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Album Review

One of hip-hop's greatest attributes is its ability to respond to, reference, and react to situations, events, figures, and trends soon after they happen. It may end up dating the music later, but when it comes out, there's no better way to mark events than with the allusions and metaphors that are scattered through the average rapper's rhymes. But Tanya Morgan, a trio based in Brooklyn and Cincinnati, manage to react to the 2009 landscape while still making music that resonates, thanks to the virtual city — and name of their second full-length — they've created, Brooklynati. A place alluded to in the group's 2008 EP, The Bridge (though there the final syllables reflected the Midwestern roots, while now, it rhymes with "illuminati"), Brooklynati is a place that pays tribute to their influences both literally ("Yancey Park" is referenced numerous times) and musically. Hip-hop's golden age in the early to mid-'90s, when rappers like Common, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, and Nas reigned supreme in popular culture and in the minds of heads alike, is an obvious starting point for Tanya Morgan — the album even makes multiple mentions of the fictional group Hardcore Gentlemen, who are marking the 15-year anniversary of their "classic, and only single, "Hardcore Gentlemen," with a performance that will find them performing the "hit" "fifteen times in a row" (the accompanying fiction video, described by the VJ as "timeless, new, classic," is also similarly hilarious) — but their critiques of the contemporary music scene. "Don't U Holla," about bad show promoters which ends with a rant about illegal downloading ("they downloaded the CD, they downloaded the t-shirt...") is particularly acerbic and hilarious.

Hip-hop is no stranger to the concept album (see Prince Paul's Prince Among Thieves, Deltron 3030's self-titled release, and pretty much anything by Kool Keith), the best of which work because the music stands apart from the concept. Fortunately, Brooklynati follows along with the best of these. The three MCs' tight, insightful, and often funny rhymes about everyday life and everyday guys, chasing everyday girls ("...and this here's Whitney, yep like Houston/Met em on Houston, here is the confusion/In no way am I saying that we had game...," from "Bang N Boogie"), transcend the boundaries of their imagined city and instead find a home in something that's based in what they know, and what they want to know. Brooklynati may be an imagined place, but there are enough details ("radio ads" for upcoming events, a map of the city, etc) and more than enough great music that to anyone listening, it feels very real.


Formed: 2003

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Though the name Tanya Morgan sounds as if it belongs to a solo female performer, it is in fact an all-male hip-hop group. The band started in 2003 when producer/MC Von Pea (who lived in Brooklyn) and MC Donwil (who lived in Cincinnati) met online and decided to make an album together. Bringing in Ilyas (who, with Donwil, made up the group Ilwil) and Cincinnati producer Brickbeat, Tanya Morgan began to send demos back and forth electronically, meeting in...
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Brooklynati, Tanya Morgan
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