Albums that I probably should have reviewed this year #2: Tanya Morgan – Tanya Morgan Is A Rap Group
Those of you fortunate enough to not be music writers will be unaware of how often reviews get bumped, dropping, or simply ignored. This can be for any number of reasons: the site has too much content, editorial confusion, incorrect tone of piece, or just the fact that it isn’t another fucking article about the Foals. Here at ILB we’re happy to present the following review of Tanya Morgan’s “Tanya Morgan Is A Rap Group” which was written for, but didn’t appear in, Drowned In Sound earlier this year.
Anyone who’s heard the (since thankfully withdrawn) The Roots ft Gerdy Mantits from Fall Out Boy track is no doubt begging for a return to the days when the radio played real hip-hop like “Crank Dat” and “Laffy Taffy”. The greater leverage the Okayplayer crowd gains in rap, the worse the music becomes. I’m not the only person to have twigged this either: high carb Hispanic Fat Joe said the same in a recent interview, blaming massively reduced sales figures in rap (mainly his own) on a “booji backpack conscious rap Mafia” running the industry, pushing socially acceptable acts like Common and Lupe over more trifish, yet commercially viable, options.
Tanya Morgan aren’t going to change any of this. Undie rap will remain the same after you’ve listened to this album, but at least they’re improving the game. Their ridiculously slept-on 2006 debut “Moonlighting” was a shot of adrenalin to a genre all-consumed by neophobia and the kind of daddy issues more commonly found in alt.porn models manifesting itself in a desire to please an absent J-Dilla. No, they were self-deprecating without being goofy, hooky without being pop, armed with a shit tonne of samples and a decent sense of humour (the whole endeavour was tied together with a series of record shop skits, one of which decried TM as “spaceship rap anime shit”). It was the kind of album Little Brother would make if one day they woke up and finally realised nobody cared.
So two years out of the recording game, and with plenty o’shine dropped on them in the interim (?uestlove’s a big fan, new XXL editor Datwon Thomas specifically used them as an example of the kind of act he feels the rap media should be focussing on nowadays), they’re back with pre-album mixtape “Tanya Morgan Is A Rap Group”, a title presumably borne out of repeatedly having to explain to people that they’re three guys, not one woman.
They’re still on point. Little has changed here since that album you didn’t listen to. The pace is a little slower (there’s no jams like “Moonlighting”’s “Take The L (Get It)”, it’s all a little more… coffee shop), but on the plus side they no longer sound like their entire recording studio is a Sony Vaio propped up on two old telephone directories with an Argos USB mic.
Top track is a two-year old b-side called “Stay Tuned”, the kinda chipmunk soul track they used to make back in the glory days of 2003 when it was more about the soul than the chipmunking. It’s classic undie rap material (there’s some self-doubt, there’s a girl, someone’s not getting their dues), but it’s a beautiful beat matched up with some key quotables (“I walk past mirrors like “That’s my man!”” sticks out) that two years on, it really deserves a wider hearing.
They’ve even brought some friends along (other than album overseer DJ Soul). Naledge from Kidz In The Hall pops up on “You Should Know” to kick a verse letting you know how hard it is dealing with the fame and notoriety he gets. The fame and notoriety of being a Kidz In The Hall member. Hmmm. Still, he shows a hitherto unapparent knack for self-awareness by being on the same track as the lyrics “I know you think you’re Reverend/Trying to bring ’88 back when you was born in ‘87”. Either that or TM recorded their verses after he’d left the studio.
There’s limitations here, of course. One of TM has, for some reason, ratcheted up the nasalness of his flow to near-Jay-Z proportions, presumably in an attempt to fuck Emily Eavis There’s a guest vocalist on one track called “Ink Floyd”, for Christ’s sake. And, y’know: it’s a mixtape by rappers who are already signed and aren’t having label troubles. So these are 24 tracks that they think aren’t good enough for a proper album. Still, Tanya Morgan’s offal is a lot better than 99% of rapper’s prime rib. If they keep their game up at this level until the release of their second album, “Brooklynati”, then that sophomore effort will easily be 08’s key rap release.
SPECIAL BONUS MATERIAL: Tanya Morgan – Stay Tuned