Home
+FE MUSIC RELEASES
Phonte and Eric Roberson - Tigallerro
Phonte and Eric Roberson
Tigallerro

''Seemingly created without fuss, Tigallerro is made of relaxed yet moving grooves, supplied by a cast of over of a dozen, that often evoke sunny and carefree Saturday afternoons. The two occasionally play around with some commercial trends, but they remain themselves, as grown men who descriptively sing about everyday romantic highs and lows, whether they're recalling contentment or regretting transgressions.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey
The Foreign Exchange
Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey

'' This North Carolina-based outfit have gone from outliers to one of the most consistent acts in R&B'' - Michael J. Warren for Exclaim! [Click here to read the full review]

''What Milk And Honey and other gems off of Tales… proves is that there’s still plenty of milk in them there hills. Highly recommended.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''Milk and Honey is a victory lap and a nice step forward in the group’s creative progress.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey is one of the funnest R&B albums in some time.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto
Nicolay
City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

''Nicolay's ability to honor South African musical tradition without just copying its style gives the record as a whole a much appreciated sense of authenticity.'' - The Kommish for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay is a most sophisticated sonic tourist, able to link the foreign to the domestic, the past to the present with a singular style.'' - Brandon Soderberg for IndyWeek [Click here to read the full review]

''As much as we love The Foreign Exchange, it's great to hear Nicolay stepping out on his own once in while, too, especially when the result is something as swoon-worthy as the soul-funk jam The Secret.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Where Shibuya felt like a scenic stroll through Tokyo’s nightlife, Soweto is lush and vibrant, carried by a persistent thump that picks up steam as the album progresses. This isn't an album of singles; it’s a summery mix of breezy dance tunes, sequenced without pauses for a unified listening experience.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Radiant synthesizer melodies, jutting drums and probing basslines, and certain percussion accents are neatly woven through fusions of jazz-funk, house, broken beat, and downtempo electronic music'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Love In Flying Colors
The Foreign Exchange
Love In Flying Colors

''Love In Flying Colors holds up as another solid and thoroughly enjoyable outing from the group; those acquainted with the group's previous output (2004's Connected, 2008's Leave It All Behind, 2010's Authenticity) will also note how much its music has matured into a style noteworthy for being so cohesive and fully integrated. And, finally, this latest collection from the community-minded collective is all the more welcome when one considers how few other groups currently operate within The Foreign Exchange's chosen stylistic zone.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''The production and heart found on the album makes for universal appeal, not just in tone and sentimentality, but as music easily embraced by fans of various genres. Not afraid to be positive and unapologetic, “Love in Flying Colors” is electronic infused R&B with soulful elegance that provides listeners something fresh. At the very least, it’s a sultry sounding lament to waking up anew, happy with a better outlook. At most, it’s smooth sounding delivery will result in constant rotation. One of the year’s best.'' - Brian Tucker for Star-News [Click here to read the full review]

''De ster van het album is zodoende de man die normaal gesproken op de achtergrond staat: de producer. De muziek is op Love in Flying Colors niet ondersteunend voor de zang, maar andersom; Phonte’s bijdrage staat in dienst van de beats van Nicolay. Dat is een compliment voor het werk van onze landgenoot, maar het roept ook de vraag op of hij na een samenwerking van bijna tien jaar de Amerikaan niet is ontgroeid. Met dit album vestigt Nicolay zich in ieder geval definitief aan de productionele top, nationaal en mondiaal.'' - Jasper Veenstra for State Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''When Nicolay Rook's production opens up to multiple genres at once and Phonte Coleman opens his heart, Love in Flying Colors wins with a singular kind of sincerity.'' - Brandon Soderberg for Indy Week [Click here to read the full review]

''With Love In Flying Colors, the pair prove once again that they are in a class all their own.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Love In Flying Colors is as consistently enjoyable as one should expect. If you’re already a fan, most likely you’re already bumping this album. If you’re not yet a fan, what are you waiting for?'' - MJ for Popblerd! [Click here to read the full review]

''This is all-out openness and clarity, which, for better or for worse, is just a little more grown-up.'' - Kyle Kramer for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Love in Flying Colors is lyrically as insightful, reflective and unabashedly truthful as anything found on the collective’s increasingly enviable catalog. Musically, Nicolay has ensured the new project will be, for fans, like sliding your feet back into warm and comfortable house slippers.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''This is aggressively sophisticated R&B that makes no apologies for its brains or its lost-in-love sincerity.'' - Brandon Soderberg for SPIN [Click here to read the full review]

''Layered overtop of Nicolay's ever-evolving yet signature electro-soul sound, Love in Flying Colors is steeped in an honest, vulnerable lyricism bolstered by dreamy, feel-good synth vibes regarding the complex emotion called love and all it represents.'' - Ryan B. Patrick for Exclaim! [Click here to read the full review]

''A series of successful, calculated musical risks push The Foreign Exchange to new heights on Love In Flying Colors.'' - Andrew Gretchko for HipHopDX [Click here to read the full review]

''Like each of their previous efforts, Love In Flying Colors is a melting pot of R&B and soul that transcends the manufactured dreck found in much of mainstream R&B.'' - D-Money for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''In 2013, it takes a certain level of bravery to make R&B this open-hearted, joyous, and musical. U.K. acts like 4hero, New Sector Movements, and Bugz in the Attic were doing it in the early 2000s, but none of them put it together quite like this, in one concentrated shot, with the songwriting on the same high level as the productions and arrangements. This crew is elite.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

Zo! - ManMade
Zo!
ManMade

''ManMade is a complete work -- his best creation yet.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange presents +FE Music: The Reworks
Various Artists
+FE Music: The Reworks

''+FE Music: The Reworks provides a fabulous primer to the listener new to The Foreign Exchange's world. It's music of incredibly high quality and broad scope that also brings the outfit's family vibe into even clearer focus.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''More than a set of remixes, The Reworks is a showcase for Phonte and Nicolay's immediate and extended Foreign Exchange Music family -- the duo's like-named group, the artists supported by the label, and their affiliates and peers.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''The Reworks serves as both an affirmation for long time fans and a nice introductory overview of the +FE Music catalog for new listeners.'' - Chuck Nunley for Soul Train [Click here to read the full review]

''The remixes and the original songs make +FE Music: The Reworks more than your typical label compilation and/or collection of B-sides. It also doesn’t sound like a sloppily thrown together collection of remixes, a problem that arises more often than not on albums of this breed. There’s a clear sonic vision that’s defined on here as soon as “So What If It Is” pulses through your speakers, and it doesn’t fade until you hear the final kickdrum of “ACSlater”.'' - Andrew Martin for Potholes In My Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''The fifth F.E. release under the group’s lead moniker is a gorgeous retrospective of the major works and highlights of the last nine years of the entire F.E. family, past and present. Favorites get flipped and tracks that might have previously been throwaways now potentially become new favorites with this reworking of F.E. classics. '' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

Phonte - Charity Starts At Home
Phonte
Charity Starts At Home

''Tastemakers may have rediscovered this former leader of backpack-rap heroes Little Brother thanks to his neo-soul project Foreign Exchange and frequent shout-outs from unabashed fan Drake. But Phonte Coleman never stopped making hearty, soulful hip-hop that sticks to your ribs. Rejoining estranged LB producer 9th Wonder, he builds with Big K.R.I.T. and Pharoahe Monch, addressing strained relationships ("Who Loves You More") and sympathizing with unemployed folks ("The Good Fight"). As he puts it on "Everything is Falling Down": "Don't need a new style / Being dope is always in fashion."'' - SPIN Staff for SPIN Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Charity Starts at Home proves that none of Phonte’s talents are obsolete and he can merge all of them into one cohesive project that’s as much of a treat as any of his other endeavors, if not more. '' - Andre Barnes for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Though we hear Phonte say in the song's opening moments, “I'm a work-in-progress, tryin' to get better,” Charity Starts At Home clearly demonstrates that this “work-in-progress” is already very far along.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Phontigallo’s charitable proverbs won’t impeach the current crop of glitzy media magnets, but then again, that Maturity fellow was never meant to be the life of the party. With a project that’s complete as four walls and a double layered roof, Charity Starts at Home is worth its market value and then some.'' - TC for The Smoking Section [Click here to read the full review]

''With his gloriously grown-up solo debut, one of the smartest, most incisive lyricists alive proves it’s possible to grow older in hip-hop while retaining your dignity. '' - Nathan Rabin for The A.V. Club [Click here to read the full review]

''Phonte reminds his listeners that while he’d rather carry a tune, he can still carry 16 bars a lot further than most rappers. Let that boy sauté.'' - Marcus Moore for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''With its substantial subject matter, solid production and tightly-woven sequencing, Charity Starts At Home does exactly what a solo debut should: showcases the artist’s skill set and personality all at once. Frankly, this disc solidifies Phonte’s place as one of the best emcees to ever emerge from below the Mason Dixon line—and with his consistent catalog, future releases are likely to only help the case.'' - William E. Ketchum III for HipHop DX [Click here to read the full review]

''Pulling out the crystal ball, one sees Charity Starts at Home on the year-end best of lists.'' - Ryan B. Patrick for Exclaim.ca [Click here to read the full review]

''Praised as a member of Little Brother and The Foreign Exchange, Phonte gets solo shine on Charity Starts At Home. 'Dance In The Reign' is a potent display of Tigallo's lyrical talents, and he also reveals sides of introspection ('Everything Is Falling Down') and storytelling ('Sendin My Love'). Sonically soulful thanks to a heavy 9th Wonder touch, CSAH is a reminder why Tay has been an underground darling for years.'' - Adam Fleischer for XXL Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Authenticity
The Foreign Exchange
Authenticity

''The Foreign Exchange go from strength to strength, and this is one of my albums of the year.'' - for Oh Drat [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity documents The Foreign Exchange's still-continuing drive towards defining itself, and one expects that the next chapter might very well find the group inhabiting a vastly different place from the one captured on Authenticity. '' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''With Authenticity, they have further expanded their sound to include elements of blues, folk and country with equal amounts of love and respect. Their sound is a constant evolution of ideas from the classically trained and experimental Nicolay and the American R&B and hip-hop sensibilities of Phonte that never fails to surprise with its complexity and beauty.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''The Netherlands to North Carolina never felt so close together.'' - Scotty Pippen for URB [Click here to read the full review]

''A work of hushed intimacy and unabashed romanticism that uses synthesizers to create incongruously organic, natural-sounding grown-folks R&B.'' - Nathan Rabin for The A.V. Club [Click here to read the full review]

''Clocking in at 38 minutes, Phonte and Nicolay (aka the 21st Century indie version of The System) have created an album that many have tried their entire careers to make. By questioning the genuineness of romantic relationships (some may call it cynicism), Phonte and Nicolay have made the personal universal. Quite an accomplishment.'' - Stephen Johnson for New York Amsterdam News [Click here to read the full review]

''The team of Phonté Coleman and Nicolay continue on their foray of making beautiful soul music with a sound similar to their last album, the heralded Leave It All Behind.'' - for The Napster Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''Where Leave It All Behind was an ode to being in love, Authenticity trafficks in stories of exhaustion, resignation, and quiet, mannered desperation that find the group exploring new musical territories.'' - Craig Jenkins for Potholes In My Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity amply lives up to the high expectations created by previous Foreign Exchange releases. It’s easy to forget that it’s only the group’s third release, given how highly revered they are on the indie soul scene. When you consider how much Nic and Phonte’s music has developed over the course of those three albums, Authenticity is nothing short of outstanding.'' - for SoulCuts [Click here to read the full review]

''The Foreign Exchange have made yet another formidable entry into their catalog, seemingly impervious to outside forces in a genre of music that’s got a hard-on for conformity. '' - Sean Kantrowitz for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''An adult contemporary record that is actually musically and emotionally sophisticated in the vein of Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Everything But the Girl (...), cementing the Foreign Exchange as one of the artists at the forefront of contemporary R&B's avant-garde.'' - Tal Rosenberg for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is a concise, cohesive effort that finds The Foreign Exchange again successfully pushing the boundaries of R&B, soul, electronic music, and hip-hop.'' - Andrew Martin for Prefix Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''The third chapter in The Foreign Exchange's saga does what any good page-turning novel does--it engrosses you in a tale, then just when you think you have everything figured out and know what's going to happen next, the plot twists, throwing you for a loop. Authenticity is the latest twist for The Foreign Exchange, and their musical story is only getting juicier. '' - Butta for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is a must-buy for R&B fans, not to mention one of the most musically pleasing examples of international relations.'' - Kelsey Miller for Live Music Guide [Click here to read the full review]

''During the entire set Nicolay provides Phonte the perfect platform for him to talk about the ups and downs of love which allows “Authenticity” to serve as another reminder of how well these two work together. '' - Kil for The Couch Sessions [Click here to read the full review]

''If you’ve loved or even been deep in like, this album will resonate with you beyond some comparison of albums or desire for the familiar. Experiences like this album are why The Foreign Exchange Music group is my currently my favorite musical brand right now and for the foreseeable future. In a time where folks aren’t talking musical chances because the dollar has trumped expression, and being hot is more important than being good, Authenticity stands out just like the leaf on the album cover.'' - Saule Wright for Soulections.com [Click here to read the full review]

''With their third album and second full soul offering continues to show Phonte’s harmonic prowess and Nicolay’s versatility.'' - Bunneh3000 for Blogcritics Music [Click here to read the full review]

''Breakups are the worst; but whether you’re fresh out of a split or still living in a relationship that ended months or years ago, being authentic to yourself can help get you through it. With their combo of lucid lyrics and matching instrumentals, Foreign Exchange can show you how.'' - William Ketchum for The Well Versed [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay and Phonte have released another certified classic that will surely be regarded as one of, if not the, best release of 2010.'' - Soul UK for Soul UK [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is the music that represents the love of our generation, and we have plenty of love to give, despite what previous generations may think.'' - for Rawemag [Click here to read the full review]

''Ultimately, Authenticity showcases the individual and collective growth of The Foreign Exchange. Dutch producer Nicolay is known for his dense and sleek recordings, but here he strips his sound, leaving room for Phonte’s burgeoning abilities as a songwriter and composer. The duo’s new album won’t help you find love, but it could help you stay in it.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Washington City Paper [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity, is a love letter, but one told in reverse, and one that sees no point in sparing feelings.'' - Rebecca Haithcoat for LA Weekly [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is unadulterated truth, innocent candor and sheer genius.'' - Nekeya O'Connor for ThisIsRealMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''More moody, modern R&B that sounds like nothing else and reveals remarkable depth, Authenticity is neither an everyday nor an every-day album, unless playing it is necessary for the sake of convalescence. '' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity's uniquely autumn atmosphere, matter-of-fact vocals, and august, love weary lyricism invites travellers into yet another magical world orbiting in FE's ever-expanding electro-soul universe.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

Zo! - SunStorm
Zo!
SunStorm

''Much praise to Zo! and The Foreign Exchange crew for giving us another positive and community-spirited recording refreshingly free of misogyny and hate. '' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''With SunStorm, Zo! successfully marries his aesthetic to The Foreign Exchange's for a project that is as seamless as it is timeless.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Washington City Paper [Click here to read the full review]

''With a wide range of energies, moods, and tempos, Zo! has delivered a home run of soul that should be celebrated. Highly recommended.'' - B.J. Bunneh Brown for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''This is true music, and Zo! has revealed himself as a musician of the highest order.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Though it's clear that his musical influences are vast, Zo! manages to craft a sound that is distinctly his own. So sit back, relax and prepare to be taken on the best musical ride your ears will take all year. '' - Ivory for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''True to its title, SunStorm emits a constant flow of radiant, positive energy'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''I do not doubt that this album will make it to the top of many a year-end list come December, and rightfully so. I’d even go as far as to whisper the words ‘Grammy worthy’ … after all the Foreign Exchange have already made their mark there. I guess only time will tell, but if Sunstorm is anything to go by, then we have MUCH more to look forward too from Zo! and friends in the future.'' - for Soul UK [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya
Nicolay
City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

''Relaxed, contemplative, and cucumber cool in its approach to nouveau -80s electronica, Nicolay's Shibuya demonstrates why the Great Dutch is in demand as an indie soul and hip hop producer.'' - L. Michael Gipson for Soul Tracks [Click here to read the full review]

''Another unassuming gem from one of the most creative and increasingly chameleonic producers around.'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay's Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2 exudes the kind of effervescent joy one experiences when visiting an exotic new land for the first time.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay captures the excitement of this faraway land like a child chasing a butterfly as it floats away on a gentle breeze. (...) No matter where you are, the intricate layers of Shibuya transport you to another place.'' - Candace L. for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay's new found vision is a refreshing journey of live instrumentation and programmed drum beats.'' - Landon A. for URB Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''I encourage you to listen to City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya and allow Nicolay to transport you into another level of collective creativity.'' - Fave for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''The 15-track LP showcases a highly finessed producer who continues to grow.'' - Eric Tullis for Independent Weekly [Click here to read the full review]

''A well conceptualized project for mature ears that is indicative of Phonte's song-writing prowess as well as Nicolay's dexterity on the boards.'' - Eldorado Red for Redlightdistrikt [Click here to read the full review]

''We hear a new and even more musical side of Nicolay. Or maybe he's just letting us get to know him better with each subsequent release. Either way, we recommend buying City Lights Volume 2 right away, and visiting Nicolay's Shibuya as soon as you can.'' - Zane for Leisure Lab [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Leave It All Behind
The Foreign Exchange
Leave It All Behind

''The Foreign Exchange may have just earned an unexpected promotion.'' - Ian Cohen for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Leave It All Behind can't be recommended highly enough and deserves to be considered one of the year's best releases, regardless of genre.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''It's rare that an emcee is so capable as a songwriter and it's equally as rare, today especially, that a duo with an excellent debut can follow that album up with something completely new and fantastic.'' - Andrew Martin for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

''With electronic and live sounds, emotional production and excellent vocals from some of the underground scene’s best, Leave It All Behind is an open and experimental take on hip-hop and soul, highly successful, at that.'' - Norman Mayers for Prefix Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Once the album’s final note has faded out, you’ll want to listen again, because in the presence of such impeccable chemistry, it’s hard to Leave It All Behind.'' - Jeff Harvey for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''Leave It All Behind is a concise and complete set of songs that brings out the best of both producer Nicolay and Phonte.'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - Here
Nicolay
Here

''Nicolay has tastefully managed to convey his love through (and, quite aptly, of) music by combining swirling instrumentation and inherent emotion in every track on the album.'' - Steven J. Horowitz for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Connected
The Foreign Exchange
Connected

''The Foreign Exchange's LP is a successful blend of artistry.'' - Dominic Umile for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

''Connected is a sweltering, improbable 14-track symphony teeming with potent lyricism and subtle, lustrous rhythmatics.'' - Jamin Warren for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Through a potent mix of battle-ready lyricism, falsetto crooning and European ambient grooves, [The Foreign Exchange] create Hip-Hop music from outside the box.'' - Jerry L. Barrow for The Source [Click here to read the full review]

''Bubbling with soulful, mellow warmth, Connected is both an exemplary program of neo-Soulquarian groovology and a rewarding conceptual piece about people getting along in the face of adversity.'' - Chairman Mao for XXL [Click here to read the full review]

You are here: HOME » REVIEWS

The Foreign Exchange makes Atlanta connection; new album in the works (via Atlanta Hip-Hop Music Examiner)

by +FE on July 6, 2010 at 11:21 AM · Comments
Atlanta was ready for The Foreign Exchange. On a warm Friday night in late May, their show at Midtown's Masquerade was filled with the grown and sexy people of what the music industry calls "urban alternative." The mostly coupled-up coterie was formed by women in colorful dresses and sandals and men in button-downs and jeans or graphic T-shirts bearing images of rock and hip-hop icons. If you didn't get close to the front, you could bob and weave your way to a better view through the afroed and loc-ed up folks that made of up the majority of the standing room only area. And the numbers didn't lie; the capacity crowd of the venue showed that a performance from the North Carolina via the Netherlands collective was well worth the wait.

This was a make-up show with the makings for a great weekend. Back in February, The Foreign Exchange was forced to cancel their Atlanta gig with Bilal due to a grounded flight from the rare Southeastern snowfall. Finally, they were back to give concert goers what they wanted - cuts from their critically acclaimed last album, Leave It All Behind. Frontman Phonte, dressed dapperly, (though heavily for the weather) in a bowtie, jacket and hat, deftly moved from soul crooning to rhyming. Between covers of other artists' hits and FE vocals, he expressed due diligence with "Dillagence," the sung tribute to the late producer and MC, J. Dilla.

The group got the strongest response to "Daykeeper," the Grammy-nominated opening to their last album. You could say that The Foreign Exchange got a fair exchange for their inconvenience - they returned to Atlanta for warm weather and a warm reception.

Making Their Way

A few days prior to the show, Nicolay was available to chat. The Netherlands native (born Matthijs Rook) and Phonte Coleman from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina were a match made in hip-hop heaven - on okayplayer.com. They logged on regularly to chat, swap tracks and discover that they had nearly identical tastes in music. Nicolay was so excited about the new music that he decided, literally, to leave it all behind and come to the United States. Getting together in real life on real time, however, was still an adjustment.

"We had to learn how to communicate in real world tools. There is still a two hour distance between our homes," said Nicolay.

(Currently, Phonte is still in Raleigh-Durham and Nicolay is in Wilmington, North Carolina.)

In establishing themselves and their sound, they intended for their first album, Connected, to have a mostly hip-hop, though soulful, vibe to attract listeners who were already familiar with Phonte through Little Brother. Their follow up, Leave It All Behind, has a more experimental, acid-jazz tinged feel with less emphasis on rhymes and more vocals.

"Without label support, we were able to reach the Grammys," said Nicolay about this year's nomination in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category for "Daykeeper."

Still the group is far from being a household name, but for now, Nicolay is content.

"It's like the Prince parallel - if we happen to reach the masses by doing us, fine. But I don't think we will make any concessions or put any water in our wine to reach the masses. Prince reached the masses by putting out a unique product."

Their next album is in the works. "We really like October," he says, "We were trying to do it as soon as we can, following up to the Grammys. We really don't want to rush. We have to make something consistent with our standards."

Feeling the Future

On June 8, Phonte announced on Twitter that the new album's release date is set for October 12 and will be titled, Authenticity. Nicolay is optimistic about the new album and their future.

"I can't necessarily say that we'll always be cutting edge or different. Somewhere is your peak and somewhere is your low point. We have already decided that it would not be worth jeopardizing the people we've had so far to potentially reach more people. We want to do more upbeat sounds and give it more of a live feel. The third album will show us as more of a group and show the world what we are capable of."

The musical chemistry he and Phonte experienced online has translated through recording, touring and in simply collaborating on all their projects.

"I think he is a phenomenal musician. He is a musician with sense of humor like Eddie Murphy. There is never a dull moment with him on. It never stops."

The full group consists of YahZarah, Darien Brockington and Zo! - individual artists in their own right who also record and tour together and separately. (YahZarah wowed Atlanta fans with her concert solo). Nicolay has equally warm feelings about their connection.

"We roll, like seven, eight people, deep. If you have that many people, you know you're not making that much. The thing that unites us is the love for the music. I do feel like we give people something that they can't hear anywhere else."

Phonte, whom I did not have the opportunity to interview due to a scheduling gaffe, offered this comment on The Foreign Exchange: "I would say it's been an exciting experience. Me and Nic are always pushing ourselves to perform at the top of our game and we've both become better artists in the process." Phonte, in between fronting The Foreign Exchange, still tours with Big Pooh to support the final Little Brother project, Leftback, but did not discuss the duo or dispute with former producer, 9th Wonder over the alleged misuse of a track on the album.

Feeling the Love

Nicolay and Phonte's celebration of the group's chemistry extends to their loyal fanbase. People that come to their shows tend to be college-educated, professional 30-somethings who appreciate a hip-hop concert experience reflective of their expansive musical palettes. And sure, while their fans are more subdued than the white-T and sagging pant wearing set, they're far from boring.

"The brakes go off on our show. We've had items of clothing found on the stage," Nicolay says with a laugh.

One of their most memorable experiences was a Toronto show where for some reason, their drummer, didn't make it over the Canadian border. Somehow they managed to find a suitable replacement and blow away their neighbors to the North. "Toronto was one of our best shows ever," Nicolay recalled.

Through our whole discussion, Nicolay had nothing but positive things to say about his choice to come overseas and start a new life. I asked if just felt good in his soul.

"It did. It sounds really corny, doesn't it? From the time I got vocals back from him [Phonte], I knew. We just never stopped. Literally, from '02 until now. It's been very consistent. I just accepted it. It feels right."
Plus



WWW.THEFOREIGNEXCHANGEMUSIC.COM
Copyright (c) 2008-2014 Foreign Exchange Music, LLC. All rights reserved.