Here’s the thing about hip-hop — if your beats don’t bang, then your record sucks. In rock you can get by with sonic experimentation, weird sounds and cryptic, muddled lyrics. Hip-hop has to strike a more delicate balance. Some acts get the “hip” (Busdriver, cLOUDDEAD, Subtle) while others nail that “hop” (David Banner, MIMS, Soulja Boy). The cats who hang out on that hyphen that separates the hip from the hop in hip-hop are the ones who strike pay dirt and drink all them other dudes’ milkshakes (sorry, but it’s my first chance to use that pop cult idiom).
Tanya Morgan tightened up the hop and stepped up its whole game on The Bridge EP. With deep bass lines and sharp production, The Bridge has greater sonic clarity than their muddy but lovely debut, Moonlighting. The boys with the rap group named after a girl are pushing in the right direction. “The Bridge” knifes you up with organ stabs on the one and three, while “We Doin’ Our Own… ” bubbles with hand drums and harps that make it feel like an underwater jam in Atlantis. The whole affair comes off like a fresh dose of Little Brother’s Chitlin’ Circuit, but with more than one good MC. Von Pea is by far the Tanya’s most captivating rapper, but Donwill and Ilyas ain’t bad either.
From the name on down, Tanya Morgan has made a commitment to breaking out of hip-hop’s insular homo-erotic fraternity and bringing the music back to a world where women might want to dance to it — with them! On the mixtape Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group, Von Pea says “I’m the man [that] female fans take a hour to hug while y’all rap for a crowd full of thugs,” while elsewhere Donwill says “I don’t play a lot of rap, I’d rather listen to R&B.” These statements are not quite dissertations but definitely deeper than disses. Hip-hop is so blunted that it just ain’t danceable most of the time, which is crazy for a genre that was created by DJs. Amid all the misogynistic chest thumping, some cats forgot about having a good time with the ladies, and tales of crack deals, bullet shells, and hos in heels don’t always get the party started.
So, Tanya Morgan walks that subtle line between hip and hop and brings bright, bouncy production. Soul samples persist — “Filthier AKA” sounds like “Potholes”-era Prince Paul beat manipulation — but The Bridge isn’t so retro as to sound like those People Under the Stairs or other reductivist humbugs who only play “real hip-hop.” “Threemcees” has a whiff of Big Daddy Kane’s sonic cologne, and the Miami Freestyle of bonus track “How Low” is a reminder that the wicked brittle ’80s decade sounds better and better the further we dig into the 21st century.
The Bridge is a promising holdover until Tanya Morgan’s new full-length Brooklynati drops. These guys are clearly still finding their niche, but looking to pick up nicely where Little Brother left off.
Tanya Morgan: www.tanyamorgan.com