In an era in which immediate Internet ascent and nebulous "buzz" are viewed by many as career apotheosis, Tanya Morgan represent the triumph of the slow, steady grind. Formed out of the amoebic stew of the Okayplayer message board world in the early years of the last decade, the team of Von Pea, Donwill, and Ilyas quickly became a favorite among those in corners of the Web who believed that hip-hop's been sliding downhill since Jay-Z's "Reasonable Doubt" in 1996.
Due to their influences (A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the artists on Rawkus Records) and laidback bent, the Brooklyn- and Cincinnati-bred group was an unlikely candidate to be polarizing. But much of the last decade of hip-hop criticism and message board mongering has been spent drawing lines between those who viewed nostalgia as an inherent evil and those being dragged kicking and screaming into the new era.
Accordingly, Tanya Morgan's early work channeled the Native Tongues and the Lyricist Lounge set, and when they failed to create anything as strong as A Tribe Called Quest's "Low End Theory," a vocal minority immediately and wrongfully dismissed them. Conversely, their admirers championed them as torchbearers of a flame that they never asked to carry. But quietly and stealthily, they've evolved into one of the finest groups of their generation.
2009's "Brooklynati" was hailed as a minor classic in quarters as varied as their Okayplayer stomping grounds, XXL and the Onion's A.V. Club. Even Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed dean of American rock critics, praised their "soul and smarts." But in 2010, the group seemed to take its biggest step forward, with Von Pea and Donwill releasing solo offerings that established them as legitimate solo artists in their own right.