(Interdependent Media; 2009)
By Clayton Purdom | 8 May 2009
Some Cokemachineglow staffers’ reactions to Cincinnati’s Tanya Morgan (a rap three-piece, fuck the name):
Me: “Definitely feeling this.”
Colin: “Nice enough. Weakest link of the Lessondary crew, though.”
Betz: “Pleasant. Not bad.”
Nool: “I’m going to think this is corny, aren’t I.”
Molnar: “This makes me want to have a barbecue.”
Me: “Barbecue rap is the new coke rap.”
Betz: “Clayton Purdom is the new Okayplayer.”
First, that’s some cold shit, Betz. Second, why such trepidation? Why such a lukewarm reaction to such a goodly record? This feels, to me, like the sort of rap record we rap nerds lament a dearth of: sprawling and smart, bursting with production that ebbs symphonically but never cluttered over five-minute tracks, a long, warm-hearted record whose length is justified by long, genial verses that build on one another via sharp delivery and three assured mic presences (and one outrageous guest). I confessed to CMG’s haters—or, more correctly, non-feelers—that the record may not exactly be the type of thing you’d play to blow someone’s mind. Unless, of course, that person was me: because this record sorta blows my mind.
Surely my taste is not so singular. Surely this pleasure spot exists on other brainpiles awaiting caress. Perhaps Tanya Morgan’s debut record is a bit of an anachronism, an underground hip-hop record that, alack, might spin best from a backpack, might allow itself to actually be called “underground hip-hop.” Today’s underground is all fly kicks and fucking and—well, fly kicks and fucking kinda covers it. And, listen: I like shoe rap, too, but my heart will always have room for those emcees that point to the Native Tongues and say, “Hey, remember this? Remember unabashed intelligence and long-players? Remember the ineluctable pleasure of a well-cut jazz loop?” especially if, like Tanya Morgan, they recall the convivial spirit of the Native Tongues without a hint of “this is real hip-hop” sermonizing or holier-than-mainstream posturing. I like it despite it being from Cincinnati (with one member from Brooklyn [see: album title]). But surely it’s a rare rap album that contains a good track called “Intermission.” Surely this merits praise.
Because let’s talk brass tacks, rap kids: there’s not a bad beat among the sixteen here and a good half are smooth little killers. Immaculate samples like the clunky chimes of “Without U” or the guitar curlicues of “On Our Way” dominate but often burst into bright and swooning hooks and cascading interludes or soft-touch breaks. Single “So Damn Down” is a gameshow panoply recalling Danny Swain at his most limber. Six of the beats here come courtesy of Brickbeats, whose Red Giants effort was a little-heard triumph back in 2006, also bafflingly from Cincinnati, where people put cinnamon in their chili. But where that record sorta quickly dropped jaws for hungry rap fans but, in the long run, felt a bit slight, Brooklynati‘s production coheres, exuding long-term promise in its subtlety and self-assured sonic palette.
The rest of the beats (except one) come from Von Pea, who doubles as Tanya Morgan’s most engaging emcee. The lithe flute sample slipping throughout “Don’t U Holla”‘s smooth percussive attack forms the album’s centerpiece, a wry banger over which Pea gets very, very ill, gushing with a wide-open flow and inhabiting characters, talking shit to himself; he sounds over his own beats the way one wishes Black Milk did. The sky then ruptures and Jermiside, the other half of Brickbeats’ Red Giants record, emerges for the first of two jaw-dropping verses on Brooklynati, laying the groundwork for a veritable CMGasm for his forthcoming full-length. Have we (gulp) another scene over which to crush? Another overlooked midwestern hub of straight rap sustenance, unmoved by any trend besides its own internal standard of quality? One shudders to think what CMG’s rap corner might be influenced to say. Betz, caught up in a later swoon of passion, even admitted, “I definitely like it now. I just don’t lurve it.” Yet, man.