It’s been a good year for Bend’s Mosley Wotta. The hip-hop group played shows around the state, opening for acts such as Ice Cube and Tricky. The band plans to close out this year with a New Year’s Eve show in Bend. That’s where the band will unveil its third official release, titled Amalgum X. Bend isn’t typically thought of for it’s hip hop scene. But Mosley Wotta isn’t your typical hip hop group.
“Light skin, blue blood, gentlemen and ladies, girls and boys, this is that love, pain, grow, if you are living and breathing right now. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Mosley Wotta is the alter ego of 28 year old Jason Graham. It’s also the band that Graham fronts.
“Mosley Wotta” he explains is a play on the words, “mostly water.” People may have their differences, but as scientists say, humans are all mostly water.
That idea-- that we’re all the same at some level-- is a theme that runs though the group’s music and its message. Go to a show, however, and what stands out is the sheer variety of Mosley Wotta’s following.
The audience includes children as young as four as well as adults well into their 70’s.
Front man, Jason Graham, says for many this is their first exposure to hip hop.
“No matter where you come from, what era you come from, there is some kind of music inside of hip-hop that will grab you. There’s some artist or some group or some syle inside of what is known as hip-hop that will grab you and you’ll do that classic head-nod. The yes...the affirming...yup...mmm...yup...hmmm,” says Graham.
Ben Salmon writes about music for the Bend Bulletin. He’s been writing about Graham for the last five years. He says well before Mosley Wotta, Graham was busy exploring the boundaries between music, poetry and performance art. He remembers the first time he saw Graham on stage. Graham was wearing multiple layers of masks.
“And it was this weird music going on, maybe it was a capella at first and he strips off a mask and there’s another mask underneath and he’s doing some more...and eventually he strips off all the masks and all that was left was Jason. And it was interesting enough that I was like ‘boy that was weird, but it was something,’ ” says Salmon.
What “that something” is is difficult to nail down. Graham wears elaborate costumes on stage. He makes giant puppets to incorporate into Mosley’s stage show. He’s a painter. He’s also a poet.
For years Graham has taken part in local poetry slams. In his spare time he works with kids in the Bend school system, teaching them how to breathe life and infuse rhythm into their rhymes.
“I think he’s a classic artist, a classic creative brain. You might meet artists and creative people who are introverted or socially awkward. This is not that case,” says Salmon.
Up on stage, Jason Graham is in his comfort zone. But growing up biracial in the 1980 he says he’s always kind of felt as if he lived between worlds. He was born in what he describes as a somewhat rough neighborhood in Chicago and moved to Bend at age 9. These days he’s tough to miss. He’s tall, lanky and exudes energy. Graham says sometimes people don’t quite know what to make of him.
“Maybe people come up and they’re like so are you Mexican? Are you Filipino? Indian right? That is just like with the music, I do see a total correlation there. Between it’s like well it’s not exactly one thing. And it never will be one thing, cause I’m not one thing,” says Graham.
Graham says he realizes people who come to the show might not catch every word. But he hopes the message is clear. The idea, he says, is to celebrate our differences and embrace our commonalities.