Monday, August 30, 2010

Blunt Talk With... Tanya Morgan

Don Will and Von Pea can control a crowd. I walked into the Columbia City Theater late into their set to see a small crowd in the front of the stage going wild, enjoying the performance. I'm sure a couple heads in the building knew all the words to every song in the set. Seattle has some love for the crew known as Tanya Morgan but the internet is not where you make a living in this music industry.

Rocking a fresh Penn State snap back Don Will was pleasant and amicable to all who approached him. Von Pea was busy getting his drink on and seemed to enjoy the company of the couple ladies mingling after their set. While snapping some flicks with fans I took a stroll with their manager Alex who hipped me to their current schedule, having been on the road for the last week and a half they are now on their way back to the Bay - temporary home base for the team as it's where their label is based.

"I'm gonna hang out and drink coffee," said Don about how he will spend his time in San Francisco. Von is busy putting the final touches on his debut solo joint Pea's Gotta Have It which should continue to brand them as the every man rap group. They are just living life and spitting words to whoever will listen about those journeys.

It's not that their lives weren't like many of their peers growing up. Von still resides in Brooklyn, just a few blocks up from where Jay-Z grew up in the Marcy projects. A neighborhood that also raised Biggie. They'll admit that they've seen it all, partaken in some things.

"I sold that shit for a week, then tried passin off ora gel cause it was easier to get. The crack fiends can't fight you," says Don in a serious tone. It's obvious that these guys aren't interested in talking about drugs. Their music doesn't address these ills they have been surrounded by. Yet they see it speaking to a diverse range of people and that inspires them to try and relate to everyone from all walks of life.

"We see those dudes at the shows, like in Texas and stuff and I'm like what are they hearing. They are hearing it. Even though that's not the content of our raps, we come from that."

Von Pea was certainly faded, sippin down a vodka seven in a matter of minutes after entering the room but he spoke with a passion and desire to have his thoughts heard. Perhaps it is this passion for his music that kept him out of the streets and inspired him to make beats.

Pea's introduction to the art of production took time but he was sold on being a producer after hearing just one song: "Mindpower" off the Tribe album Beats, Rhymes and Life.

"It was just a simple loop with some horns and drums. I was like I know where those sounds come from, I can do this. But back then the big thing to me was equipment, I didn't have a thousand bucks for an MPC - and that's what everyone was using at the time."

Pea wasn't alone in his quest to find cheaper production avenues and thanks to the Okayplayer message boards and an encounter with an emcee out of North Carolina named Phonte camps were united and friendships were made. Von developed a relationship with several of the producers running with the Little Brother emcee and claims he was the one who introduced the camp to Fruity Loops, the 100 dollar program that changed Hip Hop in the early 2000s.

Today they seem, to me, to be the closest group to what Little Brother represented in their prime. But they aren't following any precedencts, in fact the web campagin for their last album was so original that they managed to have fans believing Brooklynati was a real city.

"When we had a gril come up and ask where Brooklynati was, seriously, after we finished laughing at her we were like damn, we've gone to far."

The site still exists and via the soon to be launched you will still be able to become a citizen but it's existence was strictly for the album of the same name. A project that got them much praise and has taken them to Europe for the first time where they are planning to return to and will hopefully find just as many fans the second time around.

"All of the shows, with the exception of one - don't know what happened there, I could put my mic into the crowd and people could complete my verse," states Don about the love they recived over seas.

While they are on the tour hustle, spreading the brand they have begun work on the next record. They guess they have about ten demos done, but right now the focus is on Von's solo work. While they don't play individual rolls on each other's solo projects they do bounce ideas off each other and taste test tracks as they come.

Von and Don are easy going indviduals, at one point they joked about the cantolope racism going on in the green room as all the fruit was eaten except for the cantolope. "Cantolopes don't grow in Brooklyn man," said Von. This demeanor is what makes their music fun. They capture themselves in the music. They aren't faking the funk as some would say.

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