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At the risk of overstating the obvious, it’s not every day you see a rapper break out an adept saxophone solo during a live set. In fact, it’s not usual that rappers play musical instruments at all, yet 25-year-old Micah Davis, better known as Masego, not only plays multiple instruments — all learned without the benefit of formal lessons in order to impress a high school crush — but he incorporates those sounds into a fusion of soulful hip-hop he calls “TrapHouseJazz.”
Influenced in equal parts by his college interest in classic, jazz-sampling hip-hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest, the local house scene of the DMV area where he grew up, the gospel music played by his pastor parents, and the spaced-out, Afrofuturistic stylings of Outkast, Masego’s “TrapHouseJazz” infuses his work with artists like Chance The Rapper, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Goldlink, and Boogie on his upcoming album, Lady Lady. You won’t find too many rappers who count ’30s big band leader Cab Calloway among their major influences, but Masego isn’t like any other rapper around.
His live show is fascinating in the way his natural charisma, as much as his musicianship, takes focus, as he playfully banters with the crowd while undergoing costume changes mid-set, switching from keyboard to saxophone, and coolly slides from exuberant dance routines to impressive displays of his jazz-rap-inspired flow. I first encountered his unique performance style when he opened for Goldlink at a recent show here in Los Angeles and I was so instantly and completely taken with his lighthearted demeanor and truly refreshing approach to the genre that I actually did a deep Google dive during the headliner’s set and wound up driving home listening to Masego’s body of work on Spotify.
Now, he’s releasing his debut album, Lady Lady, on EQT Recordings and granted an interview with Uproxx to talk about the music on the collection, how he’s been redefining the term “jazz rap” with his expert musical take on the genre, and the special women in his life who inspired the project, from his mother to Lupita Nyong’o.