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Stepping into the Spotlight: Aaron Fennell

Aspiring rapper gets a leg up from MOsley WOtta

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When student Aaron Fennell reached out to MOsley WOtta, he wasn’t expecting much.

“I have raps in my notebook,” Fennell said to the rapper and local celebrity. “Do you want to hear them?”

Once a Central Oregon Community College student himself, MOsley WOtta – born Jason Graham – did not ask to hear Fennell’s songs. Instead, he asked the COCC student to open for him at his next show at Volcanic Theatre and Pub.

Fennell, feeling as if he had done nothing to merit what Graham was offering him, said yes.

With just beats on his phone and hours of solo practice behind him, Fennell felt the “doom vibes” as he walked onstage.

“I heard the sound guy whisper ‘who is this kid?’” Fennell said.

Fennell knows what everyone was thinking.

“‘These guys are professionals, they do this for a reason,’” Fennell said. “‘These guys have a band. This kid is 19 and he has beats on his phone.’”

MOsley WOtta had told the other headlining act, Portland-based rap band Ancient Sol, that it was Fennell’s first performance, so they were up front to support him.

Halfway through his first song, Fennell saw something he’d never forget.

“Jason Graham was sitting on the ground in front of me,” Fennell said. “Talilo Marfil, the rapper for Ancient Sol, heard one of my rhymes and turned around and gave Mosley a swooping high-five, as if to say ‘This guy is good!’”

Marfil later approached Fennell and asked to collaborate with him. Fennell was awed by the experience and stunned by the recognition suddenly poured onto him.

Fennell performed under the title “Benedixon,” a name that is itself a tribute to the idea of undeserved recognition.

“Benedixon” is an Americanized version of Icelandic trumpeter Einar Örn Benediktsson’s surname, Fennell said. Benediktsson is a virtually unknown musician who was randomly spotlighted in a track by internationally-known musical project Gorillaz in 2007. Fennell’s rapper name is a “shout-out” to the trumpeter.

“I just thought the whole story of how they brought him on was so appealing,” Fennell said. “It wasn’t about how famous he was. … He fit in the song. That’s the only thing they looked at.”

Fennell wants his music to reflect that theme.

Fennell picked rap as his medium because he can’t sing, and he wants to avoid the stereotype rappers have in mainstream culture. He wore flannels and jeans to his performance.

“I want to make judgments seem like thin air,” Fennell said. “I’m not trying to be black. I’m not trying to be gangster or ghetto.”

Looking ahead, Fennell wants to keep performing and eventually release an album.

“All I have on my list right now is that show,” Fennell said. “That’s the one thing I have to my name, and the fact that Talilo Marfil wants me to do a song with him.”

Through the whole experience, Jason Graham himself said that Fennell was very humble.

“Keeping your feet on the ground can be tricky when everybody is lifting you up and giving you praise,” Graham said. “[I’m] so glad he reached out.”

Scott Greenstone | The Broadside
(Contact: sgreenstone@cocc.edu)

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