It’s been two years since the self-described “TrapHouseJazz” artist Masego dropped his silky-smooth sophisticated album Lady Lady. Consisting of hits like “Tadow,” and “Queen Tings,” the 2018 album took the now 27-year-old all around the world; from Capetown to Tokyo. “The travel has really shaped me,” the Jamaican-American, Virginia-raised star told Vogue from over the phone. “The reason I was able to get out of Virginia in the first place was because I prioritized getting a passport, so it really means a lot to me.”

Masego—who’s managed to stay busy and creative during quarantine with his digital performances for BET, CurlFest, and Afropunk in addition to putting out energetic singles like “Veg Out” and “Golden Ticket” featuring Common—isn’t letting the pandemic derail his passion for jet-setting, either. Instead of hopping on a plane, the singer-songwriter has created a sonic escape via his latest EP, Studying Abroad. The six-track album—which opens up with single “Passport”—explores themes of travel alongside the many facets of a relationship. “I wrote Passport from my 21-year-old perspective, when I was in Virginia, very eager to get out of where I was at,” he says. “I feel like when I got my passport, I received so much growth in my life.”

Masego on SelfCare and Creating a Sonic Getaway With His New EP
Photo: Courtesy of John Marquez

The rest of the EP takes the listener on a melodic journey with dance-inducing songs like “Silver Tongue Devil,” featuring Jamaican musician Shenseea. “Mystery Lady,” featuring rapper Don Toliver, is one in particular Masego has been playing a lot at home. “It almost reminds me of ‘Like You,’ the Ciara and Bow Wow song,” he says with a laugh, “where you try to say the line in one breath.” Then there’s “Sides of Me,” where his lyrics offer honesty about the loneliness that inevitably arrives on the road. “I love to create different versions of myself within music,” Masego says of the variety on the EP. “I’m always curious how people are going to react to it.”

New musical territory brings a new look: “I think some people are very sure I’m going to be wearing silk forever,” he says of his go-to style during the Lady Lady era. “So I love that this EP allows people to experience a new version of my style, too.” While he usually gets his style inspiration from traveling, lately he’s turned to books like Not Africa Enough by Nest Collective, and Black Is Beautiful by Kwame Brathwaite. “I just love the African fabrics I’ve come across in Nigeria and South Africa. I’m enjoying educating myself on African men’s fashion for now.”

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Photo: Courtesy of John Marquez

He’s upped the ante on self-care amid the pandemic, too. “I really fell in love with podcasts. I listen to them every day,” he says—Joe Budden’s, to be specific. The episodes have accompanied him on his habitual motorcycle rides. “These two activities really made it a lot easier to get through quarantine. I’m real simple. I’m not that fancy. I didn’t get new tattoos or anything,” he chuckles. “I’m just spending time outside when I can.” The simplicity carries through to his much-asked-about skin-care routine. Opting for a natural approach, Masego reaches for Shea butter, witch hazel toners, in-shower tea tree aromatherapy, and an aloe-vera-based cleanser. He’s also made a habit of watching YouTube videos of those with “dope skin,” with beauty guru Rahel Brhane as one favorite.

Masego hopes his album will provide a getaway and a reminder of the richness of travel at a time when so many people are homebound. “Travel will unlock something in you,” he says. He means it locally, too. The roads of Los Angeles have provided him a new perspective during the pandemic. “By me just getting on my bike and riding for a few miles, affects me in a way that I feel like I wouldn’t have had if I was just in my house, on the internet all day,” he says. “So any form of travel you can afford, do that.” Whether it’s a walk around the block or a drive along the coast, just bring the right music. 

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Photo: Courtesy of John Marquez