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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The Foreign Exchange: Bringing Authenticity to Music

by +FE on March 9, 2011 at 12:17 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange is one group that will make you love indie music. The duo, which consists of producer Nicolay and singer/songwriter/rapper Phonte, effortlessly blend Hip-Hop, Electronica, R&B, Soul and Jazz together to create their own unique sound. Phonte, who is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina and Nicolay who hails from Holland, first met on Okayplayer.com. Soon after, they began trading music back and forth through instant messages until Nicolay relocated to North Carolina. The pair had an unexplainable musical chemistry that would soon win them many loyal fans.

In 2004 The Foreign Exchange released their appropriately titled debut album "Connected." Their first album was primarily comprised of Hip-Hop songs and only had a few elements of R&B. Phonte, who was also one third of the popular underground rap group Little Brother, brought his signature style of real life, story-telling rhymes with him to FE. Nicolay provided the perfect electronic, jazzy, mellow beats that complimented Phonte's lyrics and vice versa. "Connected" is full of stories of everyday life's ups and downs and provides an unpretentious version of Hip-Hop that anyone who loves the genre can appreciate.

The group's sophomore 2008 album "Leave It All Behind" was a total departure from "Connected." Phonte became a full-time vocalist, barely rapping and Nicolay still created the relaxing beats, but this time they were more soulful. Phonte wrote lyrics about love, relationships and the problems that arise in them. "Leave It All Behind" was so well received that it earned FE a Grammy nomination.

The Foreign Exchange's third album "Authenticity," which was released last fall, is the most mature of the three records. The title fully represents not just the record itself but what the group has been bringing to the music industry from the very beginning. FE has evolved their music once again, making it even more exceptional. "Authenticity" is not totally set apart from "Connected" or "Leave It All Behind," but it has more of an adult feeling to it. Incorporating the sound of live instruments with their established electronic sound, the group once again creates a collection of flawless songs.This time around The Foreign Exchange touches on heartbreak ("The Last Fall"), trying to hold on to romance ("Fight For Love"), and marriage ("Don't Wait"). In an interview with Urbane Perspective Media + Lifestyle Nicolay said that all of their albums are "snapshots of the time" and "things in their personal lives have changed" since their debut and "Leave It All Behind". All of FE's albums are outside of the music industry's norm, but saying that about their latest effort is an understatement that shortchanges their musical capabilities.

Nicolay and Phonte stick to their main Soul/R&B formula, but by adding a taste of Folk elements into the mix shows just how fearless The Foreign Exchange is and how they embrace all forms of music. Whatever you do don't call The Foreign Exchange's music Neo-Soul, even though that may be the first word that comes to mind. According to Phonte, the label is "corny and doesn't fully describe our music". For them creating their own style comes naturally. They decided to make music that reflects who they are and the situations that take place in their own lives giving even more necessity for the title of their last record. In an industry that is saturated by music entirely made to please the masses FE could easily make "Gangsta" or "Club Banger" tracks, but they choose to stay true to themselves and their fans. Nicolay said "Authenticity" is bringing them "a step closer to what they are searching for musically." As long as The Foreign Exchange keeps making the same genuine music they are taking steps in the right direction.

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