Songwriting singer-saxophonist Masego is a musician who’s excited for where he’s going but never forgets where he’s been. At this summer’s Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, he literally brought out the first saxophone his mother ever purchased for him and played it for thousands. You can expect that artistic artifact will be in tow with Masego as he tours throughout Europe to end of the year, too.
“I had to keep that, my momma spent her money on it,” Masego joked when talking to Rolling Stone Radio co-host Charlie Cooper. “But when I need a certain sound, I bring that sax out. It has a certain sound to it, and it challenges me to make the instrument sound like me versus having some super expensive diamonds-stuffed instrument or whatever. So I like it for that reason—it’s simple.”
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Growing up in a military family, Masego said he’s been sort of touring for his entire life, so how can a string of international dates in 2022 possibly be daunting? In fact, life on the road is one thing that ultimately fuels his creative process, so Masego wants more of it. “It’s cool, you collect perspectives and incorporate it into the music later on, so in that way a tour never ends, you know?” he said. “But because the journey of a typical musician is we stay 24 hours everywhere, I’ve been starting to take a deeper diver into the cultures.”
To that end, Masego has been doing everything from taking Portuguese classes three times a week to building a school in Nigeria for artist development. This week, he at least took a brief break to chat with Cooper for the latest edition of Rolling Stone Radio on Amp, the live radio app where you can listen to top artists, creators, and athletes spin their favorite tracks and take your calls in real time. As you might expect from someone whose travel-inspired sounds are so dizzying that he invented a new genre (“trap house jazz”) to describe it, Masego’s My Life in 10 Songs segment really offered a little bit of everything.
He started his list with a three-song run right from Brazil: classic sambalanço group Trio Mocoto (“Onde Anda Voce”), modern hip-hop artist Druh (“Pára”), and legendary singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil (“Palco”). “He’s just such a beloved Brazilian artist,” Masego said about Gil. “He’s like their Earth, Wind, and Fire, maybe that’s a good reference point to understand. His spirit is so pure. This is cookout music you play around mom and ’em. He’s just talking his talk, he’s like, ‘Yo, I’m on stage, I love being on stage, and I love performing.’ I relate to this.”
Masego continued to take listeners around the world from there. Next up was a Nigerian duo blending rap and R&B that Masego adores: Ajebutter22 and Oxlade (“Unconditionally”). “[Ajebutter22] is fire,” he said. “His melodies are crazy. Whatever success he’s experiencing, I want him to double it or triple it because he has crazy writing and superstar power.” Moving stateside, Masego chose the versatile producer/vocalist Chromonicci (“Just Push”) and hip-hop/jazz multi-instrumentalist Adam Blackstone’s collaboration with icon Jazmine Sullivan (“‘Round Midnight”). “
“Not that Adam is listening, but he sent me an album for that and I was lost in the sauce. Then I heard it and I was like, ‘Man, if I could’ve done this? What am I doing?” Masego said. “Then with Jazmine Sullivan, her voice is golden. I love people that remind you there’s such a gap between them and you. When Kendrick drops new music, I’m like, ‘Wow, we’re not that good.’ She’s one of those, where it’s like, ‘Man, stop playing with me.’”
Masego wrapped his selections up with three more songs bouncing between genres. Up first was another Brazilian legend, this time the singer-songwriter and general sonic chameleon Marcos Valle (“Estrelar”). He next opted for New Orleans’ R&B songstress Ambré because “it upsets me how people don’t scream her name with the admiration she deserves,” as Masego put it. “Her pen is cray, her voice is amazing, the harmonies are fire, and I like it when she talks her talk.” Finally, the trap house jazz pioneer closed his selected tracklist with singer India Shawn, particularly her collab with producer D’Mile (“Don’t Play With My Heart”).
“You just knew that was D’Mile on the production,” Masego said about this heavy and kinetic drum-and-bass-led track. “That’s the start, this is the man who did all the Lucky Daye we love. He wore that gold outfit at the Grammys like a trophy himself. This song feels real Donna Summer to me, it takes me back there. You can’t see my shoulders, but you wanna skate to that song.”
Cooper and co-host Jon Weigell will leave the rink and head back to the studio on Thursday, 10/27 when rapper Westside Boogie joins them to share his Life in 10 Songs on another episode of Rolling Stone Radio (@rollingstone on Amp). Download the Amp app and tune in at 11 a.m. ET. Just getting started on Amp? If you want to learn more about the artists and athletes DJing on Amp and experience their shows live, head to onamp.com and just press “play.”
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