Existing in an era where genre classification seems increasingly irrelevant, Masego’s debut album gives new life to the idea of what it means to be a genre-bending pioneer. The Virginia-raised, Los Angeles-based saxophone player, singer, and rapper has fused together musical traditions of the African diaspora to wonderful effect since he first emerged onto the scene in 2015. Now, a refined artist who commands disparate musical influences with ease and who has coined his own genre term, traphouse jazz, 2018 sees the long-awaited year of Masego.
The artist’s highly-anticipated debut album, Lady Lady, is an expansive fourteen tracks that run the gamut of everything from jazz, hip-hop, lo-fi, to outright improvised jam sessions. Despite its contrasting elements, Lady Lady never feels disjointed. Rather, the varied sonic textures that comprise the album as a whole paint a vibrant, kaleidoscopic portrait of Masego as an artist. Opening on the aptly titled “Silk…,” the tone for Lady Lady is immediately set as one poised to be a spellbinding and refined project. For even when Masego is at his most adventurous, a sense of musical refinement remains.
The most spectacular moments of Lady Lady, outside of the features from Sir, Tiffany Gouché, and FKJ, are found in how freely it weaves together traditions of the past and present. “Lavish Lullaby” sees Masego softly singing and trading verses with two incarnations of himself in a manner that bears a striking resemblance to the modern rap styles that have taken a stranglehold of the genre. It’s a subgenre that, before this, Masego has yet to experiment widely with, but this brilliant showing makes it sound like he’s been doing it for ages. Then you have moments like “Black Love,” where Masego takes on the persona of a lounge jazz singer for a track that feels like it could have been pulled straight out of Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club.
With Lady Lady, Masego has created an album that has something for everyone, while remaining undeniably true to himself as an artist. It is a difficult tightrope act but one the Virginia-born artist pulls off with ease. Perhaps it’s due to how open Masego is to influence, musically and otherwise. More than just an amalgamation of the vast array of musical influences that have gone into shaping Masego, Lady Lady also serves as the sonic embodiment of all the women that have shaped him as an artist as a person. As Masego shared on the role women played on the project,
“Whether that’s a conversation, a relationship, a one-night stand… Was it inspirational? Did it hurt me? Did I learn something? Did I feel confused afterwards?”
Listen to Lady Lady below:
For more Masego, revisit our All Eyes On performance and interview with the traphouse jazz pioneer: