Artist: Tanya MorganTitle: MoonlightingRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Sidik Fofana

The life of an underground emcee is like that of a door-to-door salesman’s. Without the luxury of a mainstream following, the subterranean emcee has about two minutes of album time to sell his product. More difficult to move than say kitchen knives or pre-paid insurance, the underground emcee has to peddle his voice as a reliable authority. Tanya Morgan-not the next Jill Scott, but an enclave of three thoughtful MCs (Von Pea, Ilyas and Donwill) hailing from Brooklyn and Cincinnati-takes a succinct stab at it. Their latest two cent offering is the very patient but percussive Moonlighting (Loud Minority Music). By choosing to say right from the get go that, “The last time Brooklyn and Cincinnati got together, it was a classic,” (read: Reflection Eternal) on “The Warm Up,” five more minutes of our attention is granted.

It’s difficult to picture when crews like A Tribe Called Quest held dominion over mainstream America, so it’s just as difficult to brand Tanya Morgan as more than just another underground Hip-Hop act. As smoothly as their beats run and as much as their lyrics demonstrate the technique of emceeing, it’s hard to get an audience raised on Sunny Delight to appreciate orange juice. In spite of the odds against it, Moonlighting is an enlightening album because it combines well-crafted lyrics that have both serious and playful elements. Tanya Morgan has crafted a demonstration of Hip-Hop with standards. No gimmicks and very little sex and violence steer the album while still maintaining entertainment value. “The Warm Up” captures that fairy tale of rap where a swell DJ is paired with conscious emcees telling the truth. This is a group of

fun-loving guys and the good natured fun shines in their music. On “Ode to Tanya”, the guys playfully throw salt in each other’s game while trying to win the prized Ms. Morgan. Ilyas says, “I know you like Von Pea and he drives you a bit crazy/ But he’s only campaigning to give you the Dick Cheney.” The enjoyable “Just Cause I Got Locks” also gets an avid “true dat”.

Yet, the same thing that makes Tanya Morgan fun and easy going is what makes

their album come off unpolished at times. Moonlighting sounds like a bunch

of guys ciphering and having good time, but it at times lacks the musicianship that would make their rap gig more than just a part time job for now. In a nutshell, give it a chance. For those of you who want to be exposed to the grassroots of this Hip-Hop movement, here’s the discman, take this right headphone, press play and be the judge. You might be enlightened.