In the middle of Masego’s 2023 self-titled project, he reflects on his relationship with fame on the song Who Cares Anyway?. To his millions of loyal listeners, the artist’s question has an obvious answer: we do! On the track Masego admits that he doesn’t “wanna be famous no more.” It’s a sentiment that he still feels when he chats to us from London over Zoom. “This generation in particular has too much of a focus on the financial part of music. I want to get it closer to the art,” he says. In an interview with Schön!, the singer-saxophonist reveals the roots of his artistry, his distaste for the machine of fame and his love for jollof rice.
Congratulations on wrapping up your North American tour. Are you doing anything specific to unwind and relax before your Europe tour kicks off?
London has this thing called Ancient Baths. I did that. It’s like different water temperatures and massages. I’m unwinding through wellness.
How do you prepare and get ready for performing live?
I would say that I prepare by not preparing. I plan to fail and I feel like that puts [less] pressure on the show and it makes it fun.
Can you talk about your earliest memory of making music. What was your introduction to being an artist?
My earliest introduction to music was probably around eight years old through church. In all honesty, artistry comes when you recognise people building brands and worlds around their work, that happened for me at university. I learned people [having] clothing brands, their own font, and their own colour palettes to go along with their music was the difference between just doing open mics and covers versus building a world from scratch which is what I believe artistry is.
Where did you go to university and did you study music?
I was a philosophy major at Old Dominion University.
Can you recall any specific music that you heard when you were a child that you look back to now when you’re trying to create music?
A lot of my musical ideas come from dreams and [from] when I would be sitting in church. Quincy Jones once said that when it comes to ideas or any type of inspiration, it’s like getting downloads and anyone that chooses to run with it can take it. He used to say if I don’t make a song with this idea, Frank Sinatra will. Anybody can grab these musical downloads and I would grab it from sitting in the church or my own dream. So today, we’re shouting out God.
Was singing and songwriting always part of the plan or did it come naturally after you were doing your sax covers on SoundCloud?
Singing is something that I’m still learning about. There are different ways to affect people with your words and your tone. When I was younger, it was more about saying yes to the right work. Attention grabbing is what it was. That was a season of bars, like a lot of similes and metaphors, and then it became melodic because of all the places I travelled to. In America it’s really important to have an Instagram caption type of song which is a completely different way to explore songwriting. For me, singing and songwriting was definitely my last priority because I loved instruments growing up. Then when I learned that women liked music with words I was like, I think I like music with words.
Can you describe the genre of music that you occupy right now and that you wish to occupy in the future?
My thing is futuristic jazz, maybe. What genre do I want to occupy in the future? Maybe alternative rap. I like that genre a lot.
What is the purpose behind having a stage name? Does it make the process of making music easier?
To protect your normal life, you want to separate the other life you’re trying to build. The simplest metaphor is Clark Kent and Superman [or] Batman and Bruce Wayne. As a child watching people that were literally supernatural with what they could do having to separate their lives, I [wanted] to approach my artistry in a similar way. When I did a lot of research on my African history, I found that they’re very serious about their names and the lineage that was associated with the name. You walk a little bit heavier when you understand the meaning of it which for me happens to mean blessings and prosperity. Having an artist name gives you a deeper story which puts pressure on you to take what you’re doing more seriously.
How have you managed to grow your platform? Was it a case of pure luck where you put out music and it took on a life of its own or is there a formula behind the success that you’ve seen?
I’m less about formulas and more about principles. The principle is to get closer to people because none of this works without people. You can’t just make art, and no one listens to it, and call it a business or call it a career. If I want to affect people I need to understand how people feel. I need to understand what people think about while still delivering the art that I feel is truest to me. The principle is just to get closer to people because people are the ones that make all of this tick.
On your latest project you mention not wanting to be famous anymore. Where does that sentiment come from?
From a distaste of the reward system, the business, and the lack of passion. I think this generation in particular has too much of a focus on the financial part of music. If I make this much money, I mean this to people. I want to get it closer to the art. I felt as though if this is what fame is defined as today, then I do not subscribe to that. I wanted to say and write my own definition of fame and what it means to me.
How do you go from ideation to conception through to production and then relaxation?
The key to all of that is food. If I’m eating a good meal that day or somebody cooked for me, then I want to make music. I want to write a song. I want to do something, but without the food, none of that exists. Find a chef, eat the food and then everything else does itself.
What is your favourite food?
Oh jollof rice, for sure.
This Schon! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Vicky Grout @ Soho Management
fashion. Jermaine Robinson
makeup. Mary-Jane Gotidoc using SUQQU
hair. Tariq Howes @ Leftside Creative
production. Clara La Rosa
fashion assistant. Yazmin Johnson
words. Shivani Somaiya