“They sayin’ the crew’s gone, the fans have moved on, the name has cooled off.. We proving em’ all wrong.”
Tanya Morgan is a hip-hop duo made up of two MC’s, who without an internet connection and a desire to make music, quite possibly would have never met. Von Pea, who is Brooklyn born and raised, and Donwill, originally from Cincinnati and now residing in Brooklyn himself, came across each other’s beat tapes and demos back in 2003 as strangers on the message boards of Okayplayer.com. After reaching out to one another and becoming mutual fans of each other’s skills and style, Donwill proposed the idea of making some music as a unit. So in 2004 along with former third member, Ilyas, the group Tanya Morgan was conceived. Tanya Morgan isn’t “up and coming” nor are they “someone to look out for”. They have been doing their thing for almost a decade and you should have already been familiar by now. But as the saying goes, If you don’t know.. now you know.
For both Von Pea and Donwill, being turned on to music at a young age was inevitable. As Von explained to me yesterday, “Being a kid in Brooklyn during the golden era of Hip-Hop made it second nature.” And Don conveying, “I was introduced to music through my parents record collection, my older cousins, music videos and late night radio shows.” With an already established appreciation for music in their adolescence, they both then found their own matured style and musical path through life experiences and what was being played in their headphones throughout those experiences. Hearing an artist you are personally a fan of speak on their influences is always something I revel in, as it allows you to process their approach and lyrical techniques in a way that you might not have before. Having Von & Don elaborate on the music that helped shape them, definitely hit home with me, as every artist or group they mentioned played a part in my personal maturation into fully appreciating the culture of hip-hop. With Von mentioning the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Outkast, The Roots, Common and Biggie, and Don stating he had an affinity for more of the West Coast style in the form of Tupac, Too Short, Ice Cube, NWA, The Alkaholiks and Eazy E. You can undoubtedly hear a little of each these artists in both of their respective writing behaviors and distinctive inflections.
If you think about it, throughout the history of Rap and Hip-Hop there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of duos that are widely considered to be in the elite tier of rap legends. Of course you have Outkast, Eric B & Rakim, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, GangStarr, EPMD, Mobb Deep and UGK, but it quickly gets thin after the upper echelon. The reason duos haven’t left as big of an imprint on the rap history books as heavily as groups or solo artists have, I couldn’t tell you, but what I do know is that in any artistry or business, it takes a special relationship and cohesiveness to successfully coincide with just one other individual’s vision, as opposed to a collective group or just your own. Von Pea and Donwill’s chemistry is indisputable and seemingly effortless, as they have vastly different writing characteristics, but acutely use that disparity as a platform to act as each other’s lyrical crutch, if you will. I asked them what it is about the other that helps make their sound so unique, and in regards to Donwill, Von Pea told me, “I think Don’s ability to capture a feeling or moment is big with people. It’s hard for me to do that. I’m used to always trying to be coded or meta or whatever, but what really connects universally is when you can take something that everyone is thinking, and say it how everyone can’t.” With Don repaying the compliment to Von by explaining “Von is one of my favorite MC’s. He’s got a great voice and impeccable delivery. He has the ability to write coded verses that have full formed surface meaning and then have a whole other context when he explains them to you.” Hearing them talk about each other’s strengths was affirmation of the above mentioned chemistry that makes them so alluring.
With each release throughout their catalog, starting back in 2006 with their first album Moonlighting, up until their recent September release Rubber Souls (which is produced by 6th Sense), they have become progressively more polished from a production and song writing aspect. With a sound that has always reminded me of a mix between De La Soul and Slum Village, they touch on a wide realm of profound and intimate subjects, but never stray from their lyrical capabilities and always allow their precise skill in the delivery of words to take the front seat of each track. One distinct trait that is abundant within every one of their albums though, is the obvious hunger and desire for more. Almost as if every track is a new opportunity to prove to the world how dope they are. Driving that hunger is the inevitable hurdles that all artists face in the music industry, but when asking them about the specific things that they have had to endure on their journey, Donwill explained, “The biggest hurdles are financial and resources overall. The landscape of the industry changes pretty frequently on the inside and it makes it difficult to get a foot hold at times.”with Von Pea describing it, “For me it’s a mental thing more than anything. The hardest thing is continuing to keep going when the doors don’t open up for you and even when they do it’s for the wrong reasons. Like simply because you’re new, or someone else said you’re dope so people without their own opinions now agree. Things stall out for no real reason sometimes.”
Persistence is key in pursuing any passion. There are unavoidable ups and downs within every walk of life, but if you are chasing a dream, the adversity along the way is much easier to manage because you know all of the effort being exerted is part of a goal to attain what you desire most. In music, I can only assume that the objective is to utilize your talents to the fullest, and in doing so, reach the ears of endless amounts of people while leaving a contagious impression on them. In ending my talks with Don and Von, I asked them what they want their fans to gain from listening to their music, and they confirmed exactly that. Von Pea expressed, “I want people to feel good when they listen to our music. I’m hoping people listen to us and are just amused, really. Entertained.” And Donwill explaining it by sincerely professing, “I honestly just want people to like the shit, and tell a friend.”
I truly couldn’t put it any better or simpler than that. Go check out Tanya Morgan’s music. Like that shit. Then go tell a friend.
Tanya Morgan currently has four albums out, Moonlighting (2006), Brooklynati (2009), You & What Army (2011) and Rubber Souls (2013). They have a handful of mixtapes and solo projects out as well. Click HERE to download their recent release, Rubber Souls, through iTunes. Follow their progress and eventual tour dates at their OFFICIAL WEBSITE or their FACEBOOK page. Below are a few videos from their above albums.
Eulogy (Rubber Souls)
Headphone Rock (The Sandwich Shop)
Rock The Bells (You & What Army)