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.

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Hip-Hop Producer Nicolay Showcases Jazzy Interpretations in Detroit With The Hot At Nights (via Huffington Post Detroit)

by +FE on July 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM · Comments
Throughout the years, hip-hop/soul music producer Nicolay has matured his limitless sound that seamlessly enters realms of hip-hop, soul, jazz, and electronic music. As a founder of The Foreign Exchange with ex-Little Brother member Phonte Coleman, they have been able to invest in themselves and create a loyal fan base that has allowed them to release various solo and side projects of their own. "That's what has been making all this stuff possible," explains Nicolay in a recent phone conversation. "It's us, literally putting our own money down on the table, and build up something that could facilitate all the stuff that we wanted to do because quite frankly no one else was trying to f--k with us in terms of labels or anything. It started as a curse but became a gift in a sense. We don't owe anything to anyone at this point and we can really do whatever we like as long as we feel its good."

One said side project would be Shibuya Session, a collaborative effort between Nicolay and a fellow Raleigh, North Carolina-based jazz trio The Hot At Nights, led by eight-string guitar virtuoso Chris Boerner, along with Matt Douglas on saxaphone/woodwinds and Nick Baglio on the drums.

The collaboration between Nicolay and The Hot At Nights came from an organic place. The brainchild of the band, Chris Boerner, has been a local talent in the Raleigh, North Carolina area for a while, and has always been in the sights of The Foreign Exchange organization. "Chris is actually a buddy of Phonte's from a while back," says Nicolay. "He's been doing guitar parts for us on records. He's on Leave It All Behind and Authenticity. Around the time we released Authenticity, we really felt at that point that we wanted to add a guitarist to the live line-up just to have alot more edge."

So they added Chris Boerner to the touring Foreign Exchange band, and while on the road, Chris played Nicolay the album that The Hot At Nights recorded called Nice Talk, and a musical bond formed. "It instantly struck a chord with me because it is very much a jazz foundation but very experimental," describes Nicolay. "I just wanted to play with those guys because I thought it would be a perfect way for me to tour, do shows, and play my own music, but not do it in a DJ context. To be able to play music live with a band is that extra level for me." As a result, Nicolay recorded the Shibuya Session EP with The Hot At Nights, which are reinterpretations of eight tracks from Nicolay's 2009 album City Light Vol.2: Shibuya.

Drawing inspiration from legendary jazz collectives like Return To Forever and Weather Report, Nicolay set out to build a live performance with The Hot At Nights that would become a listening experience for the audience showcasing not only music from the EP, but music from The Foreign Exchange along with his vast catalogue of solo material. "This show is like listening to a record but being inside of it," explains Nicolay. "It's a sit-down experience. It's just about four cats playing. You can kind of get into it and take you away for a little bit."

Nicolay plans on hitting the studio again eventually with The Hot At Nights to write and record specifally for a project together. Along with that, the fourth Foreign Exchange album is starting to get mapped out right now for release some time next year, along with projects from Foreign Exchange member and Detroiter Zo!, and more solo projects from both Phonte and Nicolay. "In all reality, we're kind of loading up the chamber," says Nicolay about the future releases coming from The Foreign Exchange Music organization.

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