5 years ago Tanya Morgan’s Moonlighting dropped on Loud Minority Music/ABB Records. The album was supposed to be a side project for all parties involved but instead “accidentally” helped members Donwill, Von Pea & Ilyas skyrocket to critical acclaim from publications like XXL, Urb & the Source, co-signs from the likes Questlove, Bobbito & Chairman Mao and comparisons to the likes of De La Soul, Blackstar & Little Brother from the hip hop world.
They’ve come a long way since ’06, since then they’ve been lauded as “legends in the making” by Ali Shaheed Muhammed of the legendary group A Tribe Called Quest, “one the groups taking hip hop into the next decade” by XXL in the ’09 Freshman issue and “one of the finest groups of their generation” by the L.A. Times. Anyway, Moonlighting was what jumped it all off and it’ll always be a personal classic to me. It will forever remind me of when I first linked up with TM, wanna hear the story, here it goes:
A little over 5 years ago, Donwill, Von Pea & Ilyas trekked out to Boulder for their first show outside of NY, where they performed on a bill at CU alongside me and Lupe Fiasco (check the video of me DJing for Lupe at that show here). I knew Donwill a little bit from Okayplayer and he’d recently recorded a ridiculous freestyle for my Mixing In Action #1 tape, so when they got out here a day early, Don and Von came out to see me DJ the night before at Hush. Everybody had a blast that night and little did I know, a few months later I’d be DJing for them at CMJ in NYC, then rockin’ with them on a six week long tour of the US and Canada with Hieroglyphics and continuing to rock shows with them after that (plus hopefully many, many more in the future).
I’ll never forget that weekend, my grandmother in Atlanta had just passed but we had some crazy adventures (including coming ‘getting announced by the headliner at the end of the show’ close to crashing a show at the Fox by some group called 3OH!3) that completely distracted me from the situation until I flew back to ATL for her funeral the morning after the show. In retrospect, the weekend was a bit of a turning point in my life, one of those moments that you look back on as the end of one part of your life and the beginning of another, and I’ll always associate Moonlighting with those memories. I feel honored to have linked up with the guys from Tanya Morgan back in 2006, working with artists whose music you believe in is a humbling experience and I’d like to think my Granny would be happy to see what I’ve been up to since that weekend. Don, Von, Il, Dom, Alex & the Lessondary, thanks for the opportunity to work with y’all, Moonlighting was just the start and I know the future holds great things for every one of us.
In 2004 3 men set out to….we still don’t know what we set out to do, but what we DID do is record an album under the name “Tanya Morgan” as an inside joke and titled the album “Moonlighting”. The idea was for the skits on the album to one day become life imitating art. I know for a fact that has actually happened, even down to the short attention span people dismissing the music after one song. We recorded the album before/after work, while working for non-profits, in the grocery store, and being a home attendant. Donwill went to Cali for an art show and ran into Dominic, who was trying to start a record label and had previously agreed to help myself and ilwil separately put our music out. He didn’t know anything about TM, he only knew me from my pre-von sees mixtape (custom fitted) and ilwil from “beat thieves”.
Anyway he heard Moonlighting from Don when he was out there and from that point on it became the little album that could. we we’re told we needed to start some kind of buzz (this was before blogs btw) so we put together the sunlighting mixtape late 2004.
November 2004 we rehearsed in a friend of a friends living room for the first time in BK and they said it was crazy how much chemistry we had (keep in mind at the time we had only been around each other in person ONE other time before this day). We got shut down by the cops at our first show. We made moonlighting shirts with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard on them (realest like Bruce Willis lol) and didn’t even wear them on stage (we wore a shirt and tie on stage). This is also the night that the Lessondary began (the lineup was something like Elucid, Nonameko, Che, Spec, and TM)
then we were told we needed to show we could sell something so we put together the sunset EP mid 2005. Dom found an investor, and finally ABB offered to distribute the album. Early 2006 we all (when I say all I mean ALL. They flew damn near the whole Lessondary out just for cameos. Including Heinz from Toronto) flew out to Cali and shot a video for the song “we be” with Ethan Lader (he does all the dope shit for artists that actually sell now like B.O.B. lol) We won this MTV contest (with the help of OKAYPLAYER.COM’s message board) and got our video played, and finally had a release date for an album we’d been trying to put out for 2 years…that was only a side project. April 4th, 2006.
We got 3.5 mics in the source, while everyone (including the writer) agreed it was a 4 mic review, got laughed at in the vibe 20 questions for our name, became darlings over at XXL thanks to Scott and Datwon (shout to Chairman MAO), and oh yeah, made red cassettes that made people like Questlove, Sucio Smash, and Bobbito fans of the album.
We went on a well documented disaster of a tour to promote it. Its the only project of mines that will ever exist on vinyl, cassette, AND cd. People still come to our shows and get hype when they see we have moonlighting for sale.
Wherever we sit in your mind, just know that it all started with an inside joke and good intentions.
“You Get What You Pay For” coming later this year.
no more music for the suckers.