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Masego’s approach to music has always been as smooth as the sweet symphonies that leave the end of his trademark saxophone. His cool demeanor has produced records as out-of-the-box as “Old Age,” as funky as “Girls That Dance,” and as flavorful as “Silver Tongue Devil.” With a smirk and the crack of a smile, Masego can step to the mic and do whatever he wants – successfully at that.
His 2018 debut album Lady Lady was a formal introduction to Masego the person. The 25-year-old singer at the time was full of youth which produced an album that portrayed his witty, flirtatious, and at times, tender-hearted persona. His 2020 project Studying Abroad balanced the highs and lows of love with a tropical backdrop that nearly distracted you from his qualms in romance. Nearly three years after that project’s release, Masego returned with his self-titled sophomore album which is a wonderful blend of the best elements in his discography. With Masego, the “Tadow” singer dances through the unfulfilled aspects of his life while also noting that music will always be the least of his worries.
Masego is the project I’ve always wanted from Masego. Though its 14 tracks have yet to exist in the world for more than a week, the elements that make up its full composition are so strong that when combined, it requires the “magnum opus” title to be bestowed upon it. Give it time and you’ll see that to be true. Studying Abroad is a body of work that resulted from Masego pushing himself out of his comfort zone to learn and experience new blends, tones, and so much more with music. Masego is the result of those learnings when combined with the sturdy foundation that Masego built upon to become the dazzling singer and instrumentalist that we know him to be today. If Lady Lady and Studying Abroad had a missing puzzle piece between them, Masego would be that piece.
This is evident through records like “You Never Visit Me” which combines elements of jazz and funk with the freeing feeling of riding in a convertible on a sunny day with your hands in the air. Its chorus is available for a fun call-and-response moment for an audience because of the changes in Masego’s tone throughout each line. Then there’s “Say You Want Me” which is steered by tropical drums and the same inspiration that blanketed Studying Abroad. It’s flavorful and tantalizing as Masego weaves through elements of afrobeats and dancehall to reel a woman into his bed after she knocked him off his seat. These warm records make up a slim percentage of the whole album, and it’s for that reason that they’re so refreshing and noteworthy when their turn comes on Masego.
Though the music isn’t a concern on Masego, nor is it for Masego himself, there is a bit of grappling that the singer is left to do in other areas of life. The failed reciprocation of love is the overbearing issue for Masego on his sophomore album. “You Play With My Heart” sounds like it’s set at a diner where Masego sits and dwells to no end about a woman who was unserious at best about loving him. Steam from a presumably hot drink floats to his face as he wearily sings about his latest qualms in romance. “You play you with my heart / I lay in the dark,” he croons. “You play with my heart / You were dancin’ with a star.” Moments before, Masego put his wit on display on “Afraid Of Water” for a double entendre that paints a shallow woman with nothing to offer beyond the surface as someone who can’t swim and fears the blue waters. Even when he does find someone suitable for himself, it ends with their departure and Masego’s disappointment as we see on “Down In The Dumps.” Car notes could’ve been paid and trips to Monte Carlo could’ve been taken, yet their premature exit – which has Masego in his feelings – has caused them to miss out on it all.
Right there, another aspect of Masego comes alive. The expectations Masego had for fame are far from reality. “Remembering Sundays” is a weary reflection of the days before the fame when serenity and tranquility were easier to come by. He doesn’t miss it per se, but his current lifestyle has made him more appreciative of it. His quarrels with fame spill into the combative “Who Cares Anyway” for a swing at the so-called tastemakers and critics that have misunderstood and attempted to box in the ever-so-diverse and genre-spanning singer. If you couldn’t tell that Masego is a man of music and nothing more, this record is proof of that. “I mean, yeah, we getting money / Yeah, we getting notoriety,” he quips. “But nowadays y’all looking real, real dumb / I had to say something.” Moments of appreciation for his position aren’t hard to find on Masego. “Sax Fifth Avenue” is a playful pun on “Saks Fifth Avenue” and a salute to his trustee saxophone that has earned him the attention that performing on Saks Fith Avenue could bring. As the album concludes, “In Style” opens the gates for a triumphant and sax-laden ode to the spotlight he currently stands in.
Masego spotlights the musician that is Masego. At nearly 30 years old, the singer is a seasoned journeyman who trusts the music to guide him to his destination. Sure, he’s still working to grasp the elusive concepts of dating and fame, but at least there’s something that can aid him in recognizing and expressing the successes and failures within it. While many use a self-titled project for their official introduction to the music world, Masego waited nearly a decade into his career to do that. There’s probably a good reason for that, but I’d have to guess that it has something to do with this being the perfect encapsulation of everything that makes Masego, Masego. So with every blare of the saxophone, croon of the voice, and witty lyric, know that Masego has mastered the music, and evidence of that lives within the hypnotizing elements of Masego.
Masego is out now via EQT Recordings/Capitol Records. Find more information here.