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August 2, 2006

{     Tanya Morgan - Moonlighting     }    

tanyamorgan.jpg Let’s go ahead and clear some things up here real quick. Its obvious that Tanya Morgan’s Moonlighting already has several strikes against it before the first note even drops. First off is the name, which will undoubtedly conjure up images of some ol’ neo-soul torchlight ish on some bullshit Coke Blak steez. And the name of the album… Moonlighting? This ain’t the Return of Bruno motherfucker and last time I checked, Cybil Shepard ain’t hip-hop (although Travis Bickle was pretty gangsta). What the fuck is this? Lucy Pearl? Brian Fellows? Factor in an intro where some herb is talking about how he hates all the vulgarity in hip-hop and you can literally see the A&R reps climbing out on to the ledge. Moonlighting has been bubbling up in the underground for the last few months thanks to strong recommendations from such tastemaker heavys as ?uestlove and Bobbito Garcia (and these guys tend to know what they’re talking about). While the name will unquestionably have confused record clerks stocking the record alongside the classic sounds of super sexy soul Hey Love vols 1 & 2 (no my brother, you’ll have to get your own), Tanya Morgan is actually comprised of 4 men. In essence a Tortoise-esque side project where the result more than equals the sum of its parts, Tanya features Brooklynite MC Von Pea and the Kinkynasty duo of Donwill and Ilyas (Ilwil) drawing mic duties while producer Brickbeats handles the boards on this poo-poo platter. As hip-hop continues to become more exaggerated and farcical with each effort, Tanya Morgan set forth to produce an understated album of quality hip-hop as their way of standing out in a sea of krunk, krump and hyphy. And although it is true that an understated approach probably won’t be having your shit blowin up like Luke Perry’s dad (on that boat… remember that shit!?!), true heads will notice and odds will be in Morgan’s favor that both the group and the album will still be remembered and respected around this time next year. As the strengths of Moonlighting come in the form of solid, head-nodding production and smooth, confident lyricism, the key ingredient that makes it all connect is how effortless it all seems (and that's pretty sneaky, sis). Cincy producer Brickbeats will surely be listed alongside the new crop of solid beatmakers as he brings his A-game with rolling keyboards loops, noodling guitar samples and sharp horn stabs to form beats that are straight-up JoJo Dancer. Peep Tanya’s reworking of MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin” and you’ll find yourself too busy vibing to be even thinking about sipping on cappuccino. On the flip side of the equation, three is the magic number as all lyricists come correct with distinctive yet complimentary flows and Bunsen burner chemistry (hard to believe this is their first time as a trio). While nobody will be confusing the Native Tongue-minded group with some of their fellow-Cincinnati Anticon contemporaries, the rhymes are nice and the flows are fluid enough to leave your face lookin all Bad Boy: that’s BIG and Puffy. Choice cuts include “the Warm-Up”, “We Be”, and “Ode to”. While some will see this album as another backpack reinterpretation of early A Tribe Called Quest albums, and it definitely fits in this same mold, one should place Tanya alongside such acts as Slum Village and Five Deez (and yes, ATCQ and De La Soul) as honest musicians looking to bring something progressive to the table that is void of gimmicks and fads (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Having said this, Moonlighting is far from perfect. A relatively new group, and a “side project” at that, will have some growing pains along the way and Tanya definitely throws a few clunkers out there, most noticeably when their much-touted honesty wanes in their pursuit to find that ever-elusive crossover hit. “Rough It Up” and “Take the L” are forced attempts at selling units and only succeed at throwing off the natural vibe of the album and making one reach for the skip button. But while this year in music has been marred with a substantial number of disappointments, “Moonlighting” is a definite highlight from an unlikely source. After all, what’s in a name?

     » Tanya's house.
     » Download the "Sunlighting" mixtape, chump.

Comments

Dope. When I first heard them I thought about A Tribe Called Quest, I think most people do when they hear them. But they are a bit different, just tryin to bring somethin new to the table I guess. I got the mixtape and the dopest song is the one where Ill is talking about the dread questions. That stuff is so true

Posted by: Blest at August 2, 2006 5:57 AM
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