Tanya Morgan is something of an anomaly in hip-hop. At times wordy, self-deprecating and rooted in the underground, while at other times making a play for something close to mainstream chart music. Even the name is polarizing. Tanya Morgan isn’t one person, it’s two. But pointless pigeonholing and name confusion matter little when countered by the fact that Donwill and Von Pea also happen to be two of the most gifted writers and emcees of the last 20 years. Many started checking for them after their breakthrough of sorts, 2009's Brooklynati, but their catalog is deep, and new album YGWY$4 (You Get What You Pay For) is another worthwhile addition.
Recorded over the course of the last few years, often written on the road between tour stops, the album’s title is meant as a comment on the disposable nature of modern music and the short-attention span of today’s listener. If you stream it or download it illegally, and then don't like what you hear, then you got what you paid for. The same logic applies if you buy it and love it. Fortunately, no matter how YGWY$4 manages to get inside your ears, there's a lot to like.
The content here is often standard Tanya Morgan territory—boozy club nights and plenty of bravado with the ladies. But this is a group capable of making this kind of rap music better than most, by virtue of having plenty of that classic hip-hop swagger. There have been inevitable comparisons to A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast and Little Brother over the years, which is far from a bad thing, and Tanya Morgan even reference it on the album. Each of those other acts made music with the confidence that only comes when you know you are good, and that same sense of cocksureness runs through tracks such as “VPND.” There has also been much growth since previous projects, with both Von Pea and Donwill revealing new songwriting depth.
Although no strangers to producing their own music, YGWY$4 sees Tanya Morgan hand most of the beat-making duties to others, including Quelle Chris and Kev Brown, plus members of their wider Lessondary crew. It works, creating a varied set of tracks ranging from the hard boom bap of “Trunk Shit,” to the silky-smooth “Slow Me Down,” while still remaining cohesive as an overall narrative.
Later track “Filthiest aka LESSLOWWITT!!” also has the group reunite with original member Ilyas, who quit in 2010. The chemistry is still there, and it serves as a nice way for the album to wind down, only to be let down by the weak closing track, “Finish Line”.
Tanya Morgan are probably right—you do get what you pay for. Yet parting with your cash on this occasion won’t leave you short-changed.
Notable Tracks: “Cold Modelo” | “Slow Me Down” | “Started” | “Trunk Shit”