Tanya Morgan – Rubber Souls

Tanya Morgan - Rubber SoulsNeo-soul-hop. Unholy matrimony.

I can be really close-minded sometimes. Maybe all the times, depending on who’s describing me. But eh…I like what I like. The best I can do as a critic is wear that preference on my sleeve so you’re aware of my bias while reading my mean opinions. Today, the size of this piece will serve as a symbol of that sleeve. Because I have few words for Rubber Souls.

Tanya Morgan altered the formula by letting 6th Sense produce everything, and the results are very shoddy. For every good track there’s a bad one and a Tylenol PM instrumental. A lot of the beats have strong neo-soul influences that I hate: weak drums, lots of sugary singing and loops, and no head-nod appeal. I’m just not a fan of the merging of these styles, whether it’s Foreign Exchange, 9th Wonder, or these Tanya Morgan guys. I like my hip-hop to have way more edge. That edge, and a lot of boom-bap, was much more present on their last album, Brooklynatti, but 6th Sense’s beats leave no room for it. Songs like Pick It Up try to do more and fail in other ways. On that song specifically, I’ve no interest in hearing anyone attempt to rap over its spastic, almost-random drums.

But there are at least a few joints on Rubber Souls that I love. They still don’t have much edge, but instead of being so neo-soul-infused they’re a stripped-down, more jazzy version of hip-hop with easy drum patterns and strong bass lines. The Day I and The Vehicle are pretty simple songs, and are much better for that fact. All Em sounds good in a different way, somewhat like a 90s Native Tongues song with bongos. (Somewhat! Please don’t crucify me for for that comparison!)

If it seems like I’m harping on the beats, it’s because there’s even less to write about the rhymes. Von Pea and Donwill aren’t hardcore lyricists, they never change flows on this album, and their delivery is merely so-so, much too calm to draw attention. This style manages to work on tracks cited one paragraph above, but on their attempts to liven things up, like Worldmade, their basic lyrics fail again and again. They’ve been better than this before, so maybe attempting to fit these beats stole their fire?

Verdict: Rubber Souls tends to fall into the background, too easily ignored when just about anything else is happening. It shouldn’t be this hard to listen intently to music! Forcing attention on the lyrics just points out how not great they are, and the beats are either way too sweet or just don’t do anything for me. A few weeks ago, I expected the wannabe-hype songs to grow on me. Obviously, that didn’t happen so now I’m very disappointed. There’s still enough goodness for me to highlight below, but those are the only songs I like. This experiment failed.

Highlights:
1. The Day I
2. All Em
3. The Vehicle (has Spec Boogie and 6th Sense rapping for some much needed lyrical variety. 6th has the nerve to sound pretty good after handing over so many duds for beats)

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