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.