Jul 13, 2008 - 7:26 PM
"I'm a bi-polar bear, look in my eyes, its cold in here," is a tight line, but it’s unclear who spit it. The lyrics and syllables are annunciated clearly over a crispy beat and succinct drum pattern. It’s from either Donwill or Ilyas of Tanya Morgan, both are identifiable by their staccato delivery of pompous egotistical assertions. But when they connect with producer Von Pea to form like a triangle, which is construction’s most powerful configuration, they bridge their Cincinnati-based flavor with Von's Brooklyn bred beats to produce special music. And the foreign exchange of styles must lead to fat accounts on Paypal.
Von Pea introduces the newest Tanya Morgan EP by claiming Brooklyn and Cincinnati made a classic the last time they connected over break-beats. In assumed reverence to Kweli and Hi-Tek, and fellow OkayPlayers from The Roots online family tree, The Bridge exemplifies how hip-hop connects all gaps, especially when it utilizes the power of technology. This is their second EP, following their full-length debut album Moonlighting and appropriately titled mixtape, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group.
[Download the Sunlighting EP free here.] Titles of their music points to its most glaring issue: their sounds defy names. Their newest release, titled after the first track, is a clear cut identity crisis. They seem to enjoy their enigmatic status, simply serving as an untitled document. But early into it, Von Pea clearly shines through as the star of this show. He speaks the loudest through his beats, and each one of his verses is a breath of fresh air to the bombardment of midwestern bred swag. They are closely related as a more eclectic version of Kentucky's Cunninlynguists, know that. On the first track for example, they sound like Chicago's All Natural family, specifically capital D and Iomas Marad. On the second, they sound like Detroit's Binary Star. Meanwhile, Von's Pea smells transparently like a heavy dose of Pete's Rock.
The most sense I can make out of this sound clash, which is smooth and effortless, is that it should be played at low levels, inside somewhere. The Bridge EP plays like black dialog, but written for common coffee shop chicks and white dudes. This is bi-partisanship making party music. It’s nice background sounds, but it sneaks subconsciously into the back of one’s mind. It might even slide through the side in an iPod wire. They claim to be "Doin' Their Own Thang," but they do it by imitating what they think they should be, or who they idolize and have influenced them. The Brooklynatians have a unique sound by not knowing where the fuck they are because so much of it is done online. They rap about establishing connection with fans over the net, who inspire them to create more, because they need to keep on keeping on. But it also seems inevitable that Von Pea will eventually pursue green and blow up because he's the only one of the three with crossover appeal individually. Ideally, he would fill 9th Wonder's absence in fellow 'Players act, Little Brother.
But for now it’s good mood music. Not quite as G.O.O.D. as Common and Kanye, but Tanya Morgan is legend in its own right. If not only to themselves, their confidence in themselves is obvious through their willingness to share their inspiration. This album resurrects copies of some of the best ever to do it, and some of the best still doing it, taking samples from other greats and then doing their best with it, and encouraging others to try to do the same.
"Open up your eyes be, happy to be alive," one of Tanya says. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish their ambiguity at times, but it culminates on the albums best track, "Be You." It encourages all to be themselves and love doing it because it’s all about having a good time. Czelena blesses the hook, in a Goapele-esque tone, and all ride the upbeat smile inducing Pea-ism. They also imitate Kanye and Wayne's mixtape contemporary classic "Kush," by trying to flip the same sample, but come up decidedly short in attempt to compete with those a step-above the space they can reach. Then Pea comes out on "Hip-Hop is Dead II" by borrowing Kanye's drop-out lyrics, and sets the stage for the other best track on the album. They all configure a clear and concise picture of hip-hop's status today and how it’s often misinterpreted, and they ironically out live the track's title but proving its own myth.
In short: The Bridge is fun, simple, hip-hop music that soothes the soul. In the spirit of all tribes and villages camped lo in the slums with arrested speech development habits that develop pearls and binary diamonds in the rough, listen to this album. But cut it off at the second to last track, because its last attempt at a song is simply not cool.
Austin Walsh is one of God's own prototypes—a high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Originally from Humboldt county, he recently venni, vitti, vicci'd The City of Frisco, and is now taking his conquest abroad to infect the rest of the globe with his passion for music, appetite for destruction, and loathing of fear.