In 2011, it’s not that uncommon for like-minded people to meet online and create a project together. It has become more prevalent, especially in hip-hop, for producers and vocalists to e-mail each other tracks and vocals for potential songs.
Hip-hop group Tanya Morgan can thank the Internet as a whole for the group’s existence. Group members Donwill, Von Pea and Ilyas met through Okayplayer.com, a website owned and operated by hip-hop band The Roots, while discussing the latest in hip-hop trends and toiling away at their day jobs. With the group splitting time between Cincinnati and Brooklyn, they had no choice but to e-mail tracks among each other as opposed to the traditional process of sitting in a studio as a group bouncing around ideas, music and recording songs.
The trio released several projects using this process, including their critically acclaimed albums Moonlighting (2006) and Brooklynati (2009), but that is about to change with their upcoming untitled album. Donwill recently made the move from Cincinnati to Brooklyn, joining Von Pea; however, Ilyas chose to stay in Cincinnati and take a bit of a backseat in the group for the new album. Don’t get it twisted, though. There’s no beef.
“It’s just a life thing, ’ya know? People would like it to be you start doing music and just be on a tour bus for the next 30 years of your life,” Von Pea says. “But in reality it’s hard to do everything, have your regular life and be this person in a rap group. Ilyas wanted to do his music from Ohio and the direction he wanted to take was from Ohio versus us in New York doing the Tanya Morgan thing. We just sat down one day and he said that he would like to take a lesser role in the group.”
“He will be on the album,” Donwill adds. “It won’t be ... 12 songs with three people on it; he’ll just be a feature this time around.”
Tanya Morgan is often described as ’90s-influenced hip-hop, with the group’s sound mostly handled in-house. Their sound is one of the main reasons why they have such a dedicated fan base, but it’s also the reason why, at times, critics dismiss them. Fans may notice some different sounds and production styles on the new album, but it won’t be unfamiliar, the duo says.
“Every Tanya Morgan project we have done, production-wise it was me and [Ohio producer] Brickbeats,” Von Pea says. “So now, for the time being, that the makeup is different, it’s going to be a combination of Donwill’s producers from his solo album Don Cusack in High Fidelity  and my producers from my album Pea’s Gotta Have It . We don’t want to give you a Tanya Morgan album missing Ilyas. So it’s almost like a new group, but still made up of what people like about us.”
“We definitely don’t want it to sound like a compilation album, like ‘Tanya Morgan tries dubstep.’” Donwill says. “I’m really big on aesthetic and I feel like that’s the one thing that a lot of music is missing nowadays. That’s why certain artists break through the filter because they have this well-groomed aesthetic, and that’s part of what helped us in the beginning. We maintained a certain aesthetic and even if people want to call us ’90s-retro boom-bap, it sounded a certain way.”
The duo says that the new album is just now taking shape and starting to form a focus. And while their ideas for the new project continue to formulate and marinate, they’re gearing up to head out on their second tour this year.
Although all of the group members have their own independent projects, they’re focused on building things under the Tanya Morgan umbrella. It seems to be working — they’re no longer confused for some soul singer named Tanya.
“When we first came out, we would do shows and, like I say on the album, you get to the door and the bouncer asks ‘Where’s Tanya Morgan at?’” Von Pea says. “Now they just seem to know at this point. We show up and I say I’m a part of Tanya Morgan and they let us in.”
“At this point, enough know what it is that the people that don’t know, act like they do,” Donwill adds. “It’s happened to me once or twice where I’m asked ‘who is Tanya Morgan?’ But I haven’t answered that question in a while. People have accepted it and it’s kind of cool.”
On the Bill
Tanya Morgan plays ’Round Midnight on Tuesday, March 15. Doors at 9 p.m. TiRon, Whygee, F.O.E., DJ Low Key, DJ Vajra open. Tickets are $5 before 11 p.m. and $10 after. 1005 Pearl St., Boulder. 303-442-2176