Artist: Tanya Morgan
Interviewer: Henry Adaso
Hip-hop fans always complain that there's no substantial music out nowadays. As quiet as it's kept, grassroots hip-hop ensembles like The Roots, Slum Village, Little Brother, and most recently, Tanya Morgan, have been steadily propelling the game to a realm of excellence with unparalleled craftsmanship, and did I mention, originality? SoundSlam caught up with the self-proclaimed Hip Hop geeks to discuss their debut, Moonlighting, their thoughts on the deaths of Proof and J Dilla, and why they've chosen to break out of the box. The evolution will now be televised.
SoundSlam: For those who're still wondering, who's the original Tanya Morgan?
Von Pea: As far as where we got the name from? We didn't get it from anybody specifically. It was just a name that DonWill came up with to kind of confuse people purposefully.
DonWill: We're some real inside jokers. The name was just something that we often use to amuse ourselves?
SoundSlam: To throw people off a bit?
DonWill: Yeah, yeah. And, now it just kind of took off on its own.
Von Pea: Like we were talking yesterday, that Hip Hop is in a box. You have lots of Rock groups that name themselves Alice in Chains, and Marilyn Manson. It shows you that Hip Hop has a lot further to go and people always put us in a box, but we kind of break that mold.
SoundSlam: I know you guys are affiliated with Okayplayer.com, but how did you guys officially meet?
DonWill: I've known Ilyas well both favorably and unfavorably. I was a member of the web community Okayplayer. Von and I chatted back and forth, and it kind of took off from there.
SoundSlam: What do you think you guys share in common?
Ilyas: I'd say we all like grassroots Hip Hop. There's certain things out there aren't sonically good that I wouldn't even let my child listen to. For example, "Laffy Taffy". Everybody has been chastising that song, but when you're in the club drunk, it's a dance. I guess we all identify with what we want to bring to Hip Hop. Also, we know how to kick it together.
SoundSlam: You mentioned what you'd like to bring to Hip Hop, what elements are you guys bringing to the table with Moonlighting?
Von Pea: We're not necessarily bringing anything brand new to the table. I think we're just adding to the people that are along the same line as us, and continuing to balance things out. That way it doesn't have to be one-sided. As time goes on, we'll continue to evolve. But, for now, we're mostly getting our feet wet, trying to find our place.
DonWill: I was talking to a lot of younger people, and they heard our music and were like, 'wow, we've never heard anything that sounds like this.' For the younger people, we're something new, even though like Von said, we're just picking up from where Hip Hop left off and adding to it. You want to give the people options. Like, 'you don't have to run around shooting people or sell crack.' There are other options. You can be a geek. I'm a geek; I play video games all the time.
SoundSlam: Me, too. Von Pea, I remember when you used put up your entire album on Soundclick.com. Now you've gone from there to actually pressing copies, what commercial expectations do you have for this project [Moonlighting]?
Von Pea: [laughs] I think it seems to be going the route of when they say 'your favorite rapper's favorite rapper.' We're kind of going along the same route as people like The Roots, where people in the know like you, even though the public may not know you. Just sitting and listening to something like Donuts [J Dilla's latest album], whereas the public may not really know you.
SoundSlam: Is that good or bad?
Ilyas: In my opinion, it's a good thing, because it's one thing to admire an artist, but it's another thing when you meet that person and know that they actually enjoy your music.
SoundSlam: Are you fellas going to continue to work as a group after Moonlighting, or will you return to doing solo projects?
Ilyas: The group thing is wack to me, I'm sick of it. I quit...nahhh, just playing. But, we worked together as a group even prior to Tanya Morgan. The group thing is natural, because we're all musical peers.
Von Pea: Yeah, like I've been working on music for the next album already.
SoundSlam: You mean the next group album?
Von Pea: Yeah, for Tanya Morgan.
DonWill: There will be other projects like Von said. I mean we always knew that the chemistry was there from the start, we enjoy it so much.
SoundSlam: You guys are obviously Hip-Hop fans as well. So, who are your 5 favorite emcees?
Von Pea: Posdnous (of De La Soul), Common, Redman, Jay-Z, and I'm gonna say myself, but not for the reason you think. [Laughs] Wait a minute, I forgot Andre 3000...I'm gon have to give him an honorable mention. [Laughs]
Ilyas: Q-Tip, because that's the person that showed me that I could do something else besides rap about guns that I know nothing about. Then when I got blown out in my first battle, I had to study OutKast so Andre 3000 will fall in place.
SoundSlam: No love for Big Boi?
Ilyas: Oh yeah, I mean it was Andre that was my primary influence in OutKast. And then, Jay-Z had a nice effect on me as well. And I must say Method Man for charisma. And the 5th emcee...Scarface man, because I stay bumping the Geto Boys till today. Those are my top 5.
DonWill: Well I've had time to think [Laughs] I'd say in no particular order: Ghostface, Black Star, D.O.C., 2Pac and the 5th would be....I wanna say Dilla. I learned a lot by listening to Slum Village. He taught me a lot about loosening your cadence and being easy with your words. It's natural to have respect based on how you pronounce your words, and how you say your rhymes. Sometimes, you just gotta let go. Like, I used to be real wordy. Extreme word pronunciations and all that, but when I heard Jay Dee, I just kind of let loose.
SoundSlam: How do you guys feel about the two big losses in Hip Hop this year: J Dilla and Proof?
DonWill: Dilla's death was sad, it really touched me, and I mean it was a medical condition. That teaches you about living while you can and doing the most you can. But, Proof's death was kind of like senseless violence; I mean on both sides, Hip Hop is losing. Whether it's God taking your lease on life, or somebody else taking your lease on life, it's still death and still took two of the greatest icons in their community away. Look at Proof's circle for instance. Eminem is a global figure, but Proof's death will still affect him and the whole of D-12.
Von Pea: I was reading something in a magazine, and they said Eminem put together like an anti-violence song like "we need change." Not to be preachy or trying to diss, but that means nothing if it's back to business as usual after they finish the song and just go back to talking about shooting people. That's what I don't understand, when they say stuff like "oh this is just entertainment." I heard that Juvenile had one line where he was saying "get a check from FEMA and buy you some cocaine" and he was like I didn't really mean go out and buy coke. I'm like what? C'mon man. I think rappers are backpedaling right now. Don't confuse the kids. Basically, if the Hip Hop community wants the violence to stop you can't put out one song and try to sell records by putting out a negative record after that.
SoundSlam: Absolutely. Anything else you'd like to say to your fans?
DonWill: Moonlighting is in stores; look out for the "We Be" video.
Von Pea: To all the fans out there, if you're not feeling what's on the radio right now, it's like Bush being in office. If you like artists like us, then go out there and buy the album and put the right people in office. It's like going out to vote.