Once they got past the "that's a woman's name, not a Rap group!" confusion and quips, the trio of Tanya Morgan [click to read] have begun to do pretty well for themselves. Their first two efforts, Moonlighting and The Bridge, have garnered them critical acclaim from both media outlets and by their Hip Hop contemporaries (the advance copy of the album in this review has drops from the likes of Xzibit, Jack Davey [click to read], Ill Bill [click to read] and others, and even more artists are involved in the "map," which will be elaborated on soon).
Their latest album, Brooklynati, looks to create a city based on Brooklyn and Cincinnati, the respective hometowns of the group's members. Complete with a map in the album's linear notes, the city seems like the ideal spot for any Hip Hop head: The Roots' ?uestlove [click to read] is the mayor, and the likes of 88-Keys, [click to read] Miss Info, and Phonte [click to read] all operate businesses in the area. But thankfully, Brooklynati doesn't let the hype supersede it: the music here is just as complete as the concept and marketing plan.
With Brooklynati being a tourist attraction and vacation spot, it only makes sense that many of the instrumentals on the album are relaxing. The album opening track "On Our Way" sees the trio utilizing a silky synth and guitar combo to summarize the concept and their impending success, almost showing how patient the trio is being while they create success on their own terms. Meanwhile, "Just Not True" sees them confidently boasting their rhyme skills over a sample-driven backdrop, and the following "Morgan Blu" [click to listen] sees them flexing bars with L.A.'s golden child Blu [click to read] over a similarly chill soundscape. Skits help hold the album--and the city--together as well: "Intermission" sees residents of Brooklynati talking about why they love the area ("Brooklynati is the place my son was born, and where I was reborn"), Ms. Autumn gives daily announcements at the end of "Alleye Need," and Miss Info gives Hip Hop news before the album-closing bonus cut.
Gimmicks aside, Brooklynati succeeds because of the quality of the music. All of these songs work outside of the initial concept: "Plan B" speaks on how music is the priority in their lives, while the subdued "Without U" sees the trio rhyming about heartbreak (seemingly with music, since they consistently insist "This not a girl song"), with assistance from a singing Phonte and Brittany Bosco. "Hardcore Gentleman" is a whimsical "song for the bitches" parody whose soundscape could easily fit in on an early De La Soul record, while the real song for the women, "Can't Get Enough" [click to listen], is executed flawlessly with a lively, horn-blowing instrumental and a hook by Carlitta Durand. And the hilarious "Don't U Holla" clowns shady show promoters that don't get the trio their chips for performing. As unique as Brooklynati is, topics like these--passion for a career, comedy, women, and hustling for some change--are integral parts of anyone's life, whether they're inhabitants of Tanya Morgan's place of resident or not.
Considering the way that underground Hip Hop can be stigmatized and confined, Tanya Morgan's approach with Brooklynati only made sense: creating their own environment, where their music makes sense without the restrictions, reputations, or bullshit that the industry or naysayers would burden them with. Fortunately, even though the trio is in their own world, their brand of Hip Hop is more versatile than some may give them credit for. If a listener gives Brooklynati a shot, dope beats and rhymes will ensure that they'll enjoy their stay--whether it's for a weekend getaway, or for a new place of residence.