By today’s standards, Tanya Morgan works at a snail’s pace. In our current digital age, where the “Lil Wayne approach” of throwing everything you’ve recorded to the masses in hopes of developing and maintain a buzz thrives, the trio (now duo) of Tanya Morgan operate of their own accord. Don’t expect them to start dropping weekly tracks via the Nah Rights of the web world any time soon.
This paced approach to their craft doesn’t mean they don’t work hard and offer their share of music to the masses pro-bono. In 2010, they dropped The Sandwich Shop, a free album-length recording crafted from obscure instrumentals by the Roots. Donwill and Von Pea also both released excellent solo joints that same year. This year’s You and What Army has all the characteristics of a well-crafted Tanya Morgan release, clocking in around the 30-minute mark and featuring a handful of producers including Exile, Aeon, Brizzo and Astronote. They also offered it for free online with a couple of deluxe editions including some swag for a few extra ducats. Though it comes now as a duo with Cincinnati member Ilyas currently on hiatus from the group, the Morgans’ sound and work-ethic still remains rooted in the hey-day of NYC 90s alt hip-hop, an era that the boys seem to constantly keep a sneaker in from record to record.
You and What Army for the most part continues this trend despite finding themselves down to two. Whether it’s the crackling record beat and the lyrical nod towards A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” in AEON-produced “Rock the Bells” or the slow-jam R&B vocal offering of album opener, “Do it Tanya,” Tanya Morgan prove once again to be heavily rooted in the history they are products of and never quick to jump on rap’s latest trends. Donwill takes a playful jab at popular crack-game rap on the upbeat “Whatever That’s Mine” and champions a different kind of hustle ( “No, not that drug-dealer shit, it’s that saved up and paid for it shit”). While on “Gotta Get Over It” Von Pea utilizes his infectious humor amidst breezy keyboards to call out image-driven MCs (“How’s that crap pass?/ No breathe control rapping about their pants / They don’t want to advance, they just want an advance”). Elsewhere, the two flex their versatility working with updated sounds in the Astronote-produced “Borrow That” that takes a page out of Ski Beatz latest work with its wheezy synths. “We Rollin” follows and continues the energy as Donwill and Von trade off humorously boastful verses over big hand-claps and bars of heavy low-end piano leading to excellent results.
You and What Army may mark a new era for Tanya Morgan as a duo but it still maintains their status as one of hip-hop’s few torchbearers for those refusing to give into the trends of the times. Here they largely succeed the same way they’ve been throughout their entire career, by taking from the influences they were nurtured from, and moving forward in an attempt to create something that is entirely their own. As Von Pea states half way through the EP: “We don’t adapt, we evolve.” Indeed, Tanya Morgan continue to sound fresh and relevant as ever, even minus one.