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Performance: MOsley WOtta's 'Shift'

“I am MOsley WOtta and so are you!”

That’s the message of Bend-based hip-hop artist MOsley WOtta.

“We humans are all mostly water,” says Jason Graham, the man behind MOsley WOtta. This sly play on words helps remind Graham — and his fans — that we are all connected. “The music is specifically designed to celebrate our commonalities and embrace our differences.”

The MO WO brand of hip hop is as catchy as it is inclusive. In this performance video of the song “Shift,” Jason Graham and Stephanie Slade share vocal duties, backed by a band of friends and family. Graham says the song itself is about how an awkward situation can be turned right “by trusting the folks that really love you and the talents that you have.”

"banshee and the whale"

MOsley WOtta

“Shift” will be released along with 14 other fresh tracks on the band’s new CD due next spring and titled kinkonk. The plan is to package the new album along with Graham’s original artwork, much of which recalls the spontaneous style of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jason Graham moved from Chicago to Central Oregon at the age of 9. But much of his artwork is rooted in his urban past.

He came up with the new album’s theme by re-spinning the iconic story of King Kong’s capture from the jungles of Skull Island to his doomed escape into the concrete jungle of New York. kinkonk is another example of the wordplay that Graham, who is biracial, weaves throughout his work, this time playing the King Kong name off the kink’ed (natural) and konk’ed (straightened) hair of African-America.

The subjects are edgy but MO WO’s treatment of them seems intended to win his audience over. “We all have the same stuff to work with,” says Graham. “And that is an essential message. For the lyrics, for the artwork, for all that.”

Graham’s paintings are populated by boyhood phantoms that still haunt him. But the figures’ bright colors and disarming, childlike expressions make them somehow easier to confront.

Go See It!

MOsley WOtta at Octopus Music’s One-Year Birthday Party

  • Friday, December 2, Doors at 8 pm, show at 9 pm
  • Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside, Portland

“This is all good up-work,” says Graham as he scratches lines of poetry around the ghoulish faces he’s painted. “A bunch of creepers is what you are! The best sort of creepers possible; the confronted-befriended creepers.”

Even when he’s exploring metaphors for slavery in his music, Graham’s clever rhymes and double entendres keep his songs accessible as well as entertaining. But that should come as no surprise. For MOsley WOtta, it’s all connected.

Catch our story on MOsley WOtta on Oregon Art Beat on Thursday, December 1 at 8 pm, repeating Sunday, December 4 at 6 pm.

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