When Masego was 21, he was ready to leave Virginia. The singer and musician exist at the three-way intersection of classic soul music, modern R&B, and a one-of-a-kind hybrid street of jazz and rap credits getting a passport with changing his life. In a Zoom interview with BET.com, he gives us the lowdown on his newly released EP Studying Abroad. Its focus is from six years ago — before getting out of the state, entering his first long-distance relationship, and becoming the household name he is today.
“This wasn’t so much about writing about the present time because there’s not much to write about,” he says, speaking to the pandemic that’s limiting the ability to travel right now. “This project turned into a lot of feelings of fear and frustrations shown through the metaphor of a relationship.”
Featuring producers like WondaGurl, Sam Gellaitry, and Jack Dine, Masego’s latest project was influenced by traveling Instagram pages and his own experiences. “I took a lot of inspiration from Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, Amsterdam, and Stockholm,” he says. “I even sampled a woman’s voice from Amsterdam in “Passport” and a woman from South Africa at the end of it. “I’ve also got a woman from Jamaica doing the transition from “Passport” to “Silver Tongue Devil.”
For Masego, releasing Studying Abroad during the pandemic came down to two reasons. He jokingly says, the first is "Why not?" before following up with the second, which, surprisingly enough, has to do with traveling. “If the world is burning and crazy things are happening, I feel like I can help by just releasing music, just to escape that for a little bit,” he says.
Here’s Masego breaking down each of Studying Abroad’s tracks below.
For me, it’s a blending of Japanese culture with my own. It’s about how I felt when I took my first trip to Tokyo and Shinagawa. I was really eager to get out of Virginia, and I just felt that getting a passport was the key. Everyone kept telling me, "Once you get your passport, then the opportunities will come to you for things abroad." After I did, I just felt everything in my life started to open up.
That one features Shenseea, and I feel like she was that missing piece and it feels good to have that, because when she got on it, we had to have this conversation. It was like we were dancing on the record, so it kind of mimicked how I was catching a twerk in the music video.
This one features the one and only Don Toliver. The thing to know about that is the way I stacked my voice. All those harmonies, similar to how J. Moss, the gospel artist, stacks his harmonies, I believe. It kind of simulated how there's a bunch of thoughts in my head.
In the second verse of "Mystery Lady," we talk about whether monogamy is meant for me. It's that fear and frustration. And in "Polygamy," I'm like, "Man, is this the way to go?" It's almost like me going into this daydream where I have a team of multiple women, and we're all communicating. It's a nice, blissful thing that isn't complicated, so maybe this is the solution.
This song is like snapping out of that dreamlike state and going back to the real world. The first line is, "One-on-one date, started talking for a month straight, mad consistent. I was mad resistant to the friendship." It’s just talking about a relationship. Then that second verse says, "If I keep this up, you know I'm going to end up alone. I don't even want another 10 on my phone. Way too many pretty women leave me alone, lock me in the studio and write me a song."
I’m basically saying that you would think that being famous and being the ladies man would be great, but option paralysis is a thing. When everyone is shooting their shot, when everyone claims that they're the woman for you and everyone is putting the snowflake in your DMs, it gets to a point where you're like, "I just want to make my songs."
It’s dismissive of the relationship that I was talking about. It is petty but swaggy, too. I'm not sad, it's just like, "Nah. Bye. Get out of here." There's better things for me in the future.
(Photo by Benjamin Askinas)