Representative of how the Internet can aid in creating music, The Foreign Exchange started when Little Brother rapper Phonte heard a beat on Okayplayer.com by Dutch producer Nicolay and asked if he could lay some vocals over it. Nicolay agreed, and the song "Light It Up" appeared shortly after as the B-side to "Whatever You Say" off Little Brother's 2003 album, The Listening. Relying mainly on Instant Messenger and email, the duo continued to work together, with Nicolay sending beats to Phonte, who would add vocals and send them back until they had enough tracks together to form an album. Not once during the entire process of making their debut, Connected, which came out in 2004, did the members of the Foreign Exchange speak over the phone or in person.
The complete set of original Connected-era wallpapers designed by FWMJ
Image if Black Thought could sing like D'Angelo and did an album produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and DJ Spinna. That's the unlikely union that makes [The] Foreign Exchange's Connected
so special. Little Brother's Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay connected via the Internet, and through a potent mix of battle-ready lyricism, falsetto crooning and European ambient grooves, they create Hip-Hop music from outside the box. Playing double duty as MC and singer, Phonte transcends flaccid R&B while reconnecting Hip-Hop with its exorcised soul. The poetic pendulum swings from the chest-thumping of "Raw Life" and "Let's Move" to the passionate confessions of "Sincere" and "Be Alright", where Phonte laments: "I scream, 'Fuck the world' but Mother Nature is taking Ortho now/Tryin' to regulate our stress and pain also now." Unfortunately though, you'll probably have to fly to Nicolay's home country to hear this inspired record on the radio.
on August 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM ·
[...] Engaged in a far more healthy relationship are Little Brother's Phonte and Netherlands-based producer/instrumentalist Nicolay. Together, the unlikely duo is The Foreign Exchange, a partnership initiated a few years back when Phonte heard Nic's instro tracks posted on okaplayer.com and passed the Dutch (beat)master an email asking if he could spit over them. Bubbling with soulful, mellow warmth, the resulting album, Connected (BBE), is both an exemplary program of neo-Soulquarian groovology (the Big Pooh-assisted "Nic's Groove"), and a rewarding conceptual piece about people getting along in the face of adversity ("Be Alright", "Brave New World"). The inspired "All That You Are" in particular typifies the latter steez, with Phonte candidly discussing stress with wifey (("Before we had a kid/We should have had a clue") before resolving to show and self-improve ("I'm trying to be a better man, please believe me/Ready and God willing if you're ready to teach me"). Given its organic sound, however, Connected earns ultimate props for how well these hip-hop pen pals transcended cultural gaps and technological limitations (they recorded the entire album via emailed and IM-ed sound files without ever meeting face to face). You ain't never heard computer love like this.