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Water words

Rapper and poet argues language binds us as people


“English is a living language,” said spoken word rapper and award-winning poet Jason Graham a.k.a. Mosley Wotta. “We use the dictionary as a standard set of rules, but really it’s just strong suggestion.”

Graham, 29, who makes music under the name Mosley “Wotta” or Water, is not your average hip-hop artist. Part solo performer, part band front man and, like all of us, made up of water, Graham’s music is a language all his own, though he would say it’s everyone’s.

With timeless messages of peace, unity and self-empowerment, Graham’s quick-witted lyrics and energetic presence are meant to inspire connection among people whether they be dancing to it at 5 or 75.

“What is going on in hip-hop,” said Graham, born in Chicago but raised in Bend, “Is an undeniable pulse that makes you want to interact.”

And undeniable it is. Since Mosley Wotta or MOWO’s official launch some two years ago, the band, a mind bending fusion of hip-hop, rock, folk and roots, has opened for such influential hip-hop acts as Tricky, Ice Cube and Talib Kweli.  

From grange halls to bars, lawns  to bar mitzvahs, this month the full MOWOband  is touring McMenamins venues across the state - with Graham on the mic, Thomas Tsuneta on bass, Jason Schmidt on drums, Aaron Miller on keys, Colten Williams on guitar and samples and Stephanie Slade on vocals.

The band will perform at McMenamins Grand Lodge on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.

Hip-hop philosophy

A product of pop culture, public school and writer-performer parents, young Graham had a knack for creative expression at a young age. And from word play to lyricism, music, painting, poetry, sketch comedy and improv, he continues to work it all into his multi-talented life as an artist and educator of spoken word.

Graham is a supporter of hip-hop and the philosophy behind it. Heard in folk, blues, and other art forms, he says, hip-hop is “a resilient and cathartic push of the people, by the people, for the people, to uplift the people and speak for the people”.  

The rapper poet is enthralled with the idea that one can make such music without special equipment. A bucket, a sink, a couple of sticks — along with quick wit and good rhythm — are simple tools to make music that is infectious, ubiquitous and relateable said Graham — “That’s alchemy.”

Mosley Wotta’s music unfolds in layers of rhymes, spoken word, music samples, beats and chants. Once Upon a Native, a song from his latest album Kink Konk is about misguided youth who continue to innocently pursue life.

The song opens with the singing of African pygmy children, a sample cut from a tape his mother purchased for him as a child. “We are really bending and pushing the boundaries in so many ways,” he said. “You can take it so many places.”

The age of communication

Water is a metaphor for the inter-connectivity of the human race. Water’s in his name, his body and within everyone. “I’m Mosley Wotta and so are you” his motto says. “It’s another way to recognize that connecting force within all of us,” he said.

His first album cover, “Wake,” is an image of Graham’s head surrounded by surging water. The meaning is multi-faceted, he said his own awakening to music has a ripple effect to others who listen.

In an era where technology has taken over, Graham says we use slang and shorthand to communicate and abbreviate. He looks at words and turns them anew: Wotta. His name is a riddle, a mystery that hints at a character and style of performer.

The art of family

Graham started performing solo nearly ten years ago, but as a father of two kids with one more on the way, he’s only recently begun to find a balance between both passions, his family, his children and his art.

“It’s been wonderful not following a conventional road, trusting my gut and going with my passion, while supporting my family as well,” said Graham.

“Use what’s around you to improve what’s around you or use what’s in you to improve what’s in you,” he said.

In times of doubt, insecurity and loneliness, he looks to music to understand his connection with everything.

“When you look at the night sky and see you are of that, all these things floating around in the galaxy way, way out there, that it’s within you — then there is limitless amount of potential,” Graham said.




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