could spend the month in Brazil and really tap into that. If it's Outkast, I can be in Atlanta for mad long and just kind of have a 3D, 4D experience with the music. With influences in particular, I took the time to go into where it was made, how it was made, and try to live the music out a little bit. So, getting more deep with it because of the time I have.
VMAN: And when you're in these countries, do you have the opportunity to work with artists that are there? Or is it more soaking in the culture, soaking in the creativity, on your own?
M: I just wanna be with regular people. Like, I'm not really trying to create music like that. When I'm traveling to a country, I just glean what I can from the culture, try to be as authentic as possible with the experience. And then later on in my intimate time, when I'm reflecting, that's when I'm creating something. But in the country, I'm just being regular.
VMAN: You’ve talked a little bit about having to reevaluate some things in your life, in your career, as you grew. How did you go about that? What do you feel like has changed in your life since 2018?
M: Conversations with people that I think have a higher emotional intelligence than me, so, that's usually just women. Also, being open to leveling up my words to make sure that they're emoting the feelings I'm trying to emote. I think it's different from other albums because I'm usually doing everything by myself. But with this album I was very collaborative in the cerebral part of it. I would speak to and discuss and allow a lot of people to be in the studio and you know, challenge perspectives, challenge lyrics, challenge sounds, challenge everything. Rather than traditionally just collaborating with somebody, just somebody throwing a verse in my record. It’s more so me allowing other people to voice their opinion on something as I'm trying to articulate my story to people.
VMAN: Is creating music in the back of your mind when you're in conversations with people?
M: Yeah, it's not as intentional as, “I know this is gonna be a song.” I feel like I'm just trying to get the information for myself. I, myself, am trying to be a better person or level up my thoughts or whatever. I think music decides when it should be created. It’s not something that I want to follow my schedule. Like,I could be doing anything and then I'll be inspired or remember a conversation or feel some emotion – I have to get it out at that time. That's how music works for me. But in terms of the conversations, the influences and all that, it's just me. I like talking to people to learn, period. And then, eventually, it may or may not become a song.
VMAN: Is there a journey on Masego? Is each song its own thing or do they come together in a cohesive story?
M: It's my story, you know. I invite anyone to listen to it. I think what made me a fan of hip hop music and r&b was the elite level of storytelling. Everything blends together. I mean, I make music because I'm not very good at talking and explaining. I think if someone listens to it, I think it's pretty easy to understand like, “Oh, this is a journey of some sort.” And so, I wanna leave it open for people to insert their personal journey, their loop, their relationship journey within that narrative.
VMAN: Do you have a favorite track on the album?
M: I like “Black Anime” cause I'm a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki and I was happy to just be able to create something that feels like his work.
VMAN: When you're in the studio, do you have the title in the back of your head or does it come at the end?
M: I think for this album in particular, there's a man named Jesse Boykins III and he's one of the great thinkers of our time. He's like my Rick Rubin. So after the album's done, he'll just listen and ask questions and then suggest things that are already in the lyrics. He's like “Wouldn’t this be the title based on how you emoted it in this paragraph?” Just asking me questions. And then I'm like, this should be the title. So we kind of figured out together, after the fact.
VMAN: You're embarking on a tour this month. What are you most excited about playing new music live?
M: That's my favorite part, you know. I think all this Internet love – I can't really feel it. I like to actually be near people to see if it really affected them how I feel it should. I'm excited for that. I love to perform, I love being on stage, I love people. It should be good.
VMAN: When you're on stage, do you keep in mind the feeling of being at a concert and try to translate, to your audience? Or do you just like being yourself?
M: On stage, I'm a little bit more selfish with the experience. I just want to have fun with my friends – and my friends happen to be in my band – and people seem to enjoy that. Granted, I know what you're saying, like, do I try to think in the shoes of a person that attends a concert, but when you get into that people-pleasing loop, it probably gets a little unhealthy. Like, “Oh, I gotta make sure this person is entertained.” Like, I wanna make sure that we're entertained cause we have to do this a hundred times in different time zones. So it's like, let's make sure that our morale is high and we're enjoying this and feeling gratitude to be able to do this. And get paid for it. So I'm only worried about me and my tribe.
VMAN: When you're thinking about yourself growing as a person, but especially yourself growing as an artist, what else is out there for you?
M: I'm just trying to get my money right, for real. So I'm gonna just probably dive more into the business element to create space to make pure art. I think the more I can get money out the way, to where I don't think about it, where I can work with my friends, fly my friends places, take some kid that's from over here and uproot 'em, bring 'em over there — that'll make the best art.
VMAN: Thinking about these future plans, whether it's putting more artists out or doing your own stuff, do you have plans to make your own label?
M: I'm passionate about education. I'm a musician, so artist development is something I could easily do. I think for now I'm just collecting perspectives. I'm just talking to people, figuring out what a person’s needs are. Like, how do they feel about their dreams and how easy it is to get to it. I'm just collecting right now cause I feel like it doesn't really matter what business I wanna form, it's more so what is actually helpful, what's actually impactful and what is gonna do something, what's gonna be divergent. For now, I'm just asking questions and learning.
VMAN: And finally, do you keep an eye out on what's out there musically and what you wanna potentially do next?
M: I like to listen to vinyls, like old vinyls, because I think we don't really know our history. We hear things and think it's new when it's just from the 70s. So, I'd rather just educate myself on music and people that are talented and learn from that. I'm always going around trying to figure out who did what and who really wrote this and who really sang that and all that. I let that influence me, so I can thoroughly understand the past. And then, whatever I create will be, you know, whatever I got.