Tag Archives: YGWY$4

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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