Telling His Story, Keeping His Promises: MOsley WOtta as performer and father

Telling His Story, Keeping His Promises: MOsley WOtta as performer and father

True North
Central Oregon Parenting
January/February 2012

Michelle Bazemore
photography by Kimberly Teichrow

Note from Steven F. Riley: I will be the co-host on the February 22, 2012 podcast of Mixed Chicks Chat with featured guest Jason Graham.

It’s difficult to spend time with Jason Graham without feeling like you’re in the presence of someone on the brink. Here is a person who has understood the art of performance since he was very small: a kid who could make his divorced parent laugh through her tears after a particularly nasty telephone conversation with her ex; an artist not content to kill it in his hometown; a man who empowers kids to find their voices by directing them to “tell your individual version. The theme has been done, but not your version.”

His version is a study in juxtaposition. He is a rapper, but doesn’t embody the mainstream definition of a hip hop star. He is modern, but inspired by ancient themes. He is physically graceful, yet enjoys playing a grotesque role to make his audience uncomfortable, and to relay a philosophy about superficiality. In his music he will break up a rapid-fire delivery of rap with a sudden drawn-out melodic phrase, often with a theatrical inflection a la Busta Rhymes.

To label Jason Graham a rapper is selling him rather short. Seemingly driven to express himself creatively with whatever medium he is given, Graham is rightly labeled a performance artist. A distinctive voice coupled with the ability to manipulate words into a rhythmic, thought-provoking stream of consciousness make him a natural spoken-word poet and emcee. But he also paints on anything that paint adheres to, from canvas to shovels to jackets, and uses his theater background to create masks, costumes, and props to evoke different characters on stage. Graham’s upbringing in a creative, multi-cultural family has influenced his artistry, adding depth to his performances.

Compared to many commercially successful rappers, Graham is unusually willing to express vulnerability and self-doubt. “I’m comfortable being uncomfortable,” he says without irony, “and that’s what makes me glorious.” As a mixed-race kid transplanted to Bend from Chicago when he was nine years old, he knows about being self-conscious, but says emphatically that he wasn’t “supposed to escape that one way or the other.” He has gradually become more comfortable with calling himself an artist. “It’s dangerous because you invest so much of your love into something you’ve been told time and time again may not work out,” he admits. “But just because you’re an investment banker doesn’t mean it’s going to work out either. Security’s very relative.” …

…The name MOsley WOtta refers to the water content of the human body. At most times during life, the human body is made up of more than 50% water, or “mostly water.” It’s an overt gesture to draw a line of internal commonality among people who are increasingly driven to express themselves as individuals externally through fashion, body art and other surface displays. “We’re always trying to find a balance between fitting in and being ourselves,” says Graham…

Read the entire article here.

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