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.

You are here: HOME » INTERVIEWS

Phonte: 'Meshell Ndegeocello Is A Huge Inspiration To Me' (via NewsOne)

by +FE on June 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Comments
North Carolina native Phonte Coleman could easily pull in three lines of revenue based off his natural talent alone. The gifted singer-songwriter and capable rapper is also quite the funnyman, a fact evidenced by his rants on Twitter and the humor he injects often in his songs and live sets. Finding fame as part of the Little Brother trio featuring producer 9Th Wonder and Rapper Big Pooh, the group has since disbanded, leading way to Phonte's current group, "The Foreign Exchange," with Dutch producer Nicolay.

Phonte has also stepped out on his own with 2011's "Charity Starts At Home," a critically acclaimed rap release that touched on issues befitting of a man who has literally grown up with Hip-Hop as his backdrop. NewsOne had a chance to chat with Phonte between a break in his heavy tour schedule as he shared how a bassist and vocalist from the Washington, D.C. area has inspired him.

NewsOne: As a professional musician, can you speak on how music has changed your life and helped you grow as a person?

Phonte: Music was my connection to the rest of the world. I was always kind of an introverted kid, so music was always the way I could communicate with people. If I didn't feel like talking, I would just play a song. No matter what emotion I was trying to get across, I had a song for it.

NewsOne: For someone so musically inclined, what was the main attraction and who did you check out as a young man?

Phonte: It was my mother. Music actually brought us closer together. She would put on records when we had to clean the house, we would be singing around the house. My grandmother was big into the church, and I had to go with her. So I joined the choir and that's what got me through it, the music. Music seriously got my family together. My mom and I may not have had the best relationship, but music was the bond we shared. If a Luther Vandross record came on, everything was cool (laughs).

NewsOne: With June being Black Music Month and all the musical festivals happening nationwide, do you have any fond memories of attending a big summer concert?

Phonte: My fondest memory is my uncle taking me to the Fresh Fest in '85; I couldn't have been no more than six years old. It was Run-D.M.C., Fat Boys, Whodini...my uncle took his lady and her kids and me. I was just losing my mind. But afterwards, he got me a Fat Boys shirt and he was like, 'I got you this but I had to hide it because I ain't got the money to be buying shirts for all her bad ass kids' and I learned several things that night. I learned how to rock a show and how to effectively date a woman with some bad ass kids (laughs).

NewsOne: What was the turning point for you in your life when you knew you wanted to do music for a living?

Phonte: Although the Fresh Fest was like a mind-blower and I was still trying to figure out how in the hell these brothers got all them damn people in the coliseum, I wasn't thinking of myself rapping. It wasn't until Big Daddy Kane's "Long Live The Kane" album came out. My mom bought it for me as a Christmas present from K-Mart. If there ever was a moment I knew I wanted to do this for a living, it was then.

NewsOne: Which musical artist inspires you the most overall?

Phonte: As strange as it may sound, Meshell Ndegeocello is my biggest inspiration and influence. She's one of the few artists able to keep me engaged from album to album. Every album is different but the common thread is always her. So no matter if she's doing something stripped down and acoustic like the "Bitter" record or something with a harder edge like "The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams," she remains true to herself. The hardest thing as an artist is to find your own voice and she represents herself as an artist that has found her voice.

No matter what genre she sings, she's selling Meshell. She's not selling anything else. I'm trying to do the same thing in my music. I'm not selling anything but my own experience and hope people can get into it. I'm not selling just R&B or rap. Trust and believe, if I decide to do a ukulele album, it's gonna be the funkiest damn ukulele album you done ever heard (laughs). That ukulele album gonna be banging! But seriously, Meshell's artistic freedom is amazing. She keeps me engaged.

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