It’s early in the morning in Los Angeles, and I can tell by Masego’s husky voice that he has been grinding in the studio till late the night before. To make sure is wide-awake and fully present as we progress, I humorously dare ask: “What is the meaning of life, Masego?”
The answer is far too lengthy to transcribe, but I gotta say that there aren’t many living artists that would be able to speak about Elon Musk and Paulo Coelho as they sip their morning tea. In fact, the cultural arsenal in his answers certifies me that the young man I am speaking with is writing the soundtrack of his life to the beat of his own drum.
But, before there was Masego, there was Micah Davis. Micah was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in the northern America city of Virginia. Like many of us, he was brought up in the dotcom era. Growing up as an avid music lover, platforms like YouTube and LimeWire, and a later stage, Soundcloud, allowed him to dig deep into the weird and beautiful sounds from the world from the comfort of his house.
“I love to find these X Man mutant kind of people. They are like superheroes, but no one knows about it. I would be listening to Korean Blue Grass, stuff from Frankfurt, Singapore, a lot of weird things growing up” – he pauses – “The kids from the hood I hang out with when I was younger introduced me to trap music. It wasn’t like a cool, cultural thing like it is these days. I used to have these jam sessions in my house, I would be playing my thing, and they’re playing that, and we would combine it, and that made some exciting combinations of music.”
Do you know how the first wave of genre-bending pioneers in the ‘90’s came out? When Dj’s started to chop House with elements of soul and funk? Well, Masego and the homies do all that, plus they add the contemporary trap element and the voice of a young man that isn’t afraid to share to his feelings. The rhythm of music is influenced by classical music like jazz and soul, while the synth and sampling elements and multi-scale vocal range delivered something entirely new. So new, that Masego and his band decided to call themselves TraphouseJazz band. Their collective has been organically developing over the past couple of years, and, unsurprisingly would start to attract others that vibe on the same BPM. Masego’s feature on ‘Late Night’ from Goldlink’s “And after that, we didn’t talk” in 2015, gained the nods of approval of Joe Kay, one of the founders of collective Soulection and producers such as Kaytranada and Sounwav.
As curiosity and following grew, in 2016 Masego would release his first EP “The Pink Polo”, with his certified summer banger “Girls that dance” followed by “Loose Thoughts” EP later the same year. Last year he re-emerged with showing up a mellow-d out version of his persona alongside French producer FKJ: “Tadow”. Speaking on the collaboration, he shared that neither of them predicted their single would ever get that big. “When I met FKJ… I mean, I kinda speak French, but not really. We don’t even speak that much. We just play and create together. We have that chemistry, and that chemistry just makes track after track. We made ‘Tadow’, but we have 11 other tracks together that we made in only one day. There’s something magical and OG about being in the same room while you’re making music.”
He makes a fair point. Musicians are more mobile than ever these days. Vocals, riffs and samples can be easily e-mailed to a producer that might be on the other side of the planet. This has been incredibly beneficial, as it has increased the rate of productivity for contemporary musicians, but there is the raw element of having two or in his case – way more – musicians in the same room just letting that magic moment of where two different energies flow to create something entirely new. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that there is something in there that one might never get enough of.
Speaking about his touring regime, since 2016, Masego’s music has allowed him to travel to Australia, Japan and Europe, but South Africa is at the top of his list.
“In this business, you get a lot of ‘Okay, cool, aeroplane? First class?’ Okay Cool.’ Everything is just nothing, you know? Johannesburg got me really out of my ‘Okay Coolness’ – I was like, goodness? You know this track that I made when I was 13? How?”
As our conversation comes to an end, he shares how being exposed to different crowds in different continents allowed him you to put things into perspective, which is something he will develop in his new project to be released later this year. “It’s like, you’re new for a long time in your life. I’m definitely still in the sponge days, taking it in – especially with all the different cultures. But I’m fine with that. I am most blessed for the overseas travel. It really grows you up fast.”
No official dates were shared just yet, but for us, Londoners, Masego will be back to West End in the Fall, headlining at the Shepherds Bush Empire on September 14.
Words by Catarina Ramalho