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.

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The Foreign Exchange: Leaving The Old Behind (via Okayplayer)

by +FE on December 24, 2009 at 5:24 AM · Comments
Call me crazy but I used to think artists sat around awaiting Grammy nomination announcements the way NCAA teams gather to await March Madness Tourney selections. I had concocted this preposterous mental scenario that included the artist and their closest family and friends huddled in the living room or studio awaiting the announcement. Although it's a major deal that some artist pursue throughout their entire career to no avail, Phonte Coleman found the peace of mind to sleep when most of the world was anxiously awaiting the 2010 selections.

Nominated for "Daykeeper" off their latest project Leave It All Behind, The Foreign Exchange, comprised of Nicolay and Phonte (Little Brother) feels the love. The group that came to existence via the Okayplayer message boards has received warm reception from domestic and international crowds. The overall success of this album in and outside of their "traditional" fan base has been somewhat surreal. Compared to Connected, Leave It All Behind is a more soulful R&B inspired album. Criticized by some for being too R&B, Foreign Exchange remains unaffected by these negative observations and continue to make music they can trust and believe in.

Based in North Carolina, Foreign Exchange do not have the luxury of large marketing budgets from record labels. Their growth is organic, authentic, and honest. Fresh off of probably one of the busiest weeks phone call wise, Foreign Exchange took a little time to discuss their most recent project and its success with the medium that can be credited with being the actual birthplace of the now Grammy nominated group.

OKP: First of all, congratulations on the Grammy nod. Rewind back to the night you received news of your nomination. Thoughts? The first person you called? First person to call you?

Phonte: I got a call from Aimee. She was like, "WE GOT NOMINATED". I was like, "Okay" and went back to sleep. It was a shock though. It finally sunk in when I saw all of the text messages the next morning.

Nicolay: It took about a day to sink in. It was unexpected. I mean we submitted the album ourselves. We believe in our project but we didn't do all of the "political" nonsense that goes into wooing the committee.

OKP: It has been discussion amongst your fans that Leave it All Behind is a different album from Connected. Some fans haven't been too receptive toward the change. Is this nomination extra sweet given the mixed attitudes?

Phonte: Definitely. You don't like to say I told you so. But it's nice to know that you listened to your heart rather than take the safe route.

OKP: What does this nomination mean for the future of Foreign Exchange creatively?

Nicolay: Free Drinks in the club. LOL. We've had a great year regardless of the nomination happening. We were able to push the album for a much longer time than most artists are able to. This helps in our push of Yahzarah and ZO!, and Phonte's solo albums.

Phonte: The music on Leave It All Behind is where we are at right now. We wanted to switch it up. It's definitely indicative of our future.

OKP: Other than your meeting vehicle, how has the internet helped expand your brand and/or mission?

Nicolay: The internet has been critical. It provided us with a way to record an album and find our fans in Japan, Europe, Africa, and etc. It has aided in getting our music to the people who enjoy it.

OKP: Phonte you Tweet a lot (@phontigallo). Has twitter helped you recognize just how vast and supportive your fan base is?

Phonte: In some ways yes. But most importantly it has helped me realize how alike your experiences are. I may tweet , "Damn, watching Dora" and one of my fans might say, "Awe man I have to watch that with my little girl too." That's social media for you. People want to feel connected. You don't just use it for album promo. It shows how real you are as a musician/celebrity. I use it for connection.

OKP: Nicolay, the tracks from your Off the Shelf series are quite different the music we are hearing now.

Nicolay: Every now and then I go through demos and stuff in progress. Stuff that didn't move because of politics. That's where Off the Shelf comes from, it's still me and I want the fans to hear it.

OKP: The Minstrel Show addressed a few of the creative issues effecting rap music in 2005. What is your temperature on the current state of music as we end 2009 and this decade?

Phonte: Music is better than ever. You can get straight to your fans. For consumers, they can bypass the irrelevant music to get to what they really want. If you're upset with music, it's because it's your fault. There is a lot of BS out there, but I stay out of touch with it. For once we have a choice.

Nicolay: I agree. It's an exciting time. You can fully have control. We're lucky a lot of people have fought the battles (online file sharing) before us. A lot of artist will be able to release albums because of the freedom and flexibility present in music now.

OKP: So what were some of your favorite projects of 2009?

Phonte: Jaspects' Polka Dotted Stripes and Saunders Sermons' A Classic Delight... Those two ruled my 2009 other than our records.

Nicolay: I listen to so much older music that this is kinda hard for me. I like the Grizzly Bear Veckatimest. (laughs) I know Phonte wasn't down with that.

Phonte: (breaks in) No I wasn't.

Nicolay: I also bought the new Swell Season. OKP: And I always ask this question, to wrap things up. What song could you wake up to every morning?

Phonte: "I can't help it" by Michael Jackson
Nicolay: "Life can be so Nice" by Prince and the Revolution

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