Phonte and Eric Roberson - Tigallerro
Phonte and Eric Roberson

''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
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

''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
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

''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

''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
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 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

''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]

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How I Got To Meet My Favorite Band in Five Days (or, An Evening with The Foreign Exchange) (via Scott's Groove Locker)

by +FE on February 22, 2011 at 7:58 AM · Comments
We highly recommend you read this excellent recount of The Foreign Exchange's private concert in Durham NC.
So anybody that knows me musically knows that I'm all about Foreign Exchange. I love this band, and I have loved them through all of their artistic permutations. I have driven out of town to see this band twice and have made no apologies for stating anywhere that they put on one of the most engaging live shows out. None of their three albums sounds the same and they're all game changers on one level or another. You never know what this group is going to put out or do on stage and I think it makes them one of the most dangerous bands out there. Everything that's wrong with the industry right now is somehow set aright whenever their music is playing. And seriously? We all know damn well "Leave It All Behind" was the best R&B record of 2008 AND 2009. I say that with full knowledge of what else came out those years. The Locker, it does not quibble.

That's my warm-up. If you are reading this and you still don't know who Foreign Exchange is I've generated a crash course of videos for you at the bottom of this article. Go get a late pass.

On a whim I submitted an email last week to an open call contest for a private FE concert. I figured, what could it hurt? I never win anything anyway. I would have loved to see them again because I learn something new every time I see them live, but come on: it's an open call to thousands of fans, spread out over multiple social networks, taking place five days after the call, all the way in North Carolina. Let's be extremely conservative and call it a one in ten thousand shot. This is a Grammy-nominated group we're talking about here.

A couple of nights later - Thursday - my phone rings and the conversation goes exactly like this:

Me: Hello? (Smooth motherfucker voice right here, of course.)
Phone: Is this Scott?
Me: Yes. (Still smooth. It was late and now I'm thinking I'm about to be sold something.)
Phone: This is Nicolay from Foreign Exchange.
(pause, synapse fires, coolness receding)
Me: OH SHIT?! What's UP?! What's goin' on? (Completely lost my smooth shit in two seconds.)

Nicolay proceeds to say that I've been chosen to attend the advertised private concert in Durham on Sunday (in three days!), but had to ask if I would actually make the trip if I was chosen. I told him I've driven to see them twice (though not to the tune of eight hours one way) and I would absolutely be making that trip. I couldn't remember what else I had to do the rest of the weekend but I knew that if it didn't involve getting in a car to go to Durham it wasn't happening. At some point in the conversation I could hear someone else on the phone and I asked, "Who else is on the phone?" Then a voice chimes in with "Ay, what's up, it's Phontigallo." I curse again very loudly - though this time with a different curse word. We all laugh, good times. I'm in. I'm going to the show...and I was invited to do so by my favorite band. My favorite band has my phone number and USED it. Some furniture in the house got moved, yelling ensued, favors got negotiated. Magic.

I'll speed this up because really, the show is the meat of the story:

Got the email about when and where to go (but had to keep it a secret). Got to Durham in 8 hours, piece of cake. Had dinner at Tripps. (I don't know if Tripps is like the southern version of Applebees and there are a thousand of them everywhere, but even my plate tasted good.) Got to the venue, which is a super-smooth studio called Sound Pure and almost interrupted sound check. We got free t-shirts from Aimee Flint, who basically runs FE operations. I liked her straight-away: all business, but cool. She protects her crew. She reminds me of a few people I've worked with over the years in poetry. Big-ups to all of the ladies who showed up for the show dressed to the nines and were then asked to put on an FE t-shirt. I didn't think all of them were going to be able to pull it off, but it was 100% FE shirtage as far I could see. The small audience in attendance was offered snacks and wine and allowed to hang loose before the show.

We finally got into the studio proper and it was a lot smaller than I thought. In fact, I started looking at the staging area, which took up about a third of the room, and then the seats. I counted about 35, maybe 40 seats plus a few couches. I thought, this is REALLY intimate, son. REALLY exclusive. We were told that they could fit about 10 people in the engineer's booth as well. I did some more math. Holy shit, I thought. I think there were more people let into my poetry show this past week than were let into this show. Now I was really excited, since whatever was going down was obviously special.

The stage was decked out with lamps covered in scarves, some real pretty Prince shit. Then I looked at the instrumentation. Then a REAL chill ran up my spine: there were no keyboards, no laptops, no electric bass. A grand piano, drums, a 6-string bass, a couple of acoustic guitar stations and three mics. Holy shit, Batman: this is an ACOUSTIC set! Then I noticed that everything was miced. Oh my god, this is going to be a live recording, yo!

Right before the band comes out who walks in the room? 9th Wonder. Yeah, THAT 9th Wonder. He comes out, does the stoic Purple Rain band introduction ("Ladies and gentlemen, The Foreign Exchange"), exits stage left. What was hilarious about it to me was not the First Avenue riff, but the way the room shut down when he took to the mic. There was a real nervous energy in the room because there isn't any Little Brother anymore and for a second we were like, "Is this show about to get into some reunion shit?!" The answer was no, but it was really cool to see him gracing the same space as his old friend.

Finally FE came out and the band was almost completely different than the one I was used to. The only people I recognized right off the bat was Zo! on piano, Phonte on vocals and Nicolay on...acoustic guitar?! The band got settled in, Phonte handled the welcoming stretch and it was on...sitting in the second row of my very first live-recording of an album ever.

Let me tell you: you haven't lived until you've heard "Fight For Love" acoustically. Or a country and western-hip-hop remix of "Daykeeper", complete with Hee Haw-isms. Or "House Of Cards" unplugged, which is probably my favorite FE track of all time. Or a **** cover (that one I won't spoil). This band could have gotten away with making a live CD/DVD of their regular show and it would be hot. That they decided to go out on a limb and try it all-acoustic is more than daring...it's genius.

Which is why this is my favorite band out right now: pound for pound, they craft awesome songs with pure musicianship, spread out over any number of genres and will take it to your dome live, even at a shorter show length than I'm used to seeing from them (they can do two hours standing on their heads and make you love it all). If you were creating a joke and it started with, "What do you get when you take a rapper and a Dutch musician and give them the internet?", the answer would never have been Foreign Exchange. These cats ARE the game.

Let me summarize by adding that I've talked to and interviewed a number of celebrities. Most of them were cool, and genuinely appreciative of the support of their fans. But there ain't nothing like your favorite band shouting-out your city to the audience, pointing out you came the furthest distance to see them. There was genuine appreciation from them that the trip was made, and they let me know that after the show when I talked to them. Phonte said Twitter him when we got home so he knew all was well. By the time I finally got home this morning I saw a post from Phonte shouting out for tweets to keep me awake on the road. I also got shout-backs from the rest of the band I had tweeted as well, thanking them for a genuinely moving experience.

So in conclusion: I got a phone call a few nights ago from my favorite band inviting me down to a private concert three states away based on an email drawing. Everything was dropped, the car was fueled and over 16 hours of driving was committed to the act of hedonistic live music sampling. The live show was the SHIT, got to talk to the band afterward and got mad Twitter love after a post from the band the next morning.

I ain't never giving this band up, son.

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