While the mainstream radio seems obsessed with shoving remedial Hip-Hop down our throats and obsessed with presenting an arrested development of the culture, rappers, and minorities in America (Eminem and Asher not withstanding of course) there seems to be a rebirth of underground Hip-Hop. One of the groups on the forefront of that movement is Tanya Morgan. With 4 albums (mixtapes & EP’s included) I had a moment to speak to to the group about the 5th project, Hip-Hop, and all points between. Catch a cab to Brooklynati with me friends.
Saule Wright – Thanks for sittin’ down with me and the readers of nappyafro.com. Sounds like we are short one member?
Illyas – Yeah, Von is taking care of family business.
Everything is good right?
Illyas – Oh yeah man, he’s good.
Aite, that’s good. So how was memorial day fellas?
Illyas – Man, I’m back in Ohio for the first time in like 5 months so it’s good to see family and enjoy family. Got some good food, ate too damn much, and just feeling good around my people.
Don – I’m good man, just chillin’ out. You know I got that good food in so I’m good.
We really appreciate you taking time out to talk to us. I know your promotion for this album has been serious and the travel insane, so thanks again for taking time out from your busy schedules to chat with us. Now I know that you always answer the question about the name and what it means and all that. You also tell the story of how the group cut music, so what I wanna know is, has AOL signed on to promote the group yet?
Illyas – Haha. We actually talked to them recently and talked about getting something done, a reality show or something about cutting an album in the same room. We’ve only got about 5 songs done in the same room as a group. So, if you can grease the wheels a little bit, ya know…
Don – I mean, I’ll let Illyas punch me in the mouth if that means we can get paid, I’m with that.
Illyas – (laughs) see man…
Hey, that’s all you need is a little controversy.
Don – Ya know?
Even with you only recording 5 songs in the same area, I can’t tell by your chemistry. Like, no way can I listen and tell which 5 they were. You all have a great chemistry and play off each other well.
Illyas – Well, with the internet and the technology out there, relationships are different anyway. Like, even when we are together we do our thing, but we always hang out online anyway. Like, I chat with Von or Don on a routine basis like they are right here anyway so location shouldn’t affect our chemistry, we’re always in touch.
I can dig it. I love how throughout Moonlighting skits you all play some of your other music. It’s almost like a treasure hunt when I listen to more of your other albums, I stumble across that song and it makes me appreciate Moonlighting even more. The same thing can be said for Brooklynati. I love the transitions; they most recently remind me of Timeline by ya boys Nicolay and Kay of the Foundation. The flow of your albums seems very deliberate and seamless, how much of that is your focus when you go into what songs actually make the album?
Illyas – I love that question, I wish Von was here to talk about that. Like, Von is the executive producer of the album. We all collectively produce it, but he’s really the one who puts it all together. He’s a beast man, like, he can sit down and listen to the skits on The Chronic and he’ll hear the way people are talking in the background and the clinks of glass and stuff on the table, and he’ll ask how he can reproduce that sound. Me, I just hear a skit, that dude, he puts it down like an art form.
Don – Shout out to Nicolay and Kay and the whole Foundation crew. The art of putting together an album like De La with skits and things to link stuff together is deliberate. We try to make it more enjoyable each time you listen to it and help you put together the “puzzle” of Tanya Morgan.
Illyas – Outside of the name of the group, nothing we do is by accident. We are deliberate and methodical as a group so we put together our albums so it’s an experience.
It’s dope cause hearing you say that validates me jumping between albums. Like, I’ll be listening to Grand Vonye and I’ll hear something that sounds like something on Moonlighting, then I’ll play Moonlighting and hear one of the songs from Grand Vonye in the background of a skit. That’s dope, helps keep the album new. I also like how you all are pretty candid about folks not liking your entire album from start to finish, like, you don’t go by the cliché and say, “Yo, my album is going to change the game…it’s all classic” and when you get it you’re like …song x is bullshit and you know it’s bullshit. Y’all are pretty candid.
Don – I mean, to be honest, I don’t agree that there is something for everybody on an album, like, everything isn’t meant for everybody. People put out albums and like 5 songs are hot and you can feel them and the rest you may not really fuck with. But because you’ve invested time in the album and money in the album, you take time to listen to the entire thing and it grows on you. That’s what I want to happen with our music. You invest in it and allow yourself to experience the album.
Illyas – Like when Ready To Die came out, I fucked with the singles real hard. When I played them out, I started listening to the rest of the album and that’s when I really fell in love with it. So like Don said, you experience the album.
So, am I far off when I say that the album sounds like the concept is basically a day listening to WFMJ Cold 98 FM, the radio station in the city of “Brooklynati”.
Don – Nah, I mean, we always get comparisons to Little Brother as it is so we didn’t want to bite and be like, “They lil’ Little Brother for real.” But we did want to make you feel the CD and how it was put together. It’s not just radio though, we have the public access shout out and other media in there too so it’s an album that takes into consideration different forms of media and getting the word out.
So let’s get more into the album. “Don’t U Holla” talks about the game as far as promoters and such, folks trying to get something for nothing or just flat out not paying on the business end of things. How often does this happen?
Don – Man….far more often then I’d even like to talk about.
Illyas – Man, I just got an email last night (laughs)
Don – Even outside of the promoters though, sometimes folks will hit us up and ask us to record something and what you gonna say? They know you recording the shit at home, so. (laughs). Sometimes, you have to give a little. You know, if you respect the artist/producer and their talent, you can’t look at the money part of it.
How do you keep from conforming to the regular devices and cliche’s of the industry now. Like, you don’t go off into Auto Tune – shout out to T. Wayne East (Illyas laughs) and you don’t rap about rims and such, is that because you are independent as in on a indy label or because you are independent as people.
Illyas – Like, being honest, you either talk about what’s going on in your life, or you talk about what you want to be goin’ on in your life. So now, I rap about being broke because I am broke. But if we get some money, I can’t say that I won’t be rapping about cars and money and stuff. Like, I’m not one to brag and be all flashy anyway so it will never be like that, but if I get some money, I will talk about it.
Right, just gonna change out the metal spikes for gold right?
Don – Right, I think that as our level of success changes, our lyrics may change, I’m not going to lie about that. I look forward to that big deal where we can have the money and things like that. Shows and ladies screaming and stuff.
Funny that YOU bring up women Don…I hear you are the “Macho Man” pulling all the Elizabeths…is that right? PAUSE
Illyas – (laughs) yea…..
Don – Well, I have the ability to make young ladies feel like they can conversate with me and feel comfortable.
That’s very Obama of you, very political. You just ran for office on us with that answer.
Don – Man, it’s politics.
Illyas – It’s always political with that dude.
So Don, when you gonna do that Love album?
Don – Like, a album for the ladies?
Illyas – Ah man, that’s what his new project is about.
Don – Well, I did the whole album based on the movie and I have a lot of cameos but each cameo is cast like a movie. So like Von Pea is Kevin Smith and so on. So I’ve got a lot of people on there playing roles and it got so big that I ended up straying from the concept a little bit to finish the album. But it’s close to finished, I just have to record two more verses, get them mastered and then I’m done. I’m definitely trying to get at the ladies on this one, you niggas can have the hardcore rappers and shit.
That’s wassup man, and shout out to Hardcore Gentlemen. But man, you got a problem on your hands with “Laura’s Song” forreal. That shit is like instant classic fam.
Don – Thanks man.
Speaking of projects, Yo Illyas, wassup with your solo joint? Prelude was dope, when we gonna get more?
Illyas – Man, it’s coming, it’s coming. I’m on some other stuff this time. Folks are going to see a different side of me on this one man. I don’t even want to talk about it, I’m just gonna hit them out the blue with this one.
Uh oh, you getting YOUR “Hardcore Gentlemen” on?
Illyas – Man, I can’t even talk about it. It’s gonna be different
Don –Yo, I’m going to give you an exclusive on that Hardcore Gentlemen too. I heard they plan on trying to drop a video soon for this and trying to ride the success of our album. They don’t text or deal with technology, them cat’s still on that old Nokia brick and even though they didn’t do a good job of staying in the business with trying to sound like Onyx and Ill Al Scratch and all, they are talking about trying to get in and may even drop the video the same time we do something.
There it is , exclusives on nappyafro.com. Be on the look out for “Hardcore Gentlemen”. Now for those of us that remember the Golden Age, are you feeling that kind of appeal coming back now or is this just a fad?
Don – I will say that, it’s cool with the way the labels are picking up the blog rappers and internet rappers because that shows that the labels are paying attention to how people are getting their music and what they like. It kinda hurts to hear folks talk about Hip Hop and how only the Eminem, Jada and Rick Ross albums are the only one’s to check for. Like, that’s absurd to even thing that that’s all that’s out there. If you are really trying to find good Hip Hop, you can like, go to Google, type in “Hip Hop Albums”, and buy some real Hip Hop. Maybe even listen to it before you buy it. So, I think it’s been going on for a while, but since the label heads are taking notice, it’s being noticed.
Word man Now, as far as fame goes, do you feel like because so many of us have watched you grow and come up in that classic underground way, do you feel like your approachability makes you all seem too accessible? You know what I mean? Like, when folks meet LL, they’re not gonna tell him that xxx song sucks, but when they see you, they may feel like they can tell you that because they saw you come up in the game. So do folks come at you disrespectful at all or anything?
Don – (laughs) nah, that hasn’t happened. What does happen though, as addressed in “Just Arrived”, is that we get folks that try and give us unsolicited advice on things. Like, they will email me a line by line breakdown of what they didn’t like about a particular song.
Illyas – YEA MAN! Like, you aren’t a writer or producer. Who ARE you?
Well fellas, I know you gotta run, we appreciate the time again. Wanna give any shout outs?
Illyas – Yo, shout out to the whole Illuminati crew, Cincinnati crew, man and shout out to everybody.
Don – Yo man, shout out to the nappyafro.com readers.