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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Taking the Leap with Phonte Coleman (via Oak City Hustle)

by +FE on October 20, 2014 at 5:58 PM · Comments
Phonte Coleman has been on an incredible artistic journey since the prolific rap group Little Brother released their pivotal debut album, The Listening over ten years ago. During this time he has released more than a dozen albums between his work with Little Brother and the neo-soul collective, The Foreign Exchange. We sat down with the Greensboro native to explore the moment he stepped out of his 9 to 5 job and into a career of artistic expression.

What motivated you to take the leap and pursue a career as a professional musician?

"It was a combination of confidence, stupidity and youth. I was definitely confident and knew we [Little Brother] could make a real go at it. The stupidity came in by the way I ran through jobs and took gambles. Youth is the time to really go after your dreams. The older you get, the more you know and with wisdom often comes caution and pessimism. After seeing so much of the world and seeing how things actually work---I don't have that bright-eyed and bushy tailed feeling anymore. Your youth is the time to take risks and make big mistakes. The older you get, the more your mistakes will cost you. My grandmother used to say, "God takes care of babies and fools"...and I was a young fool! God took care of me as a young fool...but he won't take care of me as an old fool.

I believe in a universal law--no matter who or what you believe in, if you believe in yourself enough to step halfway out onto that stage and let go of that security blanket, if you have enough faith in yourself, the universe will see you through other half. Now, just because it meets you doesn't mean you will automatically be successful but I do think there is something to be said as I look back on life on my accomplishments. The things that brought me the greatest joy and reward--none of them came without some sort of risk. None of it. There was never an accomplishment where I went to another level, professional or artistically, where there was a safe bet. Everything was a wild card.

Three dudes from NC [Little Brother] were not supposed to bring back early 90's boom-bap hip hop. That wasn't supposed to happen. A guy from the Netherlands and a guy from NC were not supposed to make an album together [The Foreign Exchange] without ever meeting and then receive a Grammy nomination. That was not supposed to happen. You feel me? All the things that I've done that took me there included great deal of risk involved. In my experience, you really have to take a big chance to get to that great place you are trying to get to.

Security is something that's for prisoners. Everyone gets so caught up in the mindset of wanting their security. You can say you want your security but that security comes at a price. The security comes at the price of your freedom. You'll get your paycheck every two weeks, on time--direct deposit. But you will have to be exactly where I tell you to be and do exactly what I tell you to do everyday. That's the trade off.

Once I got used to taking the leap and swinging from vine to vine I got used to living in the jungle. The trick is never looking down. If I actually sat and thought about all the balls I have in the air. All the things I'm juggling. The financial pressure I'm under as an artist. If I actually sat and thought about that I would lose my mind. I wouldn't be able to write. Knowing how fragile all this is can make you crazy if you really think about it. I make a living off my imagination. I go in my room and I create something. Maybe people will like it. Maybe they won't. If you really sat down and thought about every move you were making you wouldn't be able to do anything. You have to keep moving forward. Always moving on to the next thing. The moment I look down is the moment I feel like everything could collapse."

What projects do you have in the works right now? What can we look forward to in 2015?

"Some releases are lined up for 2015. We started recording but I can't talk a lot about the details for that project. I am doing a lot of voiceover work for tv. I'm looking for an outlet and this looks like the next thing I really lean into. I've been doing some voice work for the 2nd season for Back Dynamite on Cartoon Network from the same people who write the Boondocks. Im always looking for the next thing. As an artist you can't box yourself. You never know what's going to hit. Whether its music, writing, speaking, voice over, or me hosting Family Feud one day. If Steve Harvey hangs it up they can call me."

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