In many ways, Markets Flooded is 10 years in the making. Local musicians MOsley WOtta (Jason Graham) and Collothen (Colten Tyler Williams) first met a little more than a decade ago, when Collothen was captivated by some of MOWO's paintings hanging in the COCC library. The two became fast friends—and eventually housemates—and began collaborating musically.
"We saw potential but hadn't honed our craft to where we could articulate what we needed," MOWO explains. "So then we sort of worked our projects separate for the next 10-ish years."
For Collothen, that was primarily the underground hardcore punk band Vihara and for MOWO, hip-hop group Person People. But even as they worked on separate projects, the friends did the odd performance together here and there, including opening for both Vihara shows and poetry slams.
"This is not just the 2.0 version of 10 years ago," MOWO clarifies. "The desire to push ourselves is very much alive, finding ways to not alienate our fan bases. Push those limits a little bit. But we're not caught up in being the Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea of hip-hop."
And yet, MOsley WOtta and Collothen's approach to hip-hop is far from mainstream. Though preparing a few radio-friendly tracks, they are not bound by convention or illusions of fame. Rather, they are drawn from their seemingly disparate backgrounds in ambient electronic music and spoken word to what they see as the true meaning and origin of hip-hop.
"It wasn't knowing all the lyrics or mythology to Wu Tang that brought us together," MOWO says. "It's [a question of] what's the container; what can we do outside the container?"
The duo finds inspiration in everything from Albanian clarinet melodies to chirping songbirds, and musicians including Tricky, Saul Williams, and Death Grips.
"It's called Markets Flooded because there is no way that the container can continue to hold the arts the way that it used to. The more arts that we have the better, because it means more message out there," MOWO says. "In a sense, we're just another drop in the bucket, making music to raise that water mark to keep water spilling over the sides."
They hope to increase the number of drops in the bucket by taking the Flooded Markets tour to schools across the United States. MOWO says they want to inspire youth to use music and writing to channel their emotions—both positive and negative.
"The whole anti-bullying thing freaks me out. Because people are mean sometimes. You can't cut it out, you gotta make space for it," MOWO explains. "Finding a way to incorporate all the ugly, violent, confused—the whole emotional spectrum. That's how we're going to move forward."
On a personal level, Collothen acknowledges that creating art from pain is not only therapeutic, but often results in some of his best work. "The hardest time sometimes can make the best art," he says. "I feel like channeling anything that's going on into your art, you just can't go wrong with that. It's healthy."
MOWO agrees, adding, "Once you process, once you go through the bullshit, the fertilizer, then you get the fruit."
In this case, the fruits are a robust repertoire of hip-hop songs and spoken word tracks that the duo plans to release gradually, starting with "Crack in the Bell," produced by Redmond-based Musitechs Studio and mixed by Brian "Big Bass" Gardner, who has been nominated for seven Grammys and has worked with a plethora of big name artists, from 2Pac and Snoop Dogg to Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
MOWO and Collothen are currently running an Indiegogo fundraising campaign—through March 21—to help extend the tour's geographic reach. They plan to perform a show March 20 at Tin Pan Theater and anticipate a number of other secret pop-up shows locally this spring to promote the tour. Check out their tracks as they are released at mosleywotta.bandcamp.com and email firstname.lastname@example.org to book the duo before they get to jet setting.