Tag Archives: Donwill

The Best Hip-Hop On Bandcamp: July 2019

hip hop

July’s selection of new rap essentials on Bandcamp include the latest misadventures of the genre’s most endearing oddball, dub-influenced hip-hop vibes direct from the U.K. and a project inspired by the relationship between the iconic Clarks Wallabee shoe and hip-hop culture. We also get familiar with a rapper infatuated with freaky plague doctor masks.

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On His Latest LP, Donwill Takes Stock of His Career


It’s a balmy spring afternoon in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and Donwill is taking a break between his second and third loads of laundry to chat about his new album, One Word No Space. The 12-track project brims with the sort of concept-focussed songs that characterize the rapper’s previous releases, including 2011’s Don Cusack in High Fidelity, based on the John Cusack movie name-checked in the title, and the run of albums he recorded as part of Tanya Morgan, a group whose music radiates the clear influence of Native Tongues. But this time around, the 42-year-old’s gotten more vulnerable in his songwriting, penning verses that document his journey to figure out his identity and his place in the world over soulful but sturdy production delivered by his bandmate Von Pea.

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How Tanya Morgan Became A Rap Group and Sustained Itself Over The Years

Tanya Morgan

The first time you hear the name “Tanya Morgan,” you may think someone is talking about an obscure ‘80s R&B singer. In fact, Tanya Morgan is a rap group, comprised of lyricists Von Pea and Donwill, who met through Okayplayer’s message boards, and who then invited Don’s old rhyming partner Ilyas to join the fold. When the time came to name the trio, Donwill simply typed the name into AOL Instant Messenger, and liked the way it looked. That’s it. “We kept coming up with names, but I went back to that one,” Von Pea says. Using the Internet as their entry point, TM crafted music through their computers, marketing themselves online long before the web shaped and redefined the way music is accessed.

By the group’s own admission, their 2006 debut, Moonlighting, is essentially a collection of lo-fi first takes, but it showed enough potential to earn cosigns from esteemed tastemakers like The Roots’ bandleader Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. But just three years later, following the release of 2009’s Brooklynati, Ilyas left the group, though the members say his departure didn’t generate any bad blood.

Now, the group is gearing up to release their first full-length in nearly four years, YGWY$4. The album’s acronym stands for “You Get What You Pay For,” a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the way the music industry’s turn towards streaming has affected consumer appreciation for the worse. We spoke with all three of Tanya Morgan’s original members—as well as Dominic Del Bene, a close associate who worked with TM behind the scenes—about building their professional careers from the ground up, unorthodox ways of getting known, struggling as a unit through the hardships of the indie tour circuit, why Ilyas left the group, and the brotherhood that binds them to this day.

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The Lessondary Crew’s Debut Arrives, Right on Time


“This is the most overdue project ever. It almost turned into Dr. Dre’s ‘Detox.’” —Ilyas Nashid

When the Lessondary, a crew of rappers and producers from across the Eastern seaboard, finished their debut album earlier this spring, they decided to title it Ahead of Schedule. It’s an inside joke that the ensemble’s long-suffering fans will understand.

“The project was named Ahead of Schedule because this is the most overdue project ever,” says Ilyas Nashid. “It almost turned into Dr. Dre’s Detox.”

Like most of the Lessondary’s output, Ahead of Schedule is the work of a group steeped in the traditions and peculiarities of rap culture. Like Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook of electro-soul group the Foreign Exchange, the members met one other on The Lesson, a subforum on Okayplayer.com’s message board, and drew inspiration from Native Tongues, the early ‘90s collective centered on Afrocentric pioneers De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest. Formed around 2004, Lessondary emerged during a brief and often-overlooked moment in the genre’s history—when the soul-inflected, civic-minded boom-bap of Talib Kweli, Common and Mos Def had begun to lose its stranglehold on the independent rap scene, but the consumerist and inward-looking pop ethos of Drake, Big Sean, J. Cole and other “Leaders of the New Cool” had yet to replace it.

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