REVIEW — Masego Celebrated a Beautiful Symbiosis of Jazz and Hip-hop at the Ogden Theatre

Masego

An intriguing commonality shared between hip-hop and jazz is the ability of the genres to evolve. For many, this is what draws them in to begin with, while others watch the deep musical worlds open before them when they find a sample from another genre incorporated or vis versa. With the help of modern production technology and accessibility, these two genres have been brought together to make something truly versatile and dynamic. One particularly beautiful example of this is Masego. Each song flows like syrup, taking its time and truly immersing the listener in the warmth of the instrumentals. Many folks in Denver started their week off right experiencing Masego and crew’s raw talent at the Ogden Theater on Monday evening.

Masego’s interaction with music and culture seems oriented around exposing beauty and strength. These themes also apply to, Ogi, the LA-based Nigerian singer and songwriter who opened up Masego’s Ogden show. Ogi brought strong female energy to the Ogden, with powerful vocals and a confidence that melted the hearts of the audience.

Masego
Ogi at The Ogden

Following Ogi’s powerful serenade, the Ogden buzzed with energy while fans sang along with the interim songs between sets. Suddenly, the empty stage demanded the crowd’s attention with a sharp drop into ambient chords and the strange whir of a machine starting up. 

Slowly, the sampled adoration ”I love you, I love you, I love you,” from “Michelle” by The Beatles emerged out of an intense instrumental. Long-time fans immediately recognized it as  “Navajo”  a single that dates all the way back to 2017. Masego emerged from the darkness, saxophone in hand, and fans began to sing Masego’s lyrics without missing a beat.

Masego
Masego at the Ogden

As the song closed, Masego looked out to the crowd and smiled wide. “There’s a lot of ladies in here,” he said breathily, causing an uproar amongst fans. The soft melodic intro to “Queen Tings” picked up steam as pink light surrounded Masego’s figure. The song was appropriately prefaced, as it is a ballad of sorts, fawning over the women that Masego worships. The song even specifically references Lupita Nyong’o, Rashida Leah Jones, and Danai Jekesai Gurira. All of whom most definitely deserve the praise. 

Once again pausing to look at the crowd, Masego teased, “there’s a lot of older ladies in here, too” bringing fans even further out of their shells. “Old Age” remained on theme, as Masego described the older women he has adored, romantically dipping his mic stand and performing spunky dance moves.

Masego

Every movement Masego made, from slow-dancing with his saxophone to moonwalking across the stage, received hearty cheers from fans as he moved in and out of the spotlight. Physically, Masego was completely in tune with the drums and chords embedded into each soulful banger, becoming a distinct part of the instrumentation on his own.

“Lady Lady” and “Mystery Lady” continued to encourage Masego’s female audience, with further commentary on the ways women in his life have evoked deep emotions since his youth. Honing in on this romantic energy, Masego threw roses out to the crowd, accompanied by a beating snare drum. “If you want a rose put two fingers up.” he teased. With a crow full of peace signs, “Two Sides (I’m so Gemini)” began. 

Moving into a more dance-heavy portion of the performance, “Black Anime” got the crowd moving together with a sample of “Cha-Cha Slide” by DJ Casper. After much dancing, Masego took a break from vocals and turned to his drummer, who performed a Wiplash-level drum solo that kept the crowd on their toes. 

As the band took a breath, Masego turned to the audience, “Can I make y’all a beat real quick? Let me see if I can get something off my mind.” Masego proceeded to create a beat using the equipment on stage. Once the band was ready, the beat transformed into a song before the astonished crowd.

Recently, there’s been a global aesthetic to Masego’s music — a vibe that took center stage during the back half of his performance. Working through international samples, red lights pounded with the tribal beats. “Silver Tongue Devil” served as a transition into his more tropical sound. Masego was thrilled to draw attention to his influences from Southern Africa, Kenya and Jamaica.

Golden lights moved in synch and froze on the stage, creating a tall crown-like shape on the backdrop. Masego quietly donned a glittering golden hat as the dreamy interstellar melody of “Kings Rant” grew in volume. Confidence oozed from the entire performance, both in the form of suave smooth talking moments and Masego’s ability to lean into the humor of it all.

As the music and lights cut dramatically, Masego uttered “My name is Masego, thank you for your time.” With a small bow, he disappeared from the stage.  In typical Denver fashion, the original setlist was nowhere near enough for the crowd, and with a little coaxing, Masego and crew returned with a hightop chair.

Sitting before a warm red backdrop, Masego serenaded the crowd with “Eternal Sunshine (fire pit).” Incorporating a more physical call and response, Masego waved goodbye as the crowd hung onto their final moments with the R&B legend as long as they could manage.

With a dramatic shift in lighting, the stage grew pale and a film began playing behind the drums and keyboard. Tense visuals flashed with rhythmic speed, primarily showing black women and children’s faces in a variety of settings over building instrumentals.

“Y’all are so beautiful,” Masgeo sighed as the crowd expressed their appreciation for the art presented. With another performance of “Tadow” the band gave thanks and the show came to an end.

All photography by Maya Boustany.

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