Soundcheck: Casso Dinero Is What Portland Hip-Hop Looks Like

When Alexander Wright was a toddler, his dad brought home a pair of autographed Nikes, signed that day by Charles Barkley. When Wright saw the NBA player’s scribble on the shoe, he crawled over and decided to continue what was obviously just the first strokes of an unfinished design. That was his instinct: “Just create, be creative.”

“I’ve been doing this since I was able to pick up a crayon and conjure up a thought,” the graphic designer tells. Expressing himself through art has always been easier than words. As a shy kid with anxiety—something he still struggles with today—art has allowed him to meet people, make friends and, most importantly, be himself in the process. “It’s me,” he says, “I’m not compromising my character.”

Yet, an alias is how he’s better known. As Casso Dinero, his style—clean designs with bold, impactful imagery—has defined the Portland hip-hop scene for years. His artwork has graced countless concert posters and flyers. He’s done branding, album art and packaging for the likes of Cool Nutz, Karma Rivera (see and hear below), TYuS and The Last Artful, Dodgr; logos for notable hip-hop collectives Rare Vibe and FRSH TRB as well as this year’s edition of Portland Hip-Hop Day; work for local radio stations WE 96.3 and JAM'N 107.5 plus DJ Klyph; and merch design for Mic Capes—it’s an amazing feeling when he finds himself at a show standing next to someone wearing a piece he designed. But most prominently, Wright has three years under his belt of producing monthly posters and online assets for the local hip-hop showcase The Thesis, which is “a challenge but something that I love to take on.”

As a self-employed freelancer, all the chatter within the Portland scene has led to a significant amount of business outside of the city, including work for Rolling Loud (the self-proclaimed “largest hip-hop festival in the world”) and Slip-N-Slide Records (known for Trick Daddy, Rick Ross and Trina) in Miami.

Born and raised in the Rose City and an alum of Cleveland High, you can thank grandma for taking a 7-year-old Wright to art museums. Monet left an early impression on him, saying, “It sticks with you, something different than what you’ve seen before.”

“Every project I’ve done is meaningful,” Wright reflects. Each one has led to new knowledge and experiences as he continues to connect the dots and finish the design. CY

Do not miss two impressive displays of local hip-hop as our city's most talented producers (Sxlxmxn, Trox, Neill Von Tally and more) show off on Friday, August 24 before Portland Hip-Hop Day returns to City Hall for its fourth, and most ambitious, year with a free, all-ages showcase of the past, present and future of hip-hop music and culture in the Rose City on Sunday, August 26win tickets and some swag that'll have you looking good here!

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