We Like Movies and Stories: An Interview with Von Pea

What else can I say about this man that hasn’t been said over the course of the past six or so years? Von Pea, one-third of the group Tanya Morgan, has been nothing short of a force in the underground world of hip-hop, carving out a distinct niche in which the traditional aesthetics of hip-hop’s origins collide with a modern take on soulful sampling, lyrics, and album concepts. Well, Von Pea’s got a new album in stores right this moment called Pea’s Gotta Have It.

I got a chance to catch up with Von amid his crazy schedule, to talk about all things Tanya Morgan and Von Pea. Hit the skip to check out what he had to say.

Potholes In My Blog: How’s it going Von? Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us.

Von Pea: It’s been pretty good. Just came back from A3C, and I’m gearing up for the release. It’s pretty good – I can’t complain.

PIMB: Just a little more than a year ago, Tanya Morgan exploded with Brooklynati in a major way. Besides recording the new album, Pea’s Gotta Have It, what all have you been up to since then?

VP: A lot of shows. I’ve been trying to keep on, because we’re still promoting that album as well. We’re still promoting Donwill’s solo album, Don Cusack, and now mine. So that promoting three albums at once.

PIMB: You tend to steer clear of traditional hip-hop stereotypes in your music. Who all were some of your main influences that really made you want to emcee?

VP: Honestly, De La Soul. We’ve been compared to them a lot. You know it was almost unavoidable, but it was never like, “Let’s make this song like De La did it.” We always approached our hip-hop like, “Let’s make this song in the most natural way we can,” but inevitably it might end up sounding like De La. You know, it’s like how someone might end up with the same laugh that their father had. Other than that, The Roots – of course – also OutKast, and Common. Then there’s some West Coast cats thrown in there too.

PIMB: Before we dive into the new album, just a quick question for all the people who might be curious: where did the name Tanya Morgan come from?

VP: That was just a name we came up with based on the first album. We weren’t supposed to remain a group. We just were doing a one-off. We started in 2004, so we were inspired by Madvillain, and the way they came together. We wanted to make this group and moonlight as this group. [Get it? Moonlighting?] Somewhere along the early recordings, we thought it would be funny if we camouflaged the album cover as some woman’s face as Tanya Morgan. It’d be a big practical joke; people would buy it for the cover but really it’d be rap instead. Then from there the group thing took off, and we were stuck with the name, but it was really working for us.

PIMB: Diving on into Pea’s Gotta Have It, there’s an interesting story behind the genesis of this album. Can you talk a bit about how you came up with the album’s concept?

VP: I don’t remember which was first – the chicken or the egg – but at one point, in 2007, I was reorganizing my bedroom and came across my high school yearbook and journal. I took the time to just start reading the journal, and some of the stories were so funny, especially in the way I was saying them. I had never really stopped to look at how I had changed and matured. So to me, to see that this was me and how I used to be was so funny. Looking back through the yearbook, I remembered this girl and that guy and all these memories. Then I went onto Facebook to start looking up people and what they were doing now. So I was caught in this whole high school mentality for a day or two.

This is when we just started recording Brooklynati, but I wanted to do something on my own because of this experience. So I made a high school song, and I wanted to do some more. I began just going through and rapping like I was in high school, but I wasn’t thinking about doing an album yet. So it all unfolded naturally, and before I knew it, I had a solo album. I had no plan before, but this became it, the natural way, so I stuck with that.

PIMB: What is it about concept albums that appeals to you and the other members of Tanya Morgan?

VP: We like movies and stories. Before I made music I wanted to be a director, but I got bored with all the technical parts of that [laughs]. We like music videos with themes to them, and that’s just a personality thing really. I didn’t set out to make a concept album. I remember when Donwill set out to do Don Cusack, I was there for that conversation. They had the DVD for High Fidelity, and a few days later it just happened. For Brooklynati, that was just a name – a city – and it wasn’t until later that we developed the concept for the maps and the stories. It’s almost unavoidable in a sense. I think it comes from The Roots actually, because even though they didn’t make straight concept albums, they always had a definite angle. You know, this is The Tipping Point, this is where things fell apart, this is how we got over. So I think that carried over to us.

PIMB: You’ve been rocking with producer Brickbeats, among others from the beginning, and he’s even got some new material on Pea’s Gotta Have It. What’s it been like to have Brickbeats and really an entire group of artists that have been loyal from the jump?

VP: A lot of people may not know, but we started out because of people we were fans of since day one. You know, Che Grand, Jermiside, Brickbeats, and Spec Boogie. We were all fans of each other, and people didn’t know them yet. We all became this collective, and got our names out there. Nobody’s my cousin, I’m not trying to put anybody on, we’re just all fans. I remember when I first met Che Grand I was almost star-struck because I liked his music so much. We’re still like that to this day – there are brand new people coming out who I’m a big fan of – and they might be fans of us. I just look at it as a blessing that these people are down to work with me.

PIMB: You’ve branched out and worked with a number of artists over the course of your career. Are there any artists out right now that are still on your wishlist of people to work with one day?

VP: I love working with Homeboy Sandman, and AOK. I’m a big fan of these dudes Actual Proof; they signed with 9th Wonder out of North Carolina. And on that note, I’d love to work with [Rapper Big] Pooh. I’ve done a track with 9th, I’ve done a track with Phonte, but I’ve never done a track with Pooh. I want a Tanya Morgan/Diamond District song badly. I’m going to try to make that happen for the next album. I’m also a big fan of Pac Div and people like that.

PIMB: What else is in store for you for the rest of this year and on into 2011? Are there plans for some more touring?

VP: Yeah, you know we have a few things in store. CMJ, Miami, Texas. I think for early December we’re trying to put together some stuff in the Northeast and on into Canada. So I’ll be touring, promoting my album, making some videos for myself and Don Cusack. We’re going to get rolling on a new Tanya Morgan album too.

PIMB: Thanks for chatting. Any last words for the fans out there?

VP: Just, the album is out. Get it. Get it the right way. Or get it the wrong way first and then go get it the right way. Support good music.

[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/03-The-Yorker.mp3|titles=Von Pea – “The Yorker”]

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