- Mud on the Left, Wotta on the right.
The five-track record has been in the works for a few months now, and is for the most part quintessential Graham - crisply voiced hip-hop lyrics that lean closer toward poetry than rap music laid atop constantly innovative instrumentals. While locals will likely recognize Graham's loud, low and direct voice within the opening seconds of the album's opener, "Boom For Real," the EP is hardly same-old-same-old fodder from one of Bend's most visible artists.
Just as he wears masks during some of his solo performances or is apt to changing his stage name (some might know him not as Wotta or Graham, but rather "The Rook"), Graham doesn't seem to mind reinventing himself, perhaps not drastically, but enough to keep things interesting in a musical landscape where change is often necessary.
"It's like stories I've heard of Japanese calligraphers who keep changing their names. They'll build up an entire career and then change their name," Graham says. "You gotta keep allowing yourself to be you - I mean I'm still going to be a six foot tall man of color in Bend, I'm not going to be able to get away from that, unless I become so successful I can go the Michael Jackson route or something like that, which I probably wouldn't."
At times during our conversation, Graham's hummingbird-fast pattern of speech and voluminous cache of witty one-liners (or five-liners) doesn't sound much different from the flows on his EP and it's hard not to think that this is all pretty easy for him.
While it is seemingly effortless, the work on Scrap Mettle, however, is hardly sloppy. In fact, tracks like "Smoke" and "Herd in the Head" are meticulously produced numbers, thanks to Mosley Wotta collaborator Mike Graham (who is of no relation, and is formerly known as DJ Lacuna and more recently DJ Mud) who Jason says is a key influence to the multi-genre influences heard on the record.
Scrap Mettle's production prowess isn't hard to find on the record and begins precisely when Graham opens up "Boom For Real" with his quick-and-clean rhymes, doing so by overdubbing the vocals twice. Once in the now-familiar Jason Graham baritone, and again an octave higher, all with deadly precision and the harmony is goose-bump good.
Perhaps what's most refreshing about this Mosley Wotta disc is the conscious ego check that weaves throughout the record. Graham doesn't fall into brag-and-boast rap laziness, instead dishing out crystal clear poetics often that breeze into your brain like Clemens-on-extra-steroids fastballs.
"It really behooves one to keep a certain amount of humbleness and humility. It's kind of that whole 'drop in the bucket' thing," Graham says. Not only is it excellent to hear Graham say words like "behooves" in his regular speech, but it's further satisfying that, although he's probably Bend's most well-known musician, he doesn't leak even of a whiff of arrogance.
Call him what you want: Mosley Wotta, The Rook, Jason Graham, Person People MC, a new dad, an established visual artist, Rise Up International's do-it-all man, poetry slam champion, or any other number of titles, but at the end of the day, this is just a dude with a lot to say, a microphone and a pretty damn good new album.
8pm Saturday, August 30. Silver Moon Brewing Co. 24 NW Greenwood Ave.