Paul Pennington didn’t know what to expect with Maségo, but he soon found out that there’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to Uncle Ségo.
I didn’t expect Maségo to be so tall. Of the many eccentricities adorning his lanky frame—a Jennifer Lopez t-shirt, silk pants, and several rings that I seriously considered stealing—I was first taken aback by his height. Any preconceived notions were quickly contradicted by his presence on stage. Here, Maségo was carefree and lithe, moving with a confidence more often associated with someone much smaller or much older.
For this, Maségo might have been Smokin’ Grooves most intriguing player. Coming off his critically-acclaimed new single, “Lady Lady,” the 25-year-old melded a playful sensibility with the technical virtuosity only found in somebody’s black church. I would imagine that it’s not easy transitioning from a quirky Michael Jackson homage to creating a beat on stage to delivering a full blown saxophone solo, but I also would never expect those articles of performance to occur during a single live set, so what the hell do I know?
If there is one thing, it’s that Maségo left his audience entertained and for that alone, he won.
Somewhere in a crowded backstage, we had the privilege of chopping it up with the self-proclaimed “sex symbol” about everything from his new album and musicianship to astrology and Diddy tweets. Like his onstage performance, he did not disappoint.
Okayplayer: Today marks the return of Smokin’ Grooves as a one-day music festival. What’s the energy been like out here?
Maségo: A lot of oil on the skin. A lot of hair products. A lot of gold [laughs].
OKP: What is the difference between performing for a festival crowd versus your own solo show? Do you adapt your set in any way?
M: I think the biggest lesson that I learned from festivals was when I saw Kendrick [Lamar] at Coachella. As big as he is, there were still people in the back that needed that engagement to really participate. At any level of stardom, you really have to put the crowd participation to a different level. So, I keep that in mind that some people might be here just to be drunk, which is cool. But I’m going to make sure I give them and my fans a stellar show. I can go up there and just sing my songs, but I’d rather make it where whether you know me or not, you enjoy your time.
OKP: You have the new single “Lady Lady.” Is that the vibe you’re going for with the new project?
M: This year I’ve come to terms with me being a Gemini. I change my mind quite often, not at the Kanye [West] level, but I’m in a bunch of different moods. I can be the jazzy guy—and “Lady Lady” is the epitome of being the jazzy guy, being real Musiq Soulchild with how much I’m courting her. But trust me, it will be every single version of me [on this abum]. It’s like a [Zodiac] chart that shows all the different versions. “What version are you today?” So expect a lot of different energies. I just like trying different things.
OKP: With your sound and growing up in a church tradition, you clearly care about traditional musicianship. In this modern era with everything going digital, what do you think the place is for musicianship and instrumentation?
M: I feel like there’s a place for both of them to live because I enjoy what a computer can do. Somebody like Stro Elliot, he’s the epitome of “you can play drums if you feel like it, but you can really eff up this machine.” I just think if we combine it, it’s cool. If I want to be the jazzy guy, we can do your scales and your pentatonics, but if I just want to hit this drum machine, I can do that.
OKP: How has your family felt about your career blowing up?
M: Let me set an alarm [laughs]. My mother’s always been super artsy and supportive, whether it made financial sense or not. Pops, he’s always been with me, but in the sense of “just make sure you’re not broke.” And that balance has been beautiful. Because once my dad got to see, ‘Ok, cool. You’re getting flown out to places,’ and [this career] makes financial sense, then I got both of their support in different ways. So, my father always makes sure everybody is doing their job; I’m not late for anything. And my mother’s making sure my spirit is fine. I’m not too moody [and] I’m not being unkind to people. I was in Jamaica last week and my family is unfazed by the fame. They’re just like, ‘Aaaaand, I don’t care,’ which is cool because there are just a few places where I can be normal.
OKP: You’re about to level up in a major way. What is one thing that you want your new fans to learn about you that longtime listeners already know?
M: I’m the most creative person ever. And if I’m not, I am just gonna keep on doing it. Lil’ Wayne kept saying he was the best until people believed him. But that’s all it is. I feel like I’m very adaptive. If there are problems happening or if I don’t have something, I just creatively make it work. That’s with the album, that’s with me on stage—creativity is just the thing.
OKP: Anything else you want the people to know?
M: Ehhhh, nah I ain’t gonna be messy.
OKP: Be messy.
M: Nah man! [laughs]. This is an interview! Well, alright. Diddy tweeted “Beware of time wasters” and then somebody was like, ‘When you gonna marry Cassie?’. [Laughs] I think that taught me, man, make sure you’re really treating women right. So like, my communication has stepped up and I think everyone should do the same. That tweet made me say, “Hmmm, don’t be wasting nobody’s time.” Even if you’ve got clout and money, it’s the same principle. Treat somebody like a queen. That wasn’t messy was it [laughs]?
Check out our highlights from Maségo’s Smokin’ Grooves performance below:
Paul Pennington is a San Francisco-based writer whose work has appeared at the Revivalist, the Roy Ayers Project, and iRock Jazz. You can follow his social musings on Twitter @paulclabourne.