Artist: Tanya Morgan
Label: Loud Minority Music
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Who is Tanya Morgan? Well as 80,261 other Hiphop sites will tell you in their write-ups and reviews for this album, Tanya Morgan is not a neo-soul singer. Yawn. No shit, Sherlock – it says that in the press kit. You know that we do things differently here though.
For instance, did you know that:
Tanya Morgan is an assistant professor at West Chester University in the Department of Health, and that her current responsibilities include teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in public health and health care administration?
Anyway, as well as being busy on all the above, AND avoiding neo-souldom, Tanya Morgan also likes to give her name to the collective trio of Von Pea, Illyas and Donwill. Under this Tanya Morgan guise, the group have been steadily building a nice little underground rep, making music in a similar vein to Little Brother (indeed even going so far as working with cats from the Justus League, the loose collective that Little Brother are a part of.)
The interesting part of the story is that a large part of the album’s production was completed using the power of the internet, with wav and mp3 files being passed back and forward between Ilwil (Illyas & Donwill) and Brickbeats (the other main producer here) in Cincinnati, and Von Pea in Brooklyn, New York. (This is where the smart kids point out that Little Brother offshoot Foreign Exchange also made much of their music this way – hey, another LB connection, who’d have thought? 20 point and a gold star for you cool kids!)
So, what is there to note about this project once we get past the back story of ‘3 kids make music over the internet and pick a strange name for their group’?
Quite a lot, really. Its difficult not to bang on with the Little Brother comparisons, but honestly, if you liked “The Minstrel Show”, then you should like this. (And yes, idiot, I realise that fans of “TMS” try to paint it as some kind of successor to the Native Tongues sound – I don’t however. If muhfuckas would stop trying to compare THAT album to classic ATCQ and De La albums, and instead recognise it for what it is – a very good Hiphop album, then we’d have less problems in the world.) But I digress… Tanya Morgan… “Moonlighting”… please continue….
Cuts like ‘The Warm Up’ and ‘We Be’ give an enjoyable glance into the style that these brothers are attempting to bring to the game. Boom-bap beats, with hard snares, and horny horns all over the shop lay the foundation for the trio to bring some truth on the mic…
“I’m going hard for Tanya, and I
Can’t stand most of the stanzas, that I
I hear littering the airwaves, here to pave a better way,
Let it plague your ears and say “Damn that nigga made my day”
Its not all sweetness and light though – ‘Take The L (Get It)’ is a fast-paced attempt at a club track that brings lyrical content rather than the catchy hooks and beats that today’s commercial Hiphop comes with. Unfortunately it falls down, mainly because it doesn’t have a catchy hook or beat – of course the emcees are attempting to spit something of substance over the rapidfire beat, but without a memorable chorus to break up the verses it quickly becomes a skipper. Elsewhere ‘Just Cause I Got Locks’ wastes a decent reggae-tinged beat, mainly due to the near two minute intro which features a Mad Rapper soundalike wittering the title repeatedly; and the sparse production on ‘Pretty’ really does little for this listener.
These are rare exceptions to the quality of the rest of the album though – tracks like ‘Paper Thin’ (which builds itself around MC Lyte samples from her song of the same name), ‘Ode To Tanya’ where the trio stomp all over each others’ reps as they attempt to convince a Strobelite Honey from the club to roll with them, and the internet-geeks-do-crunk-esque-MOP-Lite flavor of ‘Rough U Up’ are all impressive because of the varying styles that the group attempt and ultimately conquer.
Even with these high points though, its the final three songs that leave the album truly peaking in the listener’s ear as it plays out. ‘Hooks’ is simply superb – over a understated mesh of snares and strings, the group charge many of today’s acts with taking their eyes off the Hiphop ‘ball’, more concerned now with quantities of their money than the qualities of their music. ‘Want U To Want Me’ meanwhile drags what seems like a Madonna sample through the audio blender, and pins it under an addictive set of drums, as the trio detail their personal stories of love gone awry. ‘We Bad!’ brings the album to a close in a fun manner, as they hijack LL’s classic beat for their own ends, bragging and bigging themselves up as they go along.
Pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I’ve lost count of the amount of albums that have crossed my desk promising to be the next this, or the next that, and which on listening only succeeded in being my next coaster, and so, its refreshing to come across one group who pledge nothing but the fact that they worked hard to make what they feel is quality music. Its even more refreshing when I, terminal cynic that I am, find myself agreeing with them. Hunt this down and pick it up as soon as it drops.