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RECENT INTERVIEWS
Indie-soul collective Foreign Exchange plays the Cat's Cradle (via The News & Observer)
It seems like only yesterday Phonte Coleman was just a North Carolina rapper/singer, one-third of the up-and-coming hip-hop trio Little Brother. Back then, Coleman was also exchanging music files with an Internet help desk employee and aspiring producer in the Netherlands (Matthijs “Nicolay” Rook), hoping the two could make music together.

Phonte and Nicolay remain focused on The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing)
With their fifth studio album, Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey, The Foreign Exchange has perfected its sophisticated take on R&B, incorporating not only a range of sticky sweet melodies, but also a smattering of nuanced romantic themes like domesticity and compromise. But whatever you do, don't call it ''grown man music.''

The Foreign Exchange Evoke Chaucer on 'Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Exclaim!)
''More than anything else, the biggest crime as an artist is to be boring.'' Phonte Coleman, the primary songwriter, vocalist and animated gif half of the Foreign Exchange, has probably never been at the receiving end of such an accusation. Over the course five albums with partner Nicolay, Phonte has equated love to an excuse, displayed affection through lunchtime chicken wing delivery, and made a gorgeously passive-aggressive ode to the better mate. His songwriting is unparalleled in its combined frankness, humour and relevance in our everyday dalliances.

The Foreign Exchange introduces its own Song of Solomon: 'Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Washington Post)
Phonte Coleman, the rapping, singing half of the hip-hop/R&B duo the Foreign Exchange, has a complicated relationship with religion. When he was growing up, he detested the mandatory trips to his grandmother’s baptist church, so he joined the choir just to make the ordeal more palatable. At least from the choir stand there was an added element of entertainment. Stationed behind the preacher, young Phonte could gaze upon the flock and see who was fanning themselves, who was trying not to fall asleep and who was struggling to stay on beat.

The Foreign Exchange's Nicolay tours to find new inspiration (via IndyWeek)
Phonte Coleman and Matthijs 'Nicolay' Rook keep their distance. Together, they've made several albums, toured the world, been nominated for a Grammy and built a little independent empire under the name The Foreign Exchange. But Coleman raps and sings from Raleigh, while the Dutch-born Nicolay lives in Wilmington. The space between them must be fertile, as they both pursue separate artistic offshoots. Coleman has his hip-hop and TV endeavors, while Nicolay has just released his expansive fourth solo album, City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto, in which he offers up a Euro-soul take on South Africa's native rhythms.

We Be Spirits interviews Nicolay
Nicolay is one of the most eclectic and innovative music producers around, full stop. His first notable achievement as producer came in 2004 after Connected was released – the debut album of The Foreign Exchange, of which he is half. The album was famously recorded with the 'exchange' of electronic files across the Atlantic; the artists meeting only after it had been finished. He has since gone on to cover new and exciting musical ground releasing albums as a solo artist, as well as part of TFE.

Nicolay wraps his experiences abroad into a jazzy album (via Star-News)
It was around 3 a.m. one morning in May of last year when the Wilmington-based musician Nicolay and his neo-soul band, The Foreign Exchange, crossed Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa. They were dead tired from being on tour, and only hours earlier had played a sold-out show for fans they didn't know existed.

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A new song and dance for The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

by +FE on December 3, 2008 at 7:28 AM · Comments
Rapper/singer Phonte is a little nervous, though getting him to admit it takes some coaxing. Yes, he's toured the world for years as one half of the acclaimed rap group Little Brother, but this is the first time that he's ever toured with Nicolay, the Dutch producer with whom he makes up the genre-bending group Foreign Exchange. And even more notable, this is the first time that he's singing the entire way through.

"Nervous? Come on, fam," he exclaims, before laughing and finally succumbing. "Nah, there's always a bit of nervousness. This is literally the first time [Nicolay and I] have ever played together, like ever," he stresses. "But I'm beyond certain we'll do a great job."

His certainty is well founded. When he and Nic first met on Okayplayer.com about seven years ago, they didn't imagine that their cyber-spawned musical relationship would resonate with listeners the way that it has. Phonte was a cipher-approved rapper and Nicolay an obscure producer from overseas, but the chemistry between the two was, and still is, undeniable.

"He's one of the people I trust to do anything," Phonte says. "If he's like 'Yo, I'm about to do a polka track,' I know it's gonna be a hard ass polka track."

While their first album, 2004's Connected, found them relying largely on their hip-hop roots, their follow-up Leave It All Behind paints a completely different picture. The record draws on sprinklings of jazz, downtempo, electronica and soul. Blame it on their willingness not to give a damn about "the rules."

"We just wanted to make music that we liked," says Nicolay, who also has an album out with DJ Jamad, Afro Collabo Vol. 1. "We knew that there would be a little bit of a discussion [because] there's a lot less rapping on the new record, but I'm just happy that a lot of people understood our need to take it where we took it."

The euro may be worth more than the dollar, but Foreign Exchange is equal parts good money.
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