Masego Proves His Smooth Operator Bona Fides on 'Lady Lady'

Masego Proves His Smooth Operator Bona Fides on 'Lady Lady'
Photo: Phillip Raheem
"I remember my first trip to Toronto," recalls Virginia-based crooner Masego. "There was this street musician playing an instrument I've never seen before — like, he had a hang drum on the left side and this random bagpipe, bodhrán stick type of thing. It was the craziest thing ever! So I sampled it for a beat."
 
The Jamaican-born saxophonist, pianist and producer can find inspiration anywhere. In a recent conversation with Exclaim!, he credits many sources with helping him craft his unique sound. "I know I'm dope at playing sax, but [for a while], I didn't feel like I had my voice. So I went to Youtube and SoundCloud and started finding these random genres of music," he says. "I've always been attracted to something that's a little bit left — Korean R&B, South African hip-hop. I'm really curious about my homies back in Jamaica, what are they listening to? I'm always searching."
 
His eclectic tastes and ability to see art in every encounter are strengths that he puts to great use on his latest album, Lady Lady. It's his sharpest, most cohesive effort thus far and on it, he transforms even the most mundane scenarios into masterpieces. "Old Age" is a mischievous collaboration with TDE guest star SiR, which, according to Masego's Twitter account, was inspired by a May-December fling that went south. The story seems trivial when he shares it on social media, but the song that it birthed is rich and soulful, a studied nod to the neo-soul era of R&B.
 
"Queen Tings" is a boyish ode to Masego's many celebrity crushes, dressed in syncopated rhythms and a sultry sax that infuse it with cool sophistication. "When there's a woman involved in whatever way, it ends up inspiring a song," Masego says. "I even made a song just based off of the Instagram comment section, where me and this woman were talking about something. There's something special about the influence a woman has on me."
 
The 25-year-old, whose old soul earned him the nickname "Uncle Sego," is an army brat who is accustomed to moving around often. In his adult years, it's translated into a wanderlust that bleeds into his work.
 
"I'm used to not staying anywhere for too long. I've always had it in my DNA to go to different places," says Masego. "I get bored quick. You should see me on stage — I change the beat mid-song! That's just how I'm structured."
 
When applied to his music, his penchant for jumping from place to place means big payoffs for his audience. On Lady Lady, no two songs sound alike, although they complement each other perfectly. Citing influences like Cab Calloway and Andre 3000 (to whom he pays homage on "24 Hr. Relationship"), he has the cocksure delivery of a rapper with the debonair charm of a jazz virtuoso from the Harlem Renaissance. His bold personality and tight musicianship make for a refreshing album that's unlike any other in its class.
 
"When you put an album on, you want to enter that artist's world. I did a great job of really carving my space out," says Masego. "Lady Lady is very lush, it's very silk, it's very lavish. You should definitely turn it on."
 
Lady Lady is out now on EQT Recordings.