Tanya Morgan is a rap group that consists of producers/emcees Von Pea and Donwill. Formed a decade ago as a trio with former member, Ilyas, TM released their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Moonlighting’ in 2006. The crew returned in 2009 with another stellar release, ‘Brooklynati’. After a couple of solo projects Ilyas left the group in 2010 leaving Don and Von to carry the Tanya Morgan flag.
The crew recently released their third album titled Rubber Souls. Rubber Souls is a departure for the group sonically and by their approach. Von Pea normally acts as the producer for Tanya Morgan projects alongside Brickbeats, but this go-round producer 6th Sense handles the music. The result is a soulful, fluid release that’s easily one of the best albums of 2013.
Donwill and Von Pea of Tanya Morgan spoke to ventwing.com about adjusting to Ilyas’ departure from the group, working with producer 6th Sense, and their new album, Rubber Souls.
SS: Why’d you name the new album Rubber Souls?
Donwill: It started out as a play on Converse Rubber Tracks studios where we started recording in. Then it became a subtle homage to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. That was their sixth album; this is our album with 6th Sense. For that album they were more experimental and this was an experimental type of thing for us, too in terms of expanding our sound and letting 6th Sense get behind the boards. I won’t say we changed up our sound but we experimented with being produced as opposed to producing our own stuff for this album.
SS: How’d you link up with 6th Sense to do the album?
Von Pea: That came from knowing him for years. I met him in 2005. We both did a show with Nicolay and L.E.S. We were all friends and in the summer of 2011 Don ran into him at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. Don had an idea to do a quick EP with 6th. It was supposed to be three songs but over the months it turned into a full-on project. It really just comes from being mutual fans for a while.
SS: Von, how big of an adjustment was it for you to not produce this album?
Von Pea: Actually, when we started it to be honest my head wasn’t in it. My mind was out of the game. Somebody had to come in and jump in the driver’s seat for the album. I’m not Don’s leader or nothing like that but musically being a producer and musical director my head wasn’t in it and it wasn’t going to happen the way it needed to happen. When 6th came in he had to come in and it was perfect. I doubt Don was even thinking like that and he didn’t know how I was feeling, but things just happened perfectly. It was the right move and the move that was necessary. By the time I got my head back in the game and was ready to attack we were already a few songs in and things were going great. It wasn’t an ego thing for me to lose my spot as music director.
SS: Talk a little about the song ‘Eulogy’.
Donwill: ‘Euology’ was among the first songs we recorded for the project. When we were recording ‘You & What Army’ we asked 6th to contribute a beat. We ended up with that beat and recorded ‘Eulogy’ to it. That song was the start of the entire Rubber Souls project. We decided we should do more than one song if we have this good of a chemistry. Lyrically on my end of things it was just eulogizing a lost friendship. When you get older things change and time moves on. There might be somebody that you’re close to today and by no malice y’all just lose touch. One day you realize that y’all aren’t in touch anymore. The narrative didn’t specifically happen to me but I wanted to illustrate the overtone of losing friendships and friendships changing in my verse. You get that phone call from somebody you haven’t talked to in years and you realize why y’all aren’t talking.
SS: How has the recording process changed since Ilyas left the group?
Von Pea: The recording for me didn’t change only because we always recorded separately. The first album ‘Moonlighting’, Don and Il did that in the same room in Cincinnati and I recorded my parts in Brooklyn. Any other EP’s or anything we’ve done were done the same way. Even when Don was living in New York and we recorded ‘Brooklynati’, Don and I didn’t record in the same room. It was three people recording in different rooms even to the point where me and Ilyas got the same equipment so it would sound like we were in the same room. When he wasn’t there the physical chemistry of being in the same room didn’t change because we weren’t in the same room. With his perspective he always came from a different angle so that was a big void that we had to step in and figure out how to fill. You can’t step on the court and there is no point guard. Somebody has to bring the ball up the court. If there is no center somebody’s gotta get in the paint. We had to figure out how to do that as far as overall songs and how they sound but recording was pretty the same. The recording changed with Rubber Souls. We did this project all in the same room at the same time.
SS: Was that difficult?
Von Pea: I would say no.
Donwill: It wasn’t difficult as much as it was different. I’m one of those writers where it depends on my mood. If I’m hungry, I eat, if I’m tired, I sleep, if I’m creative, I rap. It was harder because it wasn’t based on when inspiration strikes it was based on when you get the studio time booked. If the studio time was booked tomorrow at 6pm, you gotta be inspired tomorrow at 6pm because you gotta do a song. I’m really not used to that. It’s a different skillset and it’s definitely a valuable skillset to have to be able to walk into a session and write. It’s going to be quality whether or not I’m inspired or uninspired, but when you’re inspired the words mean more than just making a word rhyme with another word. It’s actually something powerful that happens when you’re inspired. It’s like an actor being able to make themselves cry. You almost have to dig deeper when you don’t control your inspiration. That was the hardest part about it but I like challenges and welcome them.
SS: The last time I interviewed you guys you said that ?uestlove told you to never break up. Did it ever cross your minds to disband the group after Ilyas left?
Von Pea: In my mind we’re still a trio. I sent Ilyas a track to get on the other day. It may not be a Tanya Morgan record but I look at us like The Lox who haven’t recorded an album in 13 years, but as far as we know The Lox are still together as an extended crew if nothing else. I’ve been accused of taking Ilyas leaving too lightly, but for me it’s like he’s not missing in my mind or my life. He’s missing from the music but he’s there. He’s not somewhere writing a diss record about me. I can call him now and talk for a half hour about women or whatever and it won’t’ be a weird convo or anything like that. I’m taking his absence lightly because music is our life so I don’t look at it like it’s an album. I know he’s not missing from our life. I don’t see it as breaking up. If me and Don didn’t do more music as far as I know I’m going to go to his apartment, drink a beer, watch Netflix and complain about music because we’re not making it anymore [laughs]. To bring that whole point home, music is life, as cliché as that sounds. It’s not a break-up. A break-up is these people being out of my life and there is no reason for that, so there never was a reason to really break-up. It’s simply did you make another album or did you not?
SS: The song ‘Never Too Much’ features Nitty Scott. How’d you hook up with her to record that song?
Donwill: Nitty is another one of those people that I’ve known for a long time. I met her a while ago and we have a good working relationship. I’m pretty good friends with her manager. I produced a song for one of her EP’s, we were on Mick Boogie’s mixtape, ‘Down with the King’ and 6th Sense produced that record so that’s the first Tanya Morgan/Nitty Scott/6th Sense collaboration. Our running theme when it comes to any collaborators is we always collaborate with friends. It’s not like we don’t wanna work with people that we don’t know but it’s a lot easier in our capacity to work with people that we do know. Those are the people that are closest and we can access. Nitty is just cool and if she had a question or her manager had a question they could reach out to me and ask me and vice versa. They’re like our industry buddies [laughs]. We talk shop and it’s not too many artists that you can comfortably discuss things with some times. It’s a lot of pretense and a lot of air that goes into these conversations with other performing artists because they don’t want to let on how good or bad they’re doing or they don’t wanna give up a resource. Talking to Nitty or Jules is like talking to Von or 6th – it’s just crew sh*t.
SS: What do you guys hope to accomplish with Rubber Souls?
Von Pea: I would say new things. I don’t want to say new fans as in “different fans” but we want to have more listeners and the listeners we have we want to show more of what we can do. We’re going to always be those guys that are rapping over a chopped up vocal sample and rapping about girls, but at the same time we want to continue to grow and add more to what we already do. We don’t want to get rid of what we do but continue to add on. If you notice the writing is a little bit different on this album as well as the music. We just want to add on and improve in artistry. We’ll continue to do that in more ways.
Donwill: Von kind of summed it up. I don’t know if this is repeating what he said but we just want to expand the fan base and make sure that existing fans know that they’re taken care of. We’re capable of growing as artists and not necessarily taking them to one place over and over and over again musically. We want to stretch out musically. Outside of that, licensing [laughs]. If anybody wants to license a track, holla at me! The goal is to capture new listeners, capture new audiences, and get into bigger and more outlets.
Purchase: Tanya Morgan – Rubber Souls