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Phonte and Eric Roberson - Tigallerro
Phonte and Eric Roberson
Tigallerro

''Seemingly created without fuss, Tigallerro is made of relaxed yet moving grooves, supplied by a cast of over of a dozen, that often evoke sunny and carefree Saturday afternoons. The two occasionally play around with some commercial trends, but they remain themselves, as grown men who descriptively sing about everyday romantic highs and lows, whether they're recalling contentment or regretting transgressions.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey
The Foreign Exchange
Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey

'' This North Carolina-based outfit have gone from outliers to one of the most consistent acts in R&B'' - Michael J. Warren for Exclaim! [Click here to read the full review]

''What Milk And Honey and other gems off of Tales… proves is that there’s still plenty of milk in them there hills. Highly recommended.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''Milk and Honey is a victory lap and a nice step forward in the group’s creative progress.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey is one of the funnest R&B albums in some time.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto
Nicolay
City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

''Nicolay's ability to honor South African musical tradition without just copying its style gives the record as a whole a much appreciated sense of authenticity.'' - The Kommish for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay is a most sophisticated sonic tourist, able to link the foreign to the domestic, the past to the present with a singular style.'' - Brandon Soderberg for IndyWeek [Click here to read the full review]

''As much as we love The Foreign Exchange, it's great to hear Nicolay stepping out on his own once in while, too, especially when the result is something as swoon-worthy as the soul-funk jam The Secret.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Where Shibuya felt like a scenic stroll through Tokyo’s nightlife, Soweto is lush and vibrant, carried by a persistent thump that picks up steam as the album progresses. This isn't an album of singles; it’s a summery mix of breezy dance tunes, sequenced without pauses for a unified listening experience.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Radiant synthesizer melodies, jutting drums and probing basslines, and certain percussion accents are neatly woven through fusions of jazz-funk, house, broken beat, and downtempo electronic music'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Love In Flying Colors
The Foreign Exchange
Love In Flying Colors

''Love In Flying Colors holds up as another solid and thoroughly enjoyable outing from the group; those acquainted with the group's previous output (2004's Connected, 2008's Leave It All Behind, 2010's Authenticity) will also note how much its music has matured into a style noteworthy for being so cohesive and fully integrated. And, finally, this latest collection from the community-minded collective is all the more welcome when one considers how few other groups currently operate within The Foreign Exchange's chosen stylistic zone.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''The production and heart found on the album makes for universal appeal, not just in tone and sentimentality, but as music easily embraced by fans of various genres. Not afraid to be positive and unapologetic, “Love in Flying Colors” is electronic infused R&B with soulful elegance that provides listeners something fresh. At the very least, it’s a sultry sounding lament to waking up anew, happy with a better outlook. At most, it’s smooth sounding delivery will result in constant rotation. One of the year’s best.'' - Brian Tucker for Star-News [Click here to read the full review]

''De ster van het album is zodoende de man die normaal gesproken op de achtergrond staat: de producer. De muziek is op Love in Flying Colors niet ondersteunend voor de zang, maar andersom; Phonte’s bijdrage staat in dienst van de beats van Nicolay. Dat is een compliment voor het werk van onze landgenoot, maar het roept ook de vraag op of hij na een samenwerking van bijna tien jaar de Amerikaan niet is ontgroeid. Met dit album vestigt Nicolay zich in ieder geval definitief aan de productionele top, nationaal en mondiaal.'' - Jasper Veenstra for State Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''When Nicolay Rook's production opens up to multiple genres at once and Phonte Coleman opens his heart, Love in Flying Colors wins with a singular kind of sincerity.'' - Brandon Soderberg for Indy Week [Click here to read the full review]

''With Love In Flying Colors, the pair prove once again that they are in a class all their own.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Love In Flying Colors is as consistently enjoyable as one should expect. If you’re already a fan, most likely you’re already bumping this album. If you’re not yet a fan, what are you waiting for?'' - MJ for Popblerd! [Click here to read the full review]

''This is all-out openness and clarity, which, for better or for worse, is just a little more grown-up.'' - Kyle Kramer for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Love in Flying Colors is lyrically as insightful, reflective and unabashedly truthful as anything found on the collective’s increasingly enviable catalog. Musically, Nicolay has ensured the new project will be, for fans, like sliding your feet back into warm and comfortable house slippers.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''This is aggressively sophisticated R&B that makes no apologies for its brains or its lost-in-love sincerity.'' - Brandon Soderberg for SPIN [Click here to read the full review]

''Layered overtop of Nicolay's ever-evolving yet signature electro-soul sound, Love in Flying Colors is steeped in an honest, vulnerable lyricism bolstered by dreamy, feel-good synth vibes regarding the complex emotion called love and all it represents.'' - Ryan B. Patrick for Exclaim! [Click here to read the full review]

''A series of successful, calculated musical risks push The Foreign Exchange to new heights on Love In Flying Colors.'' - Andrew Gretchko for HipHopDX [Click here to read the full review]

''Like each of their previous efforts, Love In Flying Colors is a melting pot of R&B and soul that transcends the manufactured dreck found in much of mainstream R&B.'' - D-Money for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''In 2013, it takes a certain level of bravery to make R&B this open-hearted, joyous, and musical. U.K. acts like 4hero, New Sector Movements, and Bugz in the Attic were doing it in the early 2000s, but none of them put it together quite like this, in one concentrated shot, with the songwriting on the same high level as the productions and arrangements. This crew is elite.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

Zo! - ManMade
Zo!
ManMade

''ManMade is a complete work -- his best creation yet.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange presents +FE Music: The Reworks
Various Artists
+FE Music: The Reworks

''+FE Music: The Reworks provides a fabulous primer to the listener new to The Foreign Exchange's world. It's music of incredibly high quality and broad scope that also brings the outfit's family vibe into even clearer focus.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''More than a set of remixes, The Reworks is a showcase for Phonte and Nicolay's immediate and extended Foreign Exchange Music family -- the duo's like-named group, the artists supported by the label, and their affiliates and peers.'' - Andy Kellman for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''The Reworks serves as both an affirmation for long time fans and a nice introductory overview of the +FE Music catalog for new listeners.'' - Chuck Nunley for Soul Train [Click here to read the full review]

''The remixes and the original songs make +FE Music: The Reworks more than your typical label compilation and/or collection of B-sides. It also doesn’t sound like a sloppily thrown together collection of remixes, a problem that arises more often than not on albums of this breed. There’s a clear sonic vision that’s defined on here as soon as “So What If It Is” pulses through your speakers, and it doesn’t fade until you hear the final kickdrum of “ACSlater”.'' - Andrew Martin for Potholes In My Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''The fifth F.E. release under the group’s lead moniker is a gorgeous retrospective of the major works and highlights of the last nine years of the entire F.E. family, past and present. Favorites get flipped and tracks that might have previously been throwaways now potentially become new favorites with this reworking of F.E. classics. '' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

Phonte - Charity Starts At Home
Phonte
Charity Starts At Home

''Tastemakers may have rediscovered this former leader of backpack-rap heroes Little Brother thanks to his neo-soul project Foreign Exchange and frequent shout-outs from unabashed fan Drake. But Phonte Coleman never stopped making hearty, soulful hip-hop that sticks to your ribs. Rejoining estranged LB producer 9th Wonder, he builds with Big K.R.I.T. and Pharoahe Monch, addressing strained relationships ("Who Loves You More") and sympathizing with unemployed folks ("The Good Fight"). As he puts it on "Everything is Falling Down": "Don't need a new style / Being dope is always in fashion."'' - SPIN Staff for SPIN Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Charity Starts at Home proves that none of Phonte’s talents are obsolete and he can merge all of them into one cohesive project that’s as much of a treat as any of his other endeavors, if not more. '' - Andre Barnes for AllMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Though we hear Phonte say in the song's opening moments, “I'm a work-in-progress, tryin' to get better,” Charity Starts At Home clearly demonstrates that this “work-in-progress” is already very far along.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Phontigallo’s charitable proverbs won’t impeach the current crop of glitzy media magnets, but then again, that Maturity fellow was never meant to be the life of the party. With a project that’s complete as four walls and a double layered roof, Charity Starts at Home is worth its market value and then some.'' - TC for The Smoking Section [Click here to read the full review]

''With his gloriously grown-up solo debut, one of the smartest, most incisive lyricists alive proves it’s possible to grow older in hip-hop while retaining your dignity. '' - Nathan Rabin for The A.V. Club [Click here to read the full review]

''Phonte reminds his listeners that while he’d rather carry a tune, he can still carry 16 bars a lot further than most rappers. Let that boy sauté.'' - Marcus Moore for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''With its substantial subject matter, solid production and tightly-woven sequencing, Charity Starts At Home does exactly what a solo debut should: showcases the artist’s skill set and personality all at once. Frankly, this disc solidifies Phonte’s place as one of the best emcees to ever emerge from below the Mason Dixon line—and with his consistent catalog, future releases are likely to only help the case.'' - William E. Ketchum III for HipHop DX [Click here to read the full review]

''Pulling out the crystal ball, one sees Charity Starts at Home on the year-end best of lists.'' - Ryan B. Patrick for Exclaim.ca [Click here to read the full review]

''Praised as a member of Little Brother and The Foreign Exchange, Phonte gets solo shine on Charity Starts At Home. 'Dance In The Reign' is a potent display of Tigallo's lyrical talents, and he also reveals sides of introspection ('Everything Is Falling Down') and storytelling ('Sendin My Love'). Sonically soulful thanks to a heavy 9th Wonder touch, CSAH is a reminder why Tay has been an underground darling for years.'' - Adam Fleischer for XXL Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Authenticity
The Foreign Exchange
Authenticity

''The Foreign Exchange go from strength to strength, and this is one of my albums of the year.'' - for Oh Drat [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity documents The Foreign Exchange's still-continuing drive towards defining itself, and one expects that the next chapter might very well find the group inhabiting a vastly different place from the one captured on Authenticity. '' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''With Authenticity, they have further expanded their sound to include elements of blues, folk and country with equal amounts of love and respect. Their sound is a constant evolution of ideas from the classically trained and experimental Nicolay and the American R&B and hip-hop sensibilities of Phonte that never fails to surprise with its complexity and beauty.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''The Netherlands to North Carolina never felt so close together.'' - Scotty Pippen for URB [Click here to read the full review]

''A work of hushed intimacy and unabashed romanticism that uses synthesizers to create incongruously organic, natural-sounding grown-folks R&B.'' - Nathan Rabin for The A.V. Club [Click here to read the full review]

''Clocking in at 38 minutes, Phonte and Nicolay (aka the 21st Century indie version of The System) have created an album that many have tried their entire careers to make. By questioning the genuineness of romantic relationships (some may call it cynicism), Phonte and Nicolay have made the personal universal. Quite an accomplishment.'' - Stephen Johnson for New York Amsterdam News [Click here to read the full review]

''The team of Phonté Coleman and Nicolay continue on their foray of making beautiful soul music with a sound similar to their last album, the heralded Leave It All Behind.'' - for The Napster Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''Where Leave It All Behind was an ode to being in love, Authenticity trafficks in stories of exhaustion, resignation, and quiet, mannered desperation that find the group exploring new musical territories.'' - Craig Jenkins for Potholes In My Blog [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity amply lives up to the high expectations created by previous Foreign Exchange releases. It’s easy to forget that it’s only the group’s third release, given how highly revered they are on the indie soul scene. When you consider how much Nic and Phonte’s music has developed over the course of those three albums, Authenticity is nothing short of outstanding.'' - for SoulCuts [Click here to read the full review]

''The Foreign Exchange have made yet another formidable entry into their catalog, seemingly impervious to outside forces in a genre of music that’s got a hard-on for conformity. '' - Sean Kantrowitz for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''An adult contemporary record that is actually musically and emotionally sophisticated in the vein of Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Everything But the Girl (...), cementing the Foreign Exchange as one of the artists at the forefront of contemporary R&B's avant-garde.'' - Tal Rosenberg for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is a concise, cohesive effort that finds The Foreign Exchange again successfully pushing the boundaries of R&B, soul, electronic music, and hip-hop.'' - Andrew Martin for Prefix Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''The third chapter in The Foreign Exchange's saga does what any good page-turning novel does--it engrosses you in a tale, then just when you think you have everything figured out and know what's going to happen next, the plot twists, throwing you for a loop. Authenticity is the latest twist for The Foreign Exchange, and their musical story is only getting juicier. '' - Butta for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is a must-buy for R&B fans, not to mention one of the most musically pleasing examples of international relations.'' - Kelsey Miller for Live Music Guide [Click here to read the full review]

''During the entire set Nicolay provides Phonte the perfect platform for him to talk about the ups and downs of love which allows “Authenticity” to serve as another reminder of how well these two work together. '' - Kil for The Couch Sessions [Click here to read the full review]

''If you’ve loved or even been deep in like, this album will resonate with you beyond some comparison of albums or desire for the familiar. Experiences like this album are why The Foreign Exchange Music group is my currently my favorite musical brand right now and for the foreseeable future. In a time where folks aren’t talking musical chances because the dollar has trumped expression, and being hot is more important than being good, Authenticity stands out just like the leaf on the album cover.'' - Saule Wright for Soulections.com [Click here to read the full review]

''With their third album and second full soul offering continues to show Phonte’s harmonic prowess and Nicolay’s versatility.'' - Bunneh3000 for Blogcritics Music [Click here to read the full review]

''Breakups are the worst; but whether you’re fresh out of a split or still living in a relationship that ended months or years ago, being authentic to yourself can help get you through it. With their combo of lucid lyrics and matching instrumentals, Foreign Exchange can show you how.'' - William Ketchum for The Well Versed [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay and Phonte have released another certified classic that will surely be regarded as one of, if not the, best release of 2010.'' - Soul UK for Soul UK [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is the music that represents the love of our generation, and we have plenty of love to give, despite what previous generations may think.'' - for Rawemag [Click here to read the full review]

''Ultimately, Authenticity showcases the individual and collective growth of The Foreign Exchange. Dutch producer Nicolay is known for his dense and sleek recordings, but here he strips his sound, leaving room for Phonte’s burgeoning abilities as a songwriter and composer. The duo’s new album won’t help you find love, but it could help you stay in it.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Washington City Paper [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity, is a love letter, but one told in reverse, and one that sees no point in sparing feelings.'' - Rebecca Haithcoat for LA Weekly [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity is unadulterated truth, innocent candor and sheer genius.'' - Nekeya O'Connor for ThisIsRealMusic [Click here to read the full review]

''More moody, modern R&B that sounds like nothing else and reveals remarkable depth, Authenticity is neither an everyday nor an every-day album, unless playing it is necessary for the sake of convalescence. '' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Authenticity's uniquely autumn atmosphere, matter-of-fact vocals, and august, love weary lyricism invites travellers into yet another magical world orbiting in FE's ever-expanding electro-soul universe.'' - L. Michael Gipson for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

Zo! - SunStorm
Zo!
SunStorm

''Much praise to Zo! and The Foreign Exchange crew for giving us another positive and community-spirited recording refreshingly free of misogyny and hate. '' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''With SunStorm, Zo! successfully marries his aesthetic to The Foreign Exchange's for a project that is as seamless as it is timeless.'' - Marcus J. Moore for Washington City Paper [Click here to read the full review]

''With a wide range of energies, moods, and tempos, Zo! has delivered a home run of soul that should be celebrated. Highly recommended.'' - B.J. Bunneh Brown for SoulTracks [Click here to read the full review]

''This is true music, and Zo! has revealed himself as a musician of the highest order.'' - Norman Mayers for Nu-Soul Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Though it's clear that his musical influences are vast, Zo! manages to craft a sound that is distinctly his own. So sit back, relax and prepare to be taken on the best musical ride your ears will take all year. '' - Ivory for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''True to its title, SunStorm emits a constant flow of radiant, positive energy'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''I do not doubt that this album will make it to the top of many a year-end list come December, and rightfully so. I’d even go as far as to whisper the words ‘Grammy worthy’ … after all the Foreign Exchange have already made their mark there. I guess only time will tell, but if Sunstorm is anything to go by, then we have MUCH more to look forward too from Zo! and friends in the future.'' - for Soul UK [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya
Nicolay
City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

''Relaxed, contemplative, and cucumber cool in its approach to nouveau -80s electronica, Nicolay's Shibuya demonstrates why the Great Dutch is in demand as an indie soul and hip hop producer.'' - L. Michael Gipson for Soul Tracks [Click here to read the full review]

''Another unassuming gem from one of the most creative and increasingly chameleonic producers around.'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay's Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2 exudes the kind of effervescent joy one experiences when visiting an exotic new land for the first time.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay captures the excitement of this faraway land like a child chasing a butterfly as it floats away on a gentle breeze. (...) No matter where you are, the intricate layers of Shibuya transport you to another place.'' - Candace L. for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''Nicolay's new found vision is a refreshing journey of live instrumentation and programmed drum beats.'' - Landon A. for URB Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''I encourage you to listen to City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya and allow Nicolay to transport you into another level of collective creativity.'' - Fave for SoulBounce [Click here to read the full review]

''The 15-track LP showcases a highly finessed producer who continues to grow.'' - Eric Tullis for Independent Weekly [Click here to read the full review]

''A well conceptualized project for mature ears that is indicative of Phonte's song-writing prowess as well as Nicolay's dexterity on the boards.'' - Eldorado Red for Redlightdistrikt [Click here to read the full review]

''We hear a new and even more musical side of Nicolay. Or maybe he's just letting us get to know him better with each subsequent release. Either way, we recommend buying City Lights Volume 2 right away, and visiting Nicolay's Shibuya as soon as you can.'' - Zane for Leisure Lab [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Leave It All Behind
The Foreign Exchange
Leave It All Behind

''The Foreign Exchange may have just earned an unexpected promotion.'' - Ian Cohen for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Leave It All Behind can't be recommended highly enough and deserves to be considered one of the year's best releases, regardless of genre.'' - Ron Schepper for Textura [Click here to read the full review]

''It's rare that an emcee is so capable as a songwriter and it's equally as rare, today especially, that a duo with an excellent debut can follow that album up with something completely new and fantastic.'' - Andrew Martin for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

''With electronic and live sounds, emotional production and excellent vocals from some of the underground scene’s best, Leave It All Behind is an open and experimental take on hip-hop and soul, highly successful, at that.'' - Norman Mayers for Prefix Magazine [Click here to read the full review]

''Once the album’s final note has faded out, you’ll want to listen again, because in the presence of such impeccable chemistry, it’s hard to Leave It All Behind.'' - Jeff Harvey for Okayplayer [Click here to read the full review]

''Leave It All Behind is a concise and complete set of songs that brings out the best of both producer Nicolay and Phonte.'' - Andy Kellman for allmusic [Click here to read the full review]

Nicolay - Here
Nicolay
Here

''Nicolay has tastefully managed to convey his love through (and, quite aptly, of) music by combining swirling instrumentation and inherent emotion in every track on the album.'' - Steven J. Horowitz for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

The Foreign Exchange - Connected
The Foreign Exchange
Connected

''The Foreign Exchange's LP is a successful blend of artistry.'' - Dominic Umile for PopMatters [Click here to read the full review]

''Connected is a sweltering, improbable 14-track symphony teeming with potent lyricism and subtle, lustrous rhythmatics.'' - Jamin Warren for Pitchfork [Click here to read the full review]

''Through a potent mix of battle-ready lyricism, falsetto crooning and European ambient grooves, [The Foreign Exchange] create Hip-Hop music from outside the box.'' - Jerry L. Barrow for The Source [Click here to read the full review]

''Bubbling with soulful, mellow warmth, Connected is both an exemplary program of neo-Soulquarian groovology and a rewarding conceptual piece about people getting along in the face of adversity.'' - Chairman Mao for XXL [Click here to read the full review]

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AllMusic reviews 'Tigallerro'

by +FE on July 29, 2016 at 10:42 AM · Comments
This duo's association goes back to 2007, when neither artist could refer to himself as Grammy-nominated. Phonte, then "Phonte of Little Brother," added a verse to Roberson's "Been in Love..." Phontigallo and Erro reunified a few times after that, heard on tracks like Phonte's "Who Loves You More," Roberson's "Picture Perfect," and Zo!'s "We Are on the Move." Almost a decade after their first collaboration, the two completed Tigallerro, an album they began plotting in 2013 but were unable to complete -- due to work and life conflicts -- until 2016. Outfitted with references to Run-D.M.C.'s King of Rock and Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, it's an album that should be filed in the genre of the latter, though Phonte, at Roberson's behest, raps a few verses. Roberson also rhymes a couple times and does so without overextending himself, offhandedly boasting in the opening "It's So Easy" about fatherhood and creative independence, two states that also apply to his partner, a fellow major-label survivor. Seemingly created without fuss, Tigallerro is made of relaxed yet moving grooves, supplied by a cast of over of a dozen, that often evoke sunny and carefree Saturday afternoons. The two occasionally play around with some commercial trends, but they remain themselves, as grown men who descriptively sing about everyday romantic highs and lows, whether they're recalling contentment or regretting transgressions. Some of the cuts flow with such ease that the depth is easy to miss. On the surface, "Never the Same Smile" unfolds blissfully as Phonte and Shana Tucker trade lines, but then the wistful quality of its Foreign Exchange production cuts through as the song's heart, unrecoverable perfection, becomes apparent. On the closing "Something," over a Daniel Crawford production that is somehow fluid and chunky at once, Phonte and Roberson modestly attest their faith in serenely uplifted fashion. Tigallerro is also a testament to Phonte's growth as a songwriter, arranger, and singer. Roberson is the one with the deeper R&B background, he has no trouble acknowledging the development. He merely accents the Sheldon Williams collaboration "3:45," an early-morning slow jam -- one with a slight lilt recalling Zapp's "Be Alright" -- that contains an exceptionally sweet and open-hearted Phonte lead. Who in the aughts could have imagined WJLR putting such a thing on rotation?
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AllMusic reviews 'SkyBreak'

by +FE on June 13, 2016 at 4:02 PM · Comments
AllMusic reviews 'SkyBreak'
SkyBreak followed ManMade by almost exactly three years. During the intervening period, Lorenzo Ferguson assisted in the making of two Foreign Exchange albums, served as that group's musical director, and contributed to releases from the 1978ers, Talib Kweli, Sy Smith, and fellow Detroit natives Jamall Bufford and Collective Peace. As on ManMade and the preceding SunStorm, the multi-instrumentalist works tightly with production and songwriting partner Phonte, who is among nine featured vocalists. Most of them are familiar to FE-related sessions and are also credited as composers, fitting into the album's scheme -- uplifted views of flings, falling in, out, and back in love -- without lending it a muddled mixtape quality. Likewise, Ferguson and company continue to evangelize, with a modern perspective, late-'70s to early-'80s sophisticated funk and soul. Even with its pair of Phonte rap verses, including a slightly lewd smash-and-grab job pulled on "I Don't Mind," the album has much more in common with Rufus & Chaka's Masterjam or an Earth, Wind & Fire satellite project than it does with any given post-1983 commercial R&B recording. A couple voices previously unheard on a Zo! release arrive consecutively during the second, superior half. Undersung veteran Joi Gilliam lures on the frisky "Just Whatcha Like," trailed by "Lifelines," on which U.K. up-and-comer Dornik sings of romantic salvation with a DeBarge-like hushed sweetness. Another detail that separates this from previous Zo! output is the bounty of burbling synthesizers. As prominent as the thick bass guitar lines, they reinforce several songs. They're deployed to most pleasurable effect on the Muhsinah-led "Packing for Chicago," where Ferguson's keyboard makes Stevie Wonder-type low-end streaks that swim through steady percussion reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's similarly expectant "Come Running to Me." Filled out with an instrumental dedication to Ferguson's father, who passed away during the album's creation, SkyBreak is another step forward. Ferguson doesn't allow his expanding knowledge and ability to overshadow his personal touch.
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The Foreign Exchange makes a mighty return to Carrboro (via IndyWeek)

by +FE on November 11, 2015 at 9:22 AM · Comments
Dance, funk, soul, electronic, house, R&B: However you want to label The Foreign Exchange, they embraced it all during a groove-focused show at Cat's Cradle Saturday night.

Though at its core the act is the duo of frontman Phonte Coleman and producer Nicolay Rook, the group's sound has shifted and grown stronger through collaboration with other, like-minded artists. Vocalists Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden add depth to the vocal attack, while keyboardist Zo!, bassist Darion Alexander and drummer Nick Baglio bring serious chops to the rhythm section.

Those skills were apparent when the group delivered an impressive opening set during a Floetry reunion show at DPAC over the summer, but the weekend's headlining slot (and as a result, extra time) provided extra opportunities to flex. That became clear during several seamless transitions near the beginning of the show as they tied together older tracks, a cover of Keith Sweat's "I Want Her" and several cuts off their sixth and most recent full-length, Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange makes a mighty return to Carrboro (via IndyWeek)

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Indie-soul collective Foreign Exchange plays the Cat's Cradle (via The News & Observer)

by +FE on November 5, 2015 at 11:07 AM · Comments
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.

Cut to today: Coleman, 36, and Rook, 41, are several albums deep as the Grammy-winning, indie-soul collective The Foreign Exchange. And Coleman, who still lives in Raleigh, doesn't have to go very far to contact Rook. He's just a couple of hours away in Wilmington, where he's lived since 2006.

Continue reading Indie-soul collective Foreign Exchange plays the Cat's Cradle (via The News & Observer)

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Phonte and Nicolay remain focused on The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing)

by +FE on November 4, 2015 at 8:34 AM · Comments
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."

"I'd never say no shit like that. The connotation of that is you make boring music to fuckin', ya know, goddamn go to sleep to," The Foreign Exchange rapper-cum-singer Phonte Coleman says of the reviewers who fixate on the mature and nuanced themes of his lyrics. "If you say our music is for grown folks, I hear: 'No adventure, no attitude.' That's not what me and Nick do. On every record, we push ourselves to the limit of our creativity."

Phonte is referring to Dutch R&B and electronica producer Nicolay, with whom he cofounded The Foreign Exchange, who will perform at Amos' Southend on Nov. 6. Back then, in the early '00s, Phonte was known as a member of the burgeoning alt-hip-hop trio Little Brother, which was garnering rave reviews for its landmark 2003 debut, The Listening.

Continue reading Phonte and Nicolay remain focused on The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing)

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The Foreign Exchange Evoke Chaucer on 'Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Exclaim!)

by +FE on September 2, 2015 at 10:13 PM · Comments
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. "As a writer, you got to believe that even though a sentiment has been expressed a million times, this one time is about to be special," he tells Exclaim!

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange Evoke Chaucer on 'Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Exclaim!)

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Exclaim! reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

by +FE on August 25, 2015 at 5:31 PM · Comments
Exclaim! reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'
Every Foreign Exchange album is a departure, an abrupt turn from what you've come to expect that takes a minute to grow on you. Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey, the group's fifth album since emerging in 2004, is as delectable as it sounds, and this time around, rather than requiring the usual marination period, this one can cook immediately.

Continue reading Exclaim! reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

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SoulTracks reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

by +FE on August 24, 2015 at 7:59 AM · Comments
SoulTracks reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'
After a bated breath wait since the release of 2013's Love in Flying Colors, the sixth full-length album from the Grammy-nominated artist collective known as The Foreign Exchange (+FE) has finally been released to the world to put global fans at ease. Much of the sound palettes used on Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey will be familiar to followers who've been around since 2004's Connected. However, less prominent are the prevailing sense of melancholia and blues contemplation that threaded previous releases like Authenticity and even a good chunk of Love in Flying Colors. Instead, multi-instrumentalist producer and composer, Nicolay, and hip hop impresario cum R&B singer, Phonte Coleman (aka Phonte aka Phontigallo), along with singers Carmen Rodgers, Tamisha Waden, and Shana Tucker all throw open the drapes, roll up the rug, cover the lamps, and pump up the funk 'n' bass in what can be considered their first party album since their vivacious +FE: The Reworks project. A sprinkling of soul pop ballads with a hint of the band's thinking man's soul nicely round out a return that largely satisfies.

Following such recent biting hits as "Better," on Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey the bitterness has healed and the cynicism that characterized some of the band's dark musical humor has yielded to brighter tones, groovier rhythms, and plenty of fun -- though rather than coming from Phonte's pen and impeccable comedic timing, that spiritedness comes more from the music on boogie-woogie disco cuts like "Work It To The Top" and percussive ballroom grooves like "Body." Lyrically, there's more grace present on ballads like "Truce" and the introspection tends to point the finger inward rather than outward on "Face in the Reflection." Even an interlude like the synthy piano ballad of "Sevenths and Ninths" is the sweetest of love letters. These are welcome shadings to the band's catalog, expanding the kaleidoscope of human expressions +FE comments on and explores.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

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The Foreign Exchange introduces its own Song of Solomon: 'Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Washington Post)

by +FE on August 22, 2015 at 8:52 PM · Comments
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.

"For me it was very much a training ground in some ways," Phonte said. "I honestly wish I would have took it more seriously at that time. A lot of my singing and vocal arrangements, it was really just self-taught in a lot of ways. Had I been paying more attention in choir practice and not just f--ing around ... I'm sure I missed out on a lot of crucial lessons that would have served me better in the end."

Now that he's an adult, Phonte still doesn't care much for church. He'll go -- reluctantly. But he also admits that maybe he's missing something.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange introduces its own Song of Solomon: 'Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Washington Post)

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Pitchfork reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

by +FE on August 20, 2015 at 8:29 AM · Comments
Pitchfork reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'
If you are curious about Phonte and Nicolay's mindset going into their fifth studio album as the Foreign Exchange, just look at their social media accounts. Phonte, the group's affable frontman, feeds his Twitter stream with acerbic real talk and hot-take movie reviews. On Facebook, producer Nicolay posts videos of bobblehead dolls in his studio, and jokes about his paltry royalty checks from streaming services. After 11 years together, and several albums of grown folks' soul, it seems the two aren't taking themselves too seriously. They're having fun and don't mind bringing you into the fold.

Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey is a delightful collection of sophisticated R&B and electronic dance, tied directly to the era of Morris Day funk grooves and Teddy Riley's New Jack Swing. As it plays, Phonte, Nicolay, keyboardist Zo!, and vocalists Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden recall the storied Minneapolis funk sound while staying true to their own established blend of Eurocentric electro-soul. In a way, Milk and Honey feels like a concept record: The press photos resemble a parody of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and the title track evokes Sergio Mendes' brand of airy Brazilian jazz. The lyrics pull from Stevie Wonder's songbook of imagined utopias and peaceful horizons. Then suddenly, on "Work It to the Top", Phonte sings in a nasal tone that channels groups like Ready for the World and Cameo over a vintage, computerized-R&B stomp.

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

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AllMusic reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'

by +FE on August 17, 2015 at 7:15 PM · Comments
AllMusic reviews 'Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey'
Only two months after Nicolay issued his collaborative City Lights, Vol. 3: Soweto, the producer and instrumentalist, along with singing, songwriting, and arranging partner Phonte, returned with the most varied Foreign Exchange album. It's also the one that most emphasizes the duo's extended family of collaborators. The cover of this, their fifth proper full-length, displays Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden -- two of their co-lead and background vocalists -- as well as Lorenzo "Zo!" Ferguson. The FE nucleus and Zo! go way back and take it to another level here, with Zo! -- similar to Nicolay, a studio wiz who typically works in isolation -- a co-songwriter and co-producer of every song. Perhaps proximity and a history as performing partners partly explain why so much of this sounds like a party, as free and easy as the group's shows. FE previously went house with "So What If It Is," a deep and cleansing track, but when they return to the form here, it's with the humorous and rhythmically tougher early-'90s throwback "Asking for a Friend," where Phonte affects a distinguished Englishman accent akin to that of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Geoffrey Butler. On first listen, the song sounds merely like an amusing novelty until the stellar Waden-led chorus enters and takes it somewhere else. (No R&B group before them has maintained such a strong balance between female and male voices.) A different stunt is pulled with "Work It to the Top," bumping boogie that touches on 1979-1981 Slave -- just a little bit -- down to Phonte's spirited Steve Arrington mannerisms. Beyond those two songs and the pair of delighted Brazilian fusion-styled title tracks that begin and end the album, what remains largely refines the sweet and blissful grooves of Love in Flying Colors. That's not a bad thing, not when the writing is as sharp, with rich harmonies laced through rhythms that bound and wind with unforced finesse and warmth. Even with a disarming ballad on each side, Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey is one of the funnest R&B albums in some time.
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SoulBounce reviews City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

by +FE on July 19, 2015 at 1:54 PM · Comments
There is something about the sights and sounds of South Africa that acts as a muse for artists, from the Graceland album by Paul Simon to the latest work by Idris Elba. The impact of South African culture was no different for Nicolay, of the SoulBounce-certified collective The Foreign Exchange, who used it as the creative spark for his latest solo project, City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto. As with City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, which contains his musical reflections on Tokyo, Soweto is Nicolay's vessel to articulate the richness of his South African experience. While some people show you travel photos after their journeys, Nicolay shares stories with beautiful instrumentals.

City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto is grounded in a combination of soulful house and electronic sounds, along with Nicolay's distinctive interpretation of South African percussive sounds. The album fluctuates between a vibrant house music experience to much more subdued mid- to downtempo cuts that at certain points almost take on ambient vibes. The more vibrant side is found on tracks like "Tomorrow," "It's in the Way You Smile" and the sonically fluid and rich "Day Dreams," which is reminiscent of the music of Roy Ayers.

Continue reading SoulBounce reviews City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

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IndyWeek reviews City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

by +FE on July 11, 2015 at 9:11 AM · Comments
The City Lights series, by The Foreign Exchange producer Nicolay, transforms his travels into obliquely personal instrumentals. The albums are about a place's effect on him, not some cheap cherry-picking of ethnic sounds set to a beat. Nicolay's background is rooted in a complex cultural give-and-take, so these are transmissions from someone who grew up in the Netherlands but loves American funk, soul, house and hip-hop, living in North Carolina and making music about South Africa. Global house music is often tasteful, but rarely this mindful.

Continue reading IndyWeek reviews City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

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The Foreign Exchange's Nicolay tours to find new inspiration (via IndyWeek)

by +FE on July 11, 2015 at 8:38 AM · Comments
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.

After The Foreign Exchange's May 2014 performance in Johannesburg, the group left the city by way of the colorful Nelson Mandela Bridge, pictured on Soweto's cover. The city's bridge, house music, people, Zulu language and the unexpected pandemonium surrounding their performance there inspired Nicolay when he sat down to make the first City Lights set in six years.

From Wilmington, Nicolay spoke about the thought process behind the record and how he hopes to avoid the pitfalls of Prince and Paul McCartney.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange's Nicolay tours to find new inspiration (via IndyWeek)

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We Be Spirits interviews Nicolay

by +FE on July 4, 2015 at 5:54 PM · Comments
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.

Just as comfortable in a studio setting as in live performance, this gifted Dutch musician, who now resides in North Carolina, recently spoke openly to me about topics such as how both Prince and Thundercat inspire him, the special working relationship he shares with Phonte (his partner in The Foreign Exchange), his opinion on the current wave of African electronic music, and how he views spirituality in terms of his creativity. Read on and be enlightened.

Continue reading We Be Spirits interviews Nicolay

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Textura reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

by +FE on June 29, 2015 at 8:37 AM · Comments
Nicolay has traveled a long way, both literally and figuratively, since the days he went by the name Matthijs Rook in his Utrecht, Netherlands homeland. Not all that many years ago, he was issuing hip-hop jams on a release such as Here (BBE, 2006), but over time his music has undergone a substantial metamorphosis, as exemplified by the albums he's released with Phonte under The Foreign Exchange name and perhaps even more dramatically the Nujazz-styled albums he's issued in the City Lights series. Six years ago, the second installment, City Lights, Vol. 2: Shibuya, distilled into musical form the visceral thrill associated with a visit to Tokyo, and now this latest volume does much the same whilst displacing the geographical focus to South Africa.

Continue reading Textura reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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Songs We Love: Nicolay, 'The Brightest Star' (via NPR)

by +FE on June 15, 2015 at 7:20 AM · Comments
Nicolay Rook, half of the progressive-soul duo The Foreign Exchange, has once again stepped out and produced a solo album. Earlier this week, he released the third installment in his City Lights series, City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto. Conceived after The Foreign Exchange's first trip and tour to South Africa last year, the album is a breezy, atmospheric romp through that country's sounds, with lush and vibrant melodies set off by airy textures.

This aesthetic is on full display in "The Brightest Star," which finds Rook showcasing the vocals of his Foreign Exchange cohort Phonte Coleman and frequent collaborator Carmen Rodgers, both of whom sound assured and distinctive. Geared toward a summertime vibe, the groovy rhythms and robust melodies prove that it's a soundtrack for all seasons.

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Nicolay wraps his experiences abroad into a jazzy album (via Star-News)

by +FE on June 10, 2015 at 7:55 AM · Comments
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.

"We'd never seen that kind of pandemonium, before or after," he said. "It was wild, Beatles-esque in that we couldn't hear (for) the entire two hours. The reception was as warm you could imagine ... These people knew all of our music and we had no idea."

The image of the multi-colored bridge remained in Nicolay's mind when he was recording "City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto," his third solo album, scheduled for release on June 9.

Continue reading Nicolay wraps his experiences abroad into a jazzy album (via Star-News)

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Pitchfork reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

by +FE on June 8, 2015 at 9:25 AM · Comments
You know the story if you've followed the Foreign Exchange: North Carolina rapper Phonte Coleman met Netherlands producer Matthijs Nicolay Rook on the message boards of Okayplayer, a Web community founded by ?uestlove. They traded audio files and compiled an album--2004's Connected--before they'd ever seen each other. The LP marked a creative shift for Phonte who, at the time, was known only as an MC with rap group Little Brother.

For Nicolay, Connected was a coming out of sorts; its success brought more attention to his atmospheric blend of soul and electronica. Years before Rhye gained attention for their airy Quiet Storm-inflected R&B, Nic created the same sorts of Eurocentric grooves. Here, his 2006 LP, tinkered with hip-hop soul and featured Wiz Khalifa long before he became "The Stoner Guy." By 2008's Leave It All Behind, Phonte ditched rap to mostly sing full time; Nicolay's melodies grew bigger and brighter, an evolution that continued on 2009's City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, which was inspired by his first visit to Tokyo.

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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AllMusic reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

by +FE on June 8, 2015 at 9:00 AM · Comments
Two stops on the Foreign Exchange's tour in support of Love in Flying Colors were venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. Almost precisely a year later, the duo's non-singing half followed up his previous solo release, 2009's City Lights, Vol. 2: Shibuya, with one naturally informed by the trip. Nicolay, who performs all of the instrumentation apart from an appearance from guitarist Chris Boerner, once again deftly incorporates traditional and contemporary sounds from a land otherwise distant to him. Radiant synthesizer melodies, jutting drums and probing basslines, and certain percussion accents are neatly woven through fusions of jazz-funk, house, broken beat, and downtempo electronic music. Like Shibuya, Soweto is less song-oriented than the Foreign Exchange albums. It likewise alternates between impeccably sequenced "home listening" tracks and nonaggressive dancefloor cuts. The closest peer is likely Louie Vega's similarly multicultural Elements of Life project, yet the material here is all original. This time, the voices are those of Phonte, who co-wrote seven of the ten songs, longtime associate Carmen Rodgers, and relative newcomer Tamisha Waden. There's also some narration, including brief Zulu lessons, from Johannesburg native Nomusa Nzima. Though all 48 minutes are unified, there are clear standouts. "The Brightest Star," ideally set up by the spangling low-key thumper "Sun Rings/Uprising," is the makers' most expansive formulation, a dynamic, glistening anthem possibly inspired, in part, by the vocoder wizardry of Herbie Hancock and the masterful cross-cultural arrangements of Richard Evans. "The Secret" is modern boogie -- midtempo post-disco -- with snaking high and low-end synthesizers framing a blissed-out Phonte vocal. It's also impossible to miss "Tomorrow," an intro with a hook large and ecstatic enough to be suited for an Olympics theme. One other major distinction between this volume and Shibuya is that this evokes a homecoming rather than a visitation.
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The Foreign Exchange (and Soul) Ride Again at Club Tequila Urban (via HoustonPress)

by +FE on March 29, 2015 at 10:49 AM · Comments
Forgive me, but the last time I ever stepped food inside Club Tequila was when it was a food market. Or at least had all the makings of a food market. Now the venue space had expanded to incorporate lounge-like seating areas, a wide stage with a huge screen and plenty of drinking space.

It also allowed enough space for the Foreign Exchange to let a bit more people into the groove on Thursday night. Less than a full year had passed since the band, led by Phonte Coleman and Nicolay had come together inside of Fitzgerald's. I wrote then that the venue felt like a sweatbox on a Friday night, a juke joint where dirty things are whispered and somebody is off giggling about their latest sexual conquest out in the open.

Thursday night was a bit cooler than their date here last June. Coleman, noticeably slimmer hawking a Jordan T-shirt and jeans found multiple times to throw on those cool R&B-dude Ray-Ban sunglasses and riff in a fun interplay with background singers Carmen Rogers and . The main draw of a Foreign Exchange show isn't the set list, which could touch anything from 2013's Love In Flying Colors album or their 2004 debut Connected, but how much fun would you have in the building.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange (and Soul) Ride Again at Club Tequila Urban (via HoustonPress)

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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.

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

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The Foreign Exchange - Bizzart - Live report (Via We Bloomish)

by +FE on October 9, 2014 at 7:31 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange à Paris c'était Mardi 30 Septembre 2014. Le bizz'art a donc clôturé ce mois de septembre, riche dans leur programmation de septembre, par un autre concert de qualité avec ce groupe étonnant.

Oui le live band est tout aussi brillant que les deux comparses originels, Phonte et Nicolay, un batteur qui tient la route du groove, un bassiste multi-instrumentiste, un pianiste avec de fortes références musicales (qu'il affiche fièrement en arborant un T-shirt avec l'artwork « songs in the key of live » de Stevie Wonder) et les choristes qui ne se contentent pas d'être de jolies plantes.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange - Bizzart - Live report (Via We Bloomish)

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Een zondagavond in BIRD: de helende kracht van The Foreign Exchange (via HIJS)

by +FE on October 4, 2014 at 4:54 AM · Comments
Zondag 28 september 2014. Een mooi, nazomers herfstdagje in Rotterdam. De meeste mensen waren nog brak van de afgelopen nacht/ochtend, sliepen lekker uit of deden wat huishoudelijke klusjes. Misschien moest er nog een was worden gedraaid of moesten er nog wat kleren gestreken worden. In sommige huishoudens werd echter het zaterdagavond kloffie uit de kast getrokken en zou het alles behalve een saaie doorsnee zondag op de bank met Netflix worden. Er waren namelijk mensen in Rotterdam en omstreken die wisten dat er iets tofs stond te gebeuren. Zo net na zonsondergang begaven zij zich richting jazzclub BIRD. Die avond zou, voor het eerst in Rotterdam, The Foreign Exchange optreden.

Op het toegangskaartje stond 'aanvang: 20:30 uur', wat normaal gesproken betekent dat je geluk hebt wanneer het optreden om 21.30 uur begint. Maar het was nog net geen 21.00 uur toen de manager van de groep al begon met flesjes water op het podium uit te stallen. Waarschijnlijk wisten ze dat mensen de volgende ochtend gewoon weer moesten werken, want klokslag 21.00 uur beklommen ze het podium. Nick Baglio (drummer), Darion Alexander (basgitarist), Zo! (toetsenist), Tamisha Waden en Carmen Rodgers (achtergrond vocalistes) en onze eigen Matthijs 'Nicolay' Rook (toetsenist). Vanaf de eerste seconde stortte de Utrechtse producer zich, met zijn grote held Prince op zijn shirt, vol overgave op zijn toetsen en het publiek voelde meteen dat het een onvergetelijke avond tegemoet ging. De band bouwde op naar het moment dat Phonté Coleman (vocalist) met zonnebril het podium betrad en het feest echt kon beginnen.

Continue reading Een zondagavond in BIRD: de helende kracht van The Foreign Exchange (via HIJS)

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R&B Duo the Foreign Exchange Aims for the Soul (via Vegas Seven)

by +FE on July 11, 2014 at 2:10 PM · Comments
So a Dutch producer and a North Carolina rapper meet in an online forum ...

The punch line? They go on to make progressive, polished and envelope-pushing soul and R&B. A decade, four albums and a Grammy nod later, the Foreign Exchange has gone from a hip-hop side project to a full-fledged band and record label. And their music has taken them all over the globe--everywhere except Las Vegas. On the road again in support of their highly praised Love in Flying Colors, the group is ready to spread their gospel to Sin City with producer Nicolay spinning July 13 at Insert Coin(s), followed by a Foreign Exchange show at the venue July 14.

Continue reading R&B Duo the Foreign Exchange Aims for the Soul (via Vegas Seven)

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The Foreign Exchange rates high to a packed house at Plush

by +FE on July 2, 2014 at 10:09 AM · Comments
With over an hour until show time, the floor space in front of the Plush stage was already at a premium, contested by an ever thickening group of the most dedicated fans.

Nappy DJ Needles and Black Spade further wound the crowd up with a danceable mix of soul and hip-hop, highlighted by selections from Lauryn Hill that encouraged half the crowd to sing along. The already sweat drenched masses compacted further as Corey Black treated the crowd to a couple of poems inspired by the headliners' albums "Love In Flying Colors" and "Connected," and at long last introduced the Foreign Exchange.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange rates high to a packed house at Plush

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The Foreign Exchange at Fitzgerald's, 06/27/2014

by +FE on July 1, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Comments
Fitzgerald's isn't known for outright soul revivals on a Friday night. Or any night, for that matter. The last one my father could remember when I let it be known I was heading there for some groovy R&B was a Hugh Masakela concert he attended solo back in the mid-'90s.

Friday night, Fitzgerald's felt cool, in all senses of the word. The atmosphere was rich enough for twenty- and thirtysomethings to have some equal footing in terms of loving and appreciating music. Nobody looked as if they had a stress to worry about or a care to harp on. That's probably because Phonte, front man of The Foreign Exchange, told us all to leave that shit at the door.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange at Fitzgerald's, 06/27/2014

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The Foreign Exchange Brings Music and Ministry to Chicago's Metro

by +FE on May 23, 2014 at 9:21 AM · Comments
If you have spent any significant time in Chicago lately, it is a city that definitely resonates with Charles Dickens' old adage, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The Chi, as many affectionately call it, definitely is a Tale of Two Cities. With Chicago recently being labeled as the murder capital of America where fear, self-hate, tension, and apathy seem to follow it's diverse yet segregated citizens like a shadow, on one hand it is quite apparent that the windy city needs some healing. On the other hand, it is still a city that loves and appreciates its astonishing architecture while embodying the resilience of its beloved sports teams and stands tall and proud with a skin thick as it's famous deep dish pizza.

As much as Chicago loves deep-dish pizza, it also loves deep house, hip-hop, soul, and r&b music. The aforementioned statement is highly apparent based on the way the people came out in droves to support The Foreign Exchange at the Metro for their Love In Flying Colors Tour. In an area that is usually crowded due to devoted Chicago Cubs fans making the pilgrimage to the holy grail of stadiums, Wrigley Filed, on Saturday night it was all about Phonte, Nicolay, and their cast of musically merry men and women and what was about to go down at the Metro.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange Brings Music and Ministry to Chicago's Metro

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The Foreign Exchange 'Comes Around' Brooklyn, showing good music still exists

by +FE on May 16, 2014 at 12:26 PM · Comments
On May 5, the music industry's biggest news of the day was that Rihanna -pop's reining bad girl and fashion icon - decided to bolt her well-appointed perch at Def Jam for Roc Nation. The ingenue's departure for Jay-Z's musical and sports-management imprint solidified her status in the rap impresario's growing constellation of stars, and completed Mr. Carter's metamorphosis into the industry's most formidable presence.
Simultaneously, across the East River in a nondescript building in trendy Williamsburg, under-appreciated R&B/electronica collective Foreign Exchange took to the stage. The multi-talented group performed in Brooklyn as part of the first leg in a whistle-stop world tour to promote "Love in Flying Colors," their latest album. The unlikely crew--fronted by indie rapper extraordinaire Phonte Coleman and Dutch producer Nicolay--regaled a packed standing-room only crowd for an unforgettable two hours of musical bliss at the Williamsburg Music Hall.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange 'Comes Around' Brooklyn, showing good music still exists

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Wax Poetics interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on November 13, 2013 at 9:58 AM · Comments
The duo discuss their new album Love in Flying Colors.
In today's music climate, a lot of what we are being fed as listeners is a little formulaic. Somewhere in the median of music with substance and music that sells, artists have become somewhat jaded and more focused on being a household name for reasons other than music. The jaded behavior trickles down to consumers who aren't necessarily purchasing music in rapid numbers as a lot of what is dominating mainstream America is redundant, boring and unoriginal. This inconsistency and wavering with music today is ultimately the key to duo the Foreign Exchange's success.

The Foreign Exchange made up of Netherlands-based producer Nicolay and rapper/singer Phonte Coleman of Little Brother fame, have gained an eclectic and loyal following due to their willingness to walk into uncharted territories. With every release, listeners are introduced to a new facade of the Foreign Exchange and mature relationships. On Connected, fans witnessed the forming of relationships, with Leave It All Behind these relationships were honed. Authenticity focused on the demise, and their latest release, Love in Flying Colors, finds the duo in a happier place.

With the new LP, the duo along with their familiar band of characters: Zo!, Carlitta Durand, Eric Roberson, Jeanne Jolly and more, have created a mature effort full of House elements, and an overall more upbeat and cheerful vibe. We got a chance to speak with the duo about Love in Flying Colors, who they would like to collaborate with in the future, evolution, and Phonte's hilarious "If-Rappers-Were-TV-Shows" rant.

Continue reading Wax Poetics interviews The Foreign Exchange

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Textura reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on November 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Comments
As evidenced by its Love In Flying Colors title, the fourth studio album from The Foreign Exchange wears its heart on its sleeve. But such a determination would be possible even had the album been given the most generic of titles, as its music all by itself oozes unbridled joy. Lyrically, it also doesn't surprise that the collection's primary concerns revolve around love, in particular the joy of getting it and the challenge of holding on to it (consider the following from the opener "If I Knew Then" as representative of the tone: "Feels so good, love's flying high / You're beside me"), even if other related issues are also addressed (e.g., loneliness in "Listen To The Rain"). Though the album is primarily the brainchild of vocalist Phonte and multi-instrumentalist Nicolay, other +FE Music associates such as keyboardist Zo!, guitarist Chris Boerner, and singers Jeanne Jolly and Gwen Bunn make key contributions to the luscious ten-song set.

Continue reading Textura reviews Love In Flying Colors

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Grindin interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on November 7, 2013 at 7:14 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange have travelled a road most independent bands only dream of, from literally meeting through a foreign exchange on a message board to Grammy Awards and achieving longevity in an ever changing musical landscape. With the recent release of their 4th studio album, Love In Flying Colors, Kristie Nicolas had a chat with Phonte and Nicolay from the band to discus. Amongst other things, how "Love In Flying Colors" came together, their craziest tour story and what success means to them.

Continue reading Grindin interviews The Foreign Exchange

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The Foreign Exchange: Enjoying 'Love In Flying Colors' (via Soul Train)

by +FE on October 30, 2013 at 4:34 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange is a duo that challenges themselves artistically, but also continues to push sonic boundaries with every album they release. Refusing to compromise their sound or take the predictable route, Phonte and Nicolay trust their musical instincts and each other, adding to a stellar discography that fans and critics have no choice but to appreciate. Through the years, the +FE name has become synonymous with quality music, great attention to artistic detail and creative autonomy. And having released one live project and three remarkable studio albums, the Grammy nominated duo, who have also built on their legacy with a thriving musical imprint, are back with their fourth studio album Love In Flying Colors.

SoulTrain.com had the opportunity to speak with Phonte and Nicolay about the new album, running the +FE imprint, their musical evolution, and why Nicolay would be the rap equivalent to Gucci Mane.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Enjoying 'Love In Flying Colors' (via Soul Train)

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Star News reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 30, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Comments
R&B walks hand in hand with electronic music on "Love in Flying Colors." It's the latest release from The Foreign Exchange, the music duo of rapper/singer Phonte Coleman (Little Brother) and Dutch record producer Nicolay Rook. The duo's fourth outing, "Love in Flying Colors," may be their best, and most lush, album to date.

There's a seductive quality to Nicolay's overall sound, solo or with FE, one that marries slices of genres within his own production. That seductiveness comes from a romantic vibe that evokes the moods and colors of nightlife. The overall atmosphere culminates in elegance and delicious sounds. Look no further than Nicolay's "City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya" or his collaboration with the experimental jazz combo The Hot at Nights where they re-worked that album with glorious results.

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Nicolay talks Love in Flying Colors, going the independent route, and early hip-hop influences (via The Come Up Show)

by +FE on October 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM · Comments
IMG_5799-Edit.jpg From the beginning, hip-hop has always had its dynamic producer/emcee duos, artists whose names have become inseparable over the years. Pete Rock and CL Smooth. Eric B. and Rakim. Kweli and Hi-Tek. Perhaps one of the most interesting - and unlikely - pairings of the past decade has been that of Nicolay and Phonte as The Foreign Exchange. Born Matthijs Rook, Nicolay grew up playing in bands in the Netherlands and wasn't introduced to hip-hop until later in his life. Phonte, meanwhile, grew up in North Carolina and went on to found one of the most beloved hip-hop groups of the early 2000s, Little Brother. Through sheer fate, the two connected on the Okayplayer message boards and began collaborating on what was initially no more than a side project, 2004′s Connected.

Then, something amazing happened. The album found a following, enough for Nicolay to take a leap of faith and move from the Netherlands to Wilmington, North Carolina to pursue music full time. Now, nearly ten years, four albums, and a Grammy nomination deep, it's clear Nicolay's leap of faith paid off. Through constantly changing their sound and releasing their music independently, The Foreign Exchange have managed to build an impressive fan base and critical success. Their latest work, the funk and soul-infused Love in Flying Colors, has continued in that vein, and is garnering some great reviews. We caught up with Nicolay to talk about his latest album, going the independent route, his early hip-hop influences, and much more.

Continue reading Nicolay talks Love in Flying Colors, going the independent route, and early hip-hop influences (via The Come Up Show)

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State Magazine reviews Love In Flying Colors [NL]

by +FE on October 23, 2013 at 7:05 PM · Comments
In het rijtje 'Nederlandse topproducers' wordt Matthijs Rook, alias Nicolay, vaak vergeten. Dat terwijl hij de enige Nederlandse hiphopproducer is met een Grammy-nominatie op zak en hij de enige is die veel Amerikaanse hiphopliefhebbers uit zo'n rijtje zouden kennen. Inmiddels woont hij al zo'n tien jaar in de VS en produceert hij vrijwel uitsluitend voor The Foreign Exchange, de groep die hij samen met rapper Phonte vormt. Zo gek is het dus ook weer niet dat hij niet zo'n grote naam is in de Nederlandse hiphop.

Continue reading State Magazine reviews Love In Flying Colors [NL]

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The Foreign Exchange's indie success story (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

by +FE on October 22, 2013 at 9:08 PM · Comments
Soulful hip-hop duo talks new album and DIY life
In the world of independent artists, North Carolina's soul/hip-hop duo the Foreign Exchange offers a rare case of DIY done right. Since hitting the scene in 2004 with its debut album Connected, singer/rapper and former Little Brother MC Phonte Coleman and Dutch producer Nicolay (born Matthijs Rook) have forged their own path without the support of an outside label.

Through their self-run FE Music imprint, the group has not only released its own critically acclaimed music (as well as DVDs, merchandise, and other products) over the last decade, but also projects by other artists, such as instrumentalist Zo!, singer Jeanne Jolly, and more. It'd be hard not to give props to such a well-oiled machine for churning out new sounds on the regular and steadily growing its fan base. With the Foreign Exchange's fourth album, Love in Flying Colors, the machine shows no signs of slowing down. This latest production presents a band that's at the next step of its organizational evolution. "We're fortunate enough that ... with [Love in Flying Colors] and other titles -- as a label, we've already set our own record in terms of our accomplishments," Nicolay says. "Being an independent artist is not for everybody. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of time, but obviously you're working for yourself and there's nothing better than that."

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange's indie success story (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

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Phonte's Crossover (via Marvin's Corridor)

by +FE on October 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Comments
In late 2013, The Foreign Exchange released their fourth studio album 'Love In Flying Colours', proving beyond question that the group can add the string of longevity to an already impressive bow. The album also forces us to ask whether it is time to crown Phonte the first rapper to have successfully transcended the confines of his lyrical fiefdom and reposition himself in the world of convincing singer, songwriter. Garnering a Grammy nomination in 2010 suggests unequivocally that he is, but he ought to be lauded for this feat far more than he currently is.

Many rappers have sought to navigate this precarious path, but none have disappeared down the R&B rabbit-hole as impressively as Phonte. Some have insisted on singing their own hooks - here's looking at you Ja Rule, Eminem and 50 Cent - and this trend shows no sign of abating. Owing to audiences demand for more than lyrical content, delivery and clever wordplay, rappers such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lemar and latterly Big Sean have all recently felt obligated to sing hooks and even full verses. Though none have strayed too far into melodic heavy territory.

Continue reading Phonte's Crossover (via Marvin's Corridor)

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The Foreign Exchange: Being The Best Self (via Exclaim!)

by +FE on October 13, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Comments
By now, the backstory of how R&B/electronica/hip hop duo the Foreign Exchange came to be is a prime example of the collaborative power of the internet age: virtually meet on the OkayPlayer hip-hop message board, collaborate by sending digital music files (Netherlands meets North Carolina) and create a hot album without ever physically having met (debut album Connected). Well, 2004 feels like a lifetime ago and even though Phonte Coleman and Nicolay (real name Matthijs Rook) now live in the same country, five albums deep the process still hasn't changed -- they still create music the same way, only now it's an interstate exchange (Phonte in Raleigh and Nicolay in Wilmington, NC). The biggest thing about the band's popularity is the devoted fan base and how they interpret the purposefully way each album puts a different spin on the soul and hip-hop elements -- Connected was decidedly hip-hop heavy while 2008's Leave It All Behind was arguably more soul-influenced.

While last album, 2010's Authenticity, took a decidedly stark and stripped-down musical turn, new effort Love In Flying Colors is intentionally brighter, expressed as an sonic exploration of the complex emotion, and represents a solidly consistent album for the duo; Phonte (ex of hip-hop crew Little Brother) has grown tremendously as a vocalist, perfectly complemented by Nicolay's ever-evolving yet signature "electro-soul" sound.

The Grammy-nominated duo state that they hate being put in a box -- as independent artists (and as founders of indie label FE+ Music) mainstream award recognition or underground fan base expectations are noted, but don't ultimately influence how they want the music to sound. It's about making music their way, drawing from hip-hop, R&B, and all points in between.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Being The Best Self (via Exclaim!)

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Getting To Know The Foreign Exchange (via Clash)

by +FE on October 10, 2013 at 6:43 PM · Comments
Though you should know them already...
FE-press6.jpg This is normally the part where I give an overcooked explanation of the artist in question. This is where I wreck my brain to detail the sheer magnitude of the music, in hopes of getting you to see things my way.

So I'll try another approach: If you like Rhye or Quadron, you'll love The Foreign Exchange. For almost 10 years, the Grammy-nominated duo has created the same electro-soul as the aforementioned acts, but with a deeper soul slant.

Continue reading Getting To Know The Foreign Exchange (via Clash)

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Indy Week reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 9, 2013 at 11:38 AM · Comments
When The Foreign Exchange released its debut album, Connected, in 2004, the experience felt like a sigh of relief: For Phonte Coleman, it was a break from the brand of Little Brother, the then-buzzing, traditionalist rap trio suddenly saddled with the task of saving all hip-hop. For Dutch producer Nicolay Rook, then living in the Netherlands, the record marked a formal entry into underground hip-hop and the auspicious introduction of a major talent. And for the listener, the unlikely duo revealed sonic surprises through simple, subtle adjustments to the indie rap blueprint. Whether that meant a jauntily jumbled Bing Crosby sample on "Let's Move" or the rap-verse-free R&B of "Come Around," Connected presented an inclusive, celebratory spirit.

A series of sea changes has since defined The Foreign Exchange's output, fitting for a band wrought of artistic restlessness, anyway. 2008's Leave It All Behind presented a sophisticated pocket symphony rumination on the ups-and-downs of long-term relationships, while 2010's Authenticity bordered on hopelessness and melancholy held together by frosty synthesizers. "Love is at worst an excuse," Coleman sang. "At best it's a truce." With each album, Coleman and Rook found the kind of groove that they could've ridden for the next decade of their discography; instead, they've become a DIY R&B institution, hellbent on reinventing themselves each time out.

Continue reading Indy Week reviews Love In Flying Colors

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Potholes In My Blog reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 9, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Comments
After forming an unlikely allegiance years ago, The Foreign Exchange released a stellar stream of albums and built a devoted fan base that remain connected to their music. While continuing to assemble the tightly knit collective of collaborators associated with their imprint and collecting a Grammy nomination, +FE has continued to place themselves at the forefront of the electronic-soulful movement with other genre bending artists that push musical boundaries. And now, they are back with their fifth studio album. It's Love In Flying Colors, which is a light-hearted, evenly polished album that speaks to the complexities of love and relationships; topics that can be quite mundane and emotionally taxing. But this time around, The Foreign Exchange presents it in a way that's less weighty adding more understanding and sophistication to one of the world's greatest mysteries.

With only ten tracks, the album is shorter and doesn't have as many transitions and open instrumental fields allowing for a more tightly connected work. The guest features list is heavier but we still see Nicolay serving as the primary instrumentalist with Phonte maintaining his space as the pulse within the music. This album also shows Nic expanding the +FE sound and going deeper into previously explored soundscapes while Te's voice reveals a more experienced singer. And though the album has some minor pitfalls, it's still a welcomed addition to an already impressive resume.

Continue reading Potholes In My Blog reviews Love In Flying Colors

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 8, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Comments
As the premier artists representing the indie soul community, The Foreign Exchange have gained a reputation and a following for creating music that combines classic and progressive soul with hip-hop and experimental touches. Dutch producer Nicolay and US rapper/singer Phonte, along with a menagerie of some of the best vocalists around, never fail to deliver a piece of work that stays true to their core sound while also pushing things forward. Their latest effort, the enthusiastically titled Love In Flying Colors, continues this trend but also manages to be the collective's best work since their groundbreaking album Leave It All Behind. Compact and concise, classic yet modern, Love In Flying Colors hits all the right notes.

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MY Lifestyle Magazine interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on October 6, 2013 at 5:31 PM · Comments
This international duo's new album "Love In Flying Colors" brings soulful beats, honest lyrics and inspiring grooves. The group spoke to MY Lifestyle Magazine about the evolution of their sound.
After three successful studio releases, a remix album and a live record, the musical duo known as The Foreign Exchange introduces us to their latest effort, "Love In Flying Colors," which was released on Sept. 24. True to their familiar blend of eclectic R&B, fused with hip-hop, electronic, house, a little bit of acoustics, and an array of other influences, the album is giving music lovers something to celebrate.

It's the kind of music that reaches into your soul and makes you want to momentarily disconnect from everything else. The beats will make your head nod back and forth. The lyrics will raise your spirits.

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Popblerd! reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 3, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Comments
Acing R&B With Flying Colors: The Foreign Exchange Return With 4th Studio Album.
You heard of neo-soul, yeah? R&B duo The Foreign Exchange makes what I like to call "prog-soul." What initially drew me to them musically was the fact that, musically, some of their soundscapes would be just as home on a Genesis or Yes record. Which is kinda crazy, because I fucking hate prog rock. I guess if you combine that sound with warm, soulful singing, navel-gazing lyrics, some jazz vibes and a pinch of hip-hop flavor, you get hotness. Who knew?

Anyhow, less than a year after dropping a remix set that was less like a compilation and more like a new album, Phonte and Nicolay return with an actual new album called Love In Flying Colors. It sticks fairly close to the template set by the three previous FE+ studio albums, but that isn't a bad thing. While I'll always give props to those who experiment artistically, sometimes it's just as good for an artist (or a group, or a duo) to know their lane and stick to it. Love songs? Hazy synths? Phonte's every-man singing voice? All here, and all good.

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Pitchfork reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on October 2, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange introduced their latest album, Love in Flying Colors, with a pair of trailer videos called "Her" and "Him," which showed the title characters listening to each Foreign Exchange album in succession at different stages in their lives. Accompanied by the slogan "life is all about keeping a beat" the message that this is music to grow with may have been a little too on-the-nose, but this process of changing and maturing has been the underlying theme for the duo's music since 2008's Leave It All Behind. Coming out after the dissolution of singer Phonte's rap group Little Brother, that album's embrace of R&B felt like as much of a fulfillment of the title as its narratives of relationships in turmoil did. Phonte has generally positioned his move away from rap and into R&B--and, more specifically, R&B that explores the mundane intricacies of everyday relationships--as a maturation befitting someone his age (he's now 34). Promoting Authenticity in 2010, he suggested that there was a void to fill for R&B "about getting married, having kids, slowing down."

Love In Flying Colors is shooting for that goal: Broadly, it's a happy, settled album that seems to be about coming to terms with a new, stable relationship in the wake of a more tumultuous one. To achieve that tone, it's more musically ambitious than anything the Foreign Exchange have attempted before, incorporating live instrumentation throughout and dabbling in a comfy palette of funk, soul, disco, soft rock, and touches of house. It's crisp, familiar and accessible, but taking this approach also holds the group to a higher standard and plays against its strengths. Previous Foreign Exchange projects could lean a little bit on novelty: 2004's Connected proved that engaging, soulful hip-hop could be created by a Dutch producer and a North Carolina rapper collaborating over the internet; Leave It All Behind showed that Phonte had a better singing voice than anyone expected; Authenticity was a moody, drifting work full of minimal, electronic production that presaged the wave of bedroom R&B acts that would start sweeping blogs a year or two later. In contrast, Love In Flying Colors isn't just holding itself up against historical precedent, it's had the unfortunate luck of falling in the middle of a disco revival zeitgeist without the on-hand studio resources of, say, Daft Punk or Pharrell.

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews Love In Flying Colors

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SoulTracks reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on September 30, 2013 at 8:10 AM · Comments
"I think this one is going to be über up your alley." For a contrarian critic, more ominous words were never spoken. That they came from the management of the Grammy-nominated, North Carolina-based electro-soul collective, The Foreign Exchange (+FE), only gave me further pause. Considering I'd never given a project from +FE a negative review (though I have kvetched a time or two about Phonte's wavering sense of pitch and privately declared that their Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange doesn't hold a candle to their actual live show), I couldn't help but wonder if this time would be different. Had Raleigh's dynamic duo of rapper/singer Phonte and Dutch producer/arranger, Nicolay, finally made an album that I'd hate?

So far for 2013, the prodigal sons and their small record label that could have been on something of a roll. A double-disc remix project, The ReWorks, easily soared over most first quarter releases and remains one of the most exciting event projects of the year. The much anticipated single producer compilation release, ManMade, by keyboardist/producer Zo! of the +FE, was the belle of the spring season. Their previous three studio releases, 2004's Connected, 2010's Authenticity, and their perfect neo-classic, 2008's Leave It All Behind (LIAB), have won them international fandom, a Grammy nomination for "DayKeeper (featuring Muhsinah)" from LIAB, and at least one Top 25 R&B charter in Authenticity. Other independent studio releases and mixtapes from their musical family, including projects from Median, YahZarah, Jeanne Jolly, Chantae Cann, and Darien Brockington, and solo outings from both Phonte and Nicolay, the core and founders of +FE, have been a series of hits and misses. Still even with the swing and misses, never could it be said the recordings weren't stamped with the outfit's signature sound and soulful polish. Even the highly polarizing Authenticity (I'm pro #TeamAuthenticity, BTW) with its unrelenting melancholia and brutal honesty was nothing less than brilliant in its arrangements and productions.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews Love In Flying Colors

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The Foreign Exchange vs. Kanye West: Jackin' Chicago For Beats

by +FE on September 27, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange vs. Kanye West: Jackin' Chicago For Beats
House manifests itself differently on 'Love In Flying Colors' and 'Yeezus'
Chicago house is experiencing an art-pop resurgence entirely separate from whatever warmed-over elements of the sound still sneak into EDM these days. Along with Kanye West's Yeezus, which skronks and fizzles like acid purveyors Phuture (the Chi-town-ian beats provided by French house inverters, Daft Punk), there is Nine Inch Nails' Hesitation Marks, an apocalyptic get-down fueled by rigid, vicious Midwestern rhythms. These releases are reminding keyed-in, geeked-up listeners of just how raw house music can get.

Popular music often seems to mind its own checks and balances, grabbing hold of some ineffable something in the zeitgeist and then breaking that zeitgeist over its knee and starting the next trend before the other trend is even over, so now we're experiencing a kicking back against that recontexualization of house as relentless mean-mug. The highlight of rapper Le1f's Tree House mixtape, released last week, is a track called "Jack" that splits the difference between the hard and soft elements of Chicago house -- fitting for an erotic seduction song equal parts explicit and demure. And this week, electronic R&B duo Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook, better known as the Foreign Exchange, resurrect the warm, inviting elements of house on their fourth album, Love In Flying Colors.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange vs. Kanye West: Jackin' Chicago For Beats

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Falling in 'Love' with Foreign Exchange

by +FE on September 27, 2013 at 4:47 PM · Comments
Falling in 'Love' with Foreign Exchange
N.C.-based electronic R&B duo has a brand-new album out.
"I never thought in genres and my mom never did. I guess that's where I get it."

So said Nicolay, a native of Utrecht, The Netherlands, and a Wilmington resident for more than five years now. Nicolay is a music producer, solo artist and one half of Grammy-nominated R&B, hip-hop and electronic duo the Foreign Exchange, whose new album, "Love in Flying Colors," was released Tuesday, debuting at No. 2 in R&B/soul on iTunes.

Over coffee recently, Nicolay politely stressed that putting music in a box annoys him.

"I like music that is hard to grasp," he said. "You could call it this (or) you could call it that."

Continue reading Falling in 'Love' with Foreign Exchange

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Exclaim! reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on September 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM · Comments
Not to rehash old stuff, but your thoughts on Love in Flying Colors will likely be based on when you first became aware of R&B/hip-hop duo of "rapper-turnt-singer"/artist Phonte Coleman and "North Carolina by way of the Netherlands" producer/instrumentalist Nicolay. Their solid 2004 debut, Connected, is still largely slotted into the "alternative hip-hop" category, while follow-ups Leave It All Behind and Authenticity arguably lean heavily on the R&B side of the equation. This has created a dedicated yet outspoken fanbase with collective thoughts on, and expectations of, how the perfect Foreign Exchange album should sound. Ultimately, Foreign Exchange are about creating their music their way -- Love in Flying Colors continues along this wavelength. Smoothly romantic lead single "Call It Home" sounds like a long-lost Connected track updated for 2013. Standout numbers like "When I Feel Love," featuring Jeanne Jolly, "Right After Midnight," featuring Sy Smith, and "If I Knew Then," featuring Carmen Rodgers, highlight the group's progressive soul sound while bringing FE+Music lablemates and friends along for the ride. "The Moment" is a cool, but ordinary dance-type number; however, "Listen to the Rain" is, in a word, beautiful, and the best illustration of Phonte's heightened vocal mastery to date. Love in Flying Colors is a solid and consistent album -- the "turnt" label assigned to Phonte (ex of North Carolina hip-hop crew Little Brother) is a bit unfair, as he's grown impressively as a vocalist and this is his coming out party, in terms of how he's developed and crafted a remarkably smooth singing style. Layered overtop of Nicolay's ever-evolving yet signature "electro-soul" sound, Love in Flying Colors is steeped in an honest, vulnerable lyricism bolstered by dreamy, feel-good synth vibes regarding the complex emotion called love and all it represents.
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HipHopDX reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on September 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM · Comments
A series of successful, calculated musical risks push The Foreign Exchange to new heights on Love In Flying Colors.
Ever since a series of e-mail exchanges between North Carolina-based emcee Phonte of Little Brother and the eclectic, Dutch producer Nicolay introduced the world to The Foreign Exchange, fans have grown accustomed to a brand of Hip Hop where lyrical prowess meets digital masterpiece. But as any Hip Hop head will tell you, the genre is in a constant state of evolution.

The Foreign Exchange's success is largely built on this principle, taking underground Hip Hop and blending it with the soothing sounds of piano chords and keyboard solos that drift in and out in-between the familiar snare hits and high hat clicks. The duo's latest project, Love In Flying Colors, uses this formula as its base, but pushes the boundaries at every given opportunity, welcoming an increased computerized presence and a much heavier reliance on R&B-infused vocals from Phonte.

Continue reading HipHopDX reviews Love In Flying Colors

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SoulBounce reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on September 25, 2013 at 8:16 AM · Comments
Though it's been three years since the last album of all-new material from The Foreign Exchange, solo projects and albums from other members of the +FE crew have filled the interim nicely -- not to mention their live set Dear Friends. However, there's nothing like when Phonte and Nicolay come together to bring us their unique, world-traveled brand of R&B. But, with such a long break between projects and a proliferation of material, it's easy for fans to wonder if that magic that once was has been lost. So, with all that said, what's to be expected when you take a listen to their latest effort, Love In Flying Colors? Let me just say that if you doubted the quality that FE would bring to this project, you were sorely mistaken. Like each of their previous efforts, Love In Flying Colors is a melting pot of R&B and soul that transcends the manufactured dreck found in much of mainstream R&B. It sets out of the gate running with "If I Knew Then," which features Dallas singer Carmen Rodgers. Reminiscent of the work that FE's Nicolay did with his City Lights series, the track moves quickly with a refreshing, progressive sound as Phonte and Carmen harmonize beautifully. Keeping the momentum going, frequent collaborator Sy Smith sits in for "Right After Midnight," a funky little jam that mixes a bit of the '80s with a bit of international flair. "Better" is the album's first standout, however. It's bass bump and piano-led groove is sure to get your head nodding, but it's the way that the vocalists -- in this case Phonte, Shana Tucker and Eric Roberson -- work so well together. Don't be surprised if it's named the next single.

The '80's sound returns for "On a Day Like Today" before they slow down for "Listen to the Rain." As the title suggests, it's a melancholy melody about recovering from heartache and Phonte does the lyrics justice, revealing a vulnerability he doesn't always show. It's the perfect set up for the album's lead single "Call It Home," perhaps the song most synonymous with the sound we've come to know and love from the crew. But, just when you start to get comfortable, they try out just a small bit of house for jam "The Moment," which is sure to get toes tapping and bodies moving with its infectious groove. It's further proof that the crew can do more than just make mellow R&B, but can also switch it up now and then and do something a bit unexpected.

Continue reading SoulBounce reviews Love In Flying Colors

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AllMusic reviews Love In Flying Colors

by +FE on September 22, 2013 at 9:12 AM · Comments
The title of the fourth Foreign Exchange album is so corny that the back cover might as well show Nicolay and Phonte, together with their dozen-plus associates, leaping over an airstrip with ear-to-ear grins. Once the serene strings on the closing "When I Feel Love" fade out, it's clear the title is absolutely descriptive, as the prevailing mood deeply contrasts with that of the racked Authenticity. If there is a bridge between the two albums, it's third track "Better," in which Phonte rhymes matrimony with acrimony and sings of being healed. Second to that is chamber folk-soul ballad "Listen to the Rain," where Phonte is overwhelmed, "lost inside this pain," but that segues into the speedy drum'n'bass ballad "Call It Home," where the spirit starts to lift and turbulence is counteracted with optimism: "Sunny days are rare/But I'd follow you almost anywhere." Otherwise, from "Feels so good, love's flying high" -- Carmen Rodgers' invigorated chorus on opener "If I Knew Then" -- to the blissful duet finale featuring Jeanne Jolly, Love in Flying Colors is about the rush and delight of falling in love. As usual, almost all of the instrumentation is performed by Nicolay. The uptempo tracks of his City Lights, Vol. 2 were something of a warning flare, though the bright synthesizer-laced grooves here are a little funkier and more musical. "Right After Midnight" is prime modern boogie, while "The Moment," the best track Blaze never made, is soulful house hotter than +FE Music: The Reworks highlight "So What If It Is." Phonte, who has developed into an exceptional singer, is supported by several co-lead and background vocalists used in a variety of imaginative ways. Each guest appearance is worthy of mention, but Gwen Bunn's entry -- for the last verse of broken beat throwback "Can't Turn Around" -- adds a jolt like no other. In 2013, it takes a certain level of bravery to make R&B this open-hearted, joyous, and musical. U.K. acts like 4hero, New Sector Movements, and Bugz in the Attic were doing it in the early 2000s, but none of them put it together quite like this, in one concentrated shot, with the songwriting on the same high level as the productions and arrangements. This crew is elite.
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AllMusic reviews ManMade

by +FE on May 19, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Comments
One sign of a great album is when its last track is as stimulating as its first track. "Body Rock" ends Lorenzo Ferguson's second album for the Foreign Exchange label with eight minutes of heavenly, faultlessly crafted quiet storm. Thirty-eight minutes earlier, at the beginning, there's the deeply contrasting "The Train," a blissful machine-soul jam where Ferguson displays mastery of the synthetic and the organic. Those highlights feature two of Sy Smith's sweetest and best vocal performances, and they surround a high quantity of strong songs. Make that stronger songs: while ManMade has much in common with 2010's fine SunStorm, this particular set of relaxed and mature R&B is a little more complex and nuanced, yet the instant appeal remains. As with Ferguson's previous album, the moods here are predominantly romantic and relentlessly positive, even when it briefly confronts the pressures expressed by Phonte in "Out in the World." ManMade features some of the same collaborators, including not just Smith and frequent background and foreground presence Phonte, but also Carlitta Durand and Eric Roberson, the latter of whom leads the sophisticated twilight funk of "We Are on the Move." Whether the leads are supplied by labelmate Jeanne Jolly, the higher profile Anthony David, up-and-comers Gwen Bunn and 1-O.A.K., or underexposed veterans like Choklate and Carmen Rodgers, the album maintains an easy elegance and never derails. For all the help he receives, this is Ferguson's show. On each track, he's credited with either "all instruments" or "all other instruments," which means that he played everything but some flute, horns, and percussion. ManMade is a complete work -- his best creation yet.
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Ten questions with Nicolay (via Textura)

by +FE on April 3, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Comments
Lots of changes have occurred since Nicolay last graced textura's pages in an article form; in fact, it's been five years since his top ten selection of '70s albums appeared. But a great deal more has changed in the life of Matthijs L. Nicolay Rook, both musically and professionally. Today, he's a key player in The Foreign Exchange musical outfit as well as a central part of The Foreign Exchange organization, which has not only released material by The Foreign Exchange but also full-lengths by FE member Phonte, Median, Zo!, and Jeanne Jolly. Any listener seeking an entry point might start with +FE Music: The Reworks, the latest release from the label, which provides a tantalizing overview of the FE universe in featuring tracks by roster artists as well as remix contributions from 4hero, Tall Black Guy, Pure P, and others. To coincide with its release, Nicolay generously agreed to update us on the latest goings-on in the FE camp as well as the status of future albums and projects with which he's associated.

1. I hear a dramatic evolution in style from your solo release Here in 2006 to your recent work in The Foreign Exchange, with the more pronounced hip-hop feel of the earlier release evolving into a broader style that, while not excluding hip-hop from the mix, embraces as deeply soul, funk, and r'n'b, and jazz, too. How do you see the stylistic evolution of your music?

The fact that the first couple of projects I released (starting with Connected) were primarily hip-hop oriented was indicative of what and who I was primarily influenced by at that particular time in my life, and not necessarily indicative of the totality of my interests and abilities. During the early '90s I started eating, sleeping, and dreaming hip-hop as a fan, but I had always looked at myself as a musician on the one hand, playing bass and keyboards in funk and soul bands, and as a scholar on the other, studying music at the university level, and since I didn't DJ, there was no place for me in hip-hop as a contributor in my mind. That all changed when I heard J Dilla. There was a musicality in his music that was unlike anything else that I had heard and that made me believe that there was a place for me. So I totally immersed myself into the hip-hop music production esthetic, and it helped me find my own voice. The music was something that I could do on my own, without the help of others. I really got into sampling and more so even the combination of sampling with my own live instrument playing. Over time I started to depend on my own playing and composing and arranging more and more until there was a point where I felt I didn't really need the samples anymore because they were just a restriction to me; I think that you could say that hip-hop as a whole started to feel like a restriction to me. Hip-hop fans might not like reading that, but I really don't mean it in a bad way. I just wanted to start incorporating other styles and flavors that I loved equally, like jazz and R&B and dance/electronica. I was keeping a lot of that behind closed doors because it wouldn't have fit within a hip-hop context, and once I let go of that, it all just started to come together-- "Daykeeper," "House Of Cards," "Sweeter Than You," "Shibuya Station," "Saturday Night," etc., etc.

Continue reading Ten questions with Nicolay (via Textura)

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Textura reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

by +FE on April 3, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Comments
The title is key: +FE Music: The Reworks features remixes, yes, but they're remixes of tracks by the label's artists, not just The Foreign Exchange. In that regard, songs by Zo!, Deborah Bond, Vikter Duplaix, Phonte, RJD2, Sy Smith, Jeanne Jolly, and The Hot At Nights appear alongside material by The Foreign Exchange, even if the latter does dominate (to be precise, nine of the twenty-one songs are credited to the group). Regardless, this wonderful collection shows just how far the communal spirit of The Foreign Exchange extends, and it's not all remixes, either, as the release also includes new studio tracks to offer a foretaste of The Foreign Exchange's next full-length release. The new "So What If It Is," for example, shows just how sophisticated its music has grown. The group's trademark soul and swing are firmly in place, naturally, but more striking is the ambitious arrangement, which embellishes the band's funky flow with strings and horns.

The influences are wide-ranging, with tracks echoing artists from Prince and Stevie Wonder to Todd Rundgren (RJD2's "Games You Can Win," whose piano-based arrangement oozes a rather Something/Anything flavour) and Fleetwood Mac, the latter coyly referenced in the "If This Is Love (Nicky Buckingham's Fleetwood Remix)" title (the track itself seems to sneak parts of Mick Fleetwood's "Dreams" drum track into its arrangement). Phonte's "Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" also directly references the live Prince jam from Sign 'O' the Times.

Continue reading Textura reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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AllMusic reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

by +FE on March 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Comments
More than a set of remixes, The Reworks is a showcase for Phonte and Nicolay's immediate and extended Foreign Exchange Music family -- the duo's like-named group, the artists supported by the label, and their affiliates and peers. Most releases of this type are stylistically scattered and equally inconsistent in quality. That's not the case with this 21-track compilation, given that the "outside" contributors -- including remixers Tall Black Guy, Pirahnahead, Ahmed Sirour, Pure P, Marc Mac (4hero), and James Poyser and ?uestlove (the Randy Watson Experience), as well as the remixed Vikter Duplaix and Debórah Bond -- could be on the label roster without changing its aesthetic. Nicolay carries out eight of the remixes, typically with his own all-new instrumentation. These include Jeanne Jolly's blissful ballad "Sweet Love," where soul-folk is recast as ambient R&B, and RJD2 featuring Kenna's "Games You Can Win," adjusted to sound like classic singer/songwriter material targeting adult album alternative radio playlists. He also turns "ACSlater," a funky freakout from recording/touring partner Chris Boerner's band the Hot @ Nights, into textured and melodic electronic pop that could be on Ghostly International. Each rework has at least some appeal, but nothing provokes repeat play like Tall Black Guy's spaced-out, smack-and-glide work on Zo!'s "This Could Be the Night," also switched up with a Phonte appearance in place of Big Pooh. Three tracks are new compositions. Phonte's wistful "Love Songs," produced by Focus..., evokes a Gerald Levert/Roger Troutman collaboration with longtime FE associate Sy Smith as Shirley Murdock. Two new songs from the Foreign Exchange themselves are among the group's best. "So What If It Is" is eight minutes of brisk, sunlit house with inspirational realism. "Don't Let It Be So," written and produced with Zo!, relays dejection vividly enough to disturb a content soul and has more to offer in its last minute than most songs.
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Phonte Says He's ''Done Remaking Songs''; Won't Rap ''To Stay Relevant'' (via HipHopDX)

by +FE on March 5, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Comments
Exclusive: The Foreign Exchange reflect on their long working history, a new album of remixes and why Phonte is in no rush to put out a sophomore, solo Rap LP.

Phonte Coleman has come far through endless determination and musical ingenuity in the 10 years since his former group Little Brother dropped their pivotal debut, The Listening. During this time, he formed a partnership with Dutch producer Nicolay. It's a partnership that has since produced three albums and a fully independent business under their own banner.

Just released, The Reworks gives new life to fan favorites from the Foreign Exchange's catalog with productions from the likes of international sensation 4Hero, ?uestlove and James Poyser's Randy Watson Experience and Tall Black Guy (considered by many to be reviving soulful Hip Hop within the underground), as well as and FE's own instrumentalists Zo! and Nicolay. The project offers enough to hold hungry fans over, as the group is hard at work on their next effort, Love In Flying Colors, with Zo's anticipated ManMade slated to drop in the coming months.

The always candid Phonte and his lesser heard partner in crime, Nicolay recently spoke with HipHopDX, reflecting on how far they have come together, relishing their present moment and leaving the future up in the air. Though their music's consistency speaks greater volumes than any words can, this chat offered insight regarding the always-brewing creativity involved in their operation.

Continue reading Phonte Says He's ''Done Remaking Songs''; Won't Rap ''To Stay Relevant'' (via HipHopDX)

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Soul Train reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

by +FE on March 4, 2013 at 2:54 PM · Comments
Expect the unexpected. Take all pre-conceived notions, throw them right out the window, and dive head-first into a world of sound containing no genre, definition, or boundary. This is what fans of Nicolay Rook and Phonte Coleman, together known as The Foreign Exchange, have come to love and respect. Since the Grammy-nominated duo's 2004 cross-continental created debut album Connected, Nicolay and Phonte have continued to surprise and challenge listeners with cross-genre albums of hip-hop, soul, electronica, jazz, and even borderline, stripped down blues and folk.

More so, this anything goes, "throw everything and the kitchen sink" mentality of creation has manifested beyond the group itself into a curated music collective that has housed releases by past and present +FE Music collaborators such as YahZarah, Darien Brockington, Carlitta Durand, Sy Smith, Jeanne Jolly, The Hot At Nights, Median, and Zo! It is this catalog of collaborations, solo endeavors, and group efforts that make up the source material for the double disk remix album, +FE Music: The Reworks.

Continue reading Soul Train reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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Potholes In My Blog reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

by +FE on March 4, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Comments
As an artist, putting your work in the proper context makes it both easier to digest and present. So when the Foreign Exchange precluded their latest release, a compilation of (mostly) remixes +FE Music: The Reworks, with a brand-new song, the duo of Phonte and Nicolay doubled-down on making sure the context was perfect. The track, a bouncy deep house number called "So What If It Is", revealed the direction of two completely separate projects: The Reworks and the duo's follow-up to 2010′s phenomenal Authenticity.

Their incredible songwriting and production aside, Phonte and Nicolay's most appealing feature as a duo is their ability to musically shape-shift. Here are two guys who kicked things off with a soul/R&B-tinged rap album, 2004′s Connected, only to gracefully transition toward straight-up R&B. Yet, in doing so, they never completely abandoned rap--Tay still spits, as do guests like Median--and they also haven't remained stagnant. Authenticity, for example, finds them successfully more sounds than ever before, especially on folk-y tear-jerker "Laughing At Your Plans" with Chantae Cann.

Continue reading Potholes In My Blog reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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SoulTracks reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

by +FE on February 27, 2013 at 1:03 PM · Comments
After several seminal releases from their camp's ever-changing cast, a new album from The Foreign Exchange is officially an event. The fifth F.E. release under the group's lead moniker is a gorgeous retrospective of the major works and highlights of the last nine years of the entire F.E. family, past and present. Favorites get flipped and tracks that might have previously been throwaways now potentially become new favorites with this reworking of F.E. classics. F.E. followers are granted the added treat of a handful of new cuts, including the retro-fitted R&B quartet of "Love Songs (featuring Focus... and Sy Smith)," the neo-soul electronica of "Don't Let It Be So," and the inspirational buzz cut, "So What If It Is." Overall, this behemoth The Reworks project is a must-have for any F.E. camp fans and those yet to be converted.

The gang's all here: old, new, and the faithful trinity of Phonte, Nicolay, and Zo! Current F.E. heads Median, Jeanne Jolly, and Sy Smith get their shine, but so do former FE soul associates Yahzarah, Chantae Cann, Carlitta Durand and Darien Brockington. While it seems unlikely that those four re-recorded their vocals for this ambitious, sometimes cluttered project, the mix manages to capture the original recordings and surround them with compositional arrangements that actually compliment the original vocal tracks, rather than forcing the fit, as so many producers remixing original vocal tracks are guilty of. For this lack of ego, a serious debt is owed to the engineers who mixed and mastered these cuts, in addition to the bevy of remix producers featured here, for making these classics in many instances feel like completely new first loves. No small feat given the sheer volume of favorites picked.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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Seven Questions with The Foreign Exchange (via Triangle.com)

by +FE on December 27, 2012 at 4:12 AM · Comments
After three studio albums, a GRAMMY nod, and, now, on the heels of a two-year global tour, the boys of The Foreign Exchange -- rapper/singer/songwriter Phonte Coleman and Producer Nicolay -- are set to bend the boards and bring in the New Year for their first-ever Bull City show, to stage at The Cotton Room as part of The Art of Cool Project's NYE show.

In the age of the Twitterverse -- where even the latest Bond Girl wrangled her spot in "Skyfall" via a tweet-the-right-people onslaught -- social-media creative connections might not seem that arbitrary, or shocking. But do they last? Apparently, if you're +FE. After an (e-)meeting, and connection, on rap message board OKAYPlayer.com 10 years ago -- from Raleigh (Phonte) to Holland (Nicolay) -- that led to that across-the-pond first album in 2004 ("Connected," completed before they ever met in person), the boys of +FE are proximal (Nicolay relocated to Wilmington, N.C., in 2006), flourishing and ever-so-humbly unaffected by rising fame.

Now with their own label (FE Music, 2008, with Director of Operations Aimee Flint) and their fourth studio album on the horizon, they are still the same sound engineers with a shared vision who sought each other out over social media. "It's not about mass production. It's personal," says Phonte, of the intended heartbeat of their qualifiably electronic sound. "It's very warm and very human," he continues. "It's not processed and edited to the point where you can't see any fingerprints on it. It's something that very much breathes."

And now? With all those carefully crafted fingerprints, they're finally gonna 'bring it home,' and leave their footprint in Durham.

Continue reading Seven Questions with The Foreign Exchange (via Triangle.com)

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Foreign Familiarity

by +FE on November 1, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Comments
When the GRAMMY-nominated Foreign Exchange perform live, it's more than a concert -- it's a family reunion.

I stood backstage with my arms crossed over my chest and hands connected to band members on either side of me. As I stared down at my Authenticity T-shirt, Phonte delivered a spirit-stirring prayer thanking God for a receptive crowd, tight musicianship and flawless voices. I glanced over at Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly -- two incredible songstresses who softened the blows of Phonte's bragaddocio hip hop delivery. My eyes travelled towards Nicolay, one of the most humble and talented producers I've ever known, as he bowed in concentration.

The remaining contributors to the collective, Zo! (keys), Chris Boerner (lead guitar), Tim Scott Jr. (drums) and Darion Alexander (bass) put down their jokes and smartphones to enter this zone of creative synergy that surged from one hand to the other. It was showtime at the Key Club in Hollywood, CA - and The Foreign Exchange approached the stage to deliver one of the last performances of their Authenticity tour. It was poised to be one of their best.

Continue reading Foreign Familiarity

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Raleigh native, singer Jeanne Jolly lives up to her name

by +FE on October 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Comments
If there has ever been a person who truly deserves her last name, it's Jeanne Jolly.

The Raleigh native shows up for this interview bubbly and upbeat, beaming enough sunshine to make curmudgeons crack a begrudging smile. Jolly has good reason to beam: Her new album, "Angels," was released on Tuesday. And Friday, she's performing at her album release party at Lincoln Theatre.

"The performing thing has always been something I've wanted to do," says Jolly, 33, during sips of French press coffee. From the way she speaks of her musical journey, that's pretty much an understatement. She studied classical music at St. Mary's School, did community theater musicals, sang the national anthem at Carolina Mudcats games, majored in vocal performance at Western Carolina University, even getting her master's degree in classical voice (which she considered "more of a challenge") at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music.

Continue reading Raleigh native, singer Jeanne Jolly lives up to her name

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Nicolay and the Hot at Nights cook up jazzy experiments at Lola (via KDHX.org)

by +FE on July 15, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Comments
In the world of music, often producers and songwriters get overlooked in the shadows of the performers they support, but that's hardly the case with Nicolay.

The crowd at Lola made sure he knew how much St. Louis loves his work and his passion. Every table in the downtown club was reserved well in advance, and the bar was full long before the music started as the staff tried to accommodate the quickly growing crowd, buzzing with stories and expectations for the night's show.

Nicolay, born Matthijs Rook, started his life and much of his musical career in the Netherlands, playing with a variety of relatively-unknown bands starting in his youth. As his delight for music blossomed, he developed as a multi-instrumentalist and started composing and producing his own work. In a testament to the global community created by the Internet, an online forum brought him together with Phonte Cole, a talented emcee with the hip-hop act, Little Brother (with 9th Wonder and Big Pooh), and the Foreign Exchange was born.

Continue reading Nicolay and the Hot at Nights cook up jazzy experiments at Lola (via KDHX.org)

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Nicolay & The Hot At Nights Razed The Blue Room in KC (via Demencha Magazine)

by +FE on July 15, 2012 at 4:00 PM · Comments
The crowd at The Blue Room on Thursday night was not easily impressed, a right they duly reserve. During Kansas City's jazz heyday in the 1930's and 1940's, upwards of 140 or so jazz clubs sprawled across the KC metro, with the real epicenter scalding at the 18th & Vine neighborhood which included approximately 40 jazz clubs on a single strip. The Blue Room is just one of them. Based off speaking to one of the American Jazz Museum's more integral figures on Thursday night, he painted a picture for me that I could only describe as a Westport on steroids while we did our best to compare the current Westport dance crowds with the jazz scene in the 30's and 40's. Though that era has passed, Kansas City's old jazz explosion has shrapnel still flying today in 2012.

Dutch producer, Nicolay, probably most loved for his work as part of The Foreign Exchange alongside North Carolina rapper, Phonte, has built a reputation as a real favorite for the hip hop and jazz aficionados kicking it amongst us. As usual when I attend a show there, the host at Thursday's show asked the audience how many of them had never been to the Blue Room before. I could guess that it's at shows like this in which a scheduled performer mixes hip hop into their jazz set or is known for hip hop work, where the Blue Room tends to see a lot of unfamiliar faces under their roof at the corner of 18th & Vine. I can specifically remember Reach, Izmore and Diverse's live hip hop tribute shows at The Blue Room wherein what seemed like nearly half of the crowd raised their hands to note their first time to the venue. Nicolay's clout for warm, relaxed beats injected the Blue Room in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, MO on Thursday with a shot of new faces. And unfortunately, a lot of Kansas City music heads probably missed out on this event. I went to the show after hearing about it for the first time on the day of.

Continue reading Nicolay & The Hot At Nights Razed The Blue Room in KC (via Demencha Magazine)

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Nicolay and The Hot At Nights deliver a memorable performance in Toronto (via Bad Perm)

by +FE on July 11, 2012 at 10:44 AM · Comments
It's very rare that I go to a concert and leave speechless. The recent Nicolay (one half of Foreign Exchange) and The Hot At Nights session left a very lasting impression. I can hardly describe just how good the music they performed felt. I was nodding my head, dancing in my seat and smiling hard throughout their performance. This night was all about the music, the good vibes; a night purely for music lovers.

Now there was no elaborate set, pyrotechnics or even any singers, there were four extremely talented musicians. That's correct it was a performance of instrumentals! Nicolay (synth/keyboards), Matt Douglas (saxophone/woodwinds), Chris Boerner (8-string guitar) and Nick Baglio (drums), walked on stage, as if they were invited up at an open mic. They sat down at their particular instrument, Nicolay did a brief intro and they dived straight into the music. I should have asked for a set list, but the second track they performed was BANANAS! I honestly think I got whiplash from nodding my head so profusely! The instrumentation on that track was incredible and flawless. It was definitely that feel good music, the type that makes you close your eyes and meditate on the vibes. I was once again in a zone, enjoying every musical note and eager for more. The next track was off of the collaborative album between Nicolay and Raleigh, North Carolina-based jazz trio The Hot At Nights, The Shibuya Session EP, "The Inner Garden", which just further engaged the audience. At this time, Nicolay decided to treat us to a revised version of Foreign Exchange's "Happiness" off their 2004 album Connected. What a beautiful revision to an already classic track, most enjoyable. The track "Bullet Train" was quick, literally the speed of a bullet, nonetheless one of the most appealing tracks they performed.

Continue reading Nicolay and The Hot At Nights deliver a memorable performance in Toronto (via Bad Perm)

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Nicolay Shows Off His Jazzy Side on North American Tour, Talks New Foreign Exchange Album (via Exclaim.ca)

by +FE on July 5, 2012 at 9:18 AM · Comments
As noted hip-hop/soul producer Nicolay kicks off a 13-stop North American tour with exploratory jazz trio the Hot at Nights this week, the Grammy-nominated Dutch performer tells Exclaim! that he's in a good place right now.

The tour, which makes its lone Canadian stop in Toronto on Thursday (July 5), is something that's been a long time coming, the Foreign Exchange member notes. The show will see Nicolay and the Hot at Nights perform jazzy interpretations and arrangements of his instrumental compositions from his City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya project.

"Toronto has always been great. When we were doing the tour and I knew we were going up north, I really wanted to include Toronto in the plans," the North Carolina-based Nicolay says. "I feel like Toronto is a very open-minded city and people are definitely ready for something that is a little bit off the beaten path."

Continue reading Nicolay Shows Off His Jazzy Side on North American Tour, Talks New Foreign Exchange Album (via Exclaim.ca)

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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.

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

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A Conversation with Nicolay (via Planet Ill)

by +FE on July 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Comments
The journey traveled by Nicolay to pursue his career as a producer and musician has to be something like a dream. The Netherlands native who was found on the Okayplayer message board by fellow Foreign Exchange member Phonte almost a decade ago, is off running and touring with The Hot at Nights in support of his latest effort, The Shibuya EP.

We spoke with Nic about the fast and furious recording process he endured to complete The Shibuya EP, his love for Harold's Chicken, feuding with iTunes, and when the next Foreign Exchange album is coming out.

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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.

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

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Phonte Coleman figures out how to be on his own (via News & Observer)

by +FE on June 8, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Comments
It's been quite a year for Phonte Coleman.

Raleigh's resident MC/soul singer extraordinaire (who usually just goes by his first name) - the same man who has been front-and-center for such outfits as the now-defunct hip-hop trio Little Brother and the Grammy-nominated, indie-R&B collaboration known as the Foreign Exchange - has spent most of these past months onstage, mainly by his lonesome.

"Everything I've done up to this point was from Little Brother or Foreign Exchange or whatever," says Coleman, 33, getting comfortable in his Raleigh home after just getting off a plane.

Continue reading Phonte Coleman figures out how to be on his own (via News & Observer)

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Stardom Beyond Fame: The Foreign Exchange, tonight @ Shaka's

by +FE on June 7, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Comments
There is such artistic beauty that emanates from the South.

I mean really, with all of its iconic flaws and deep history of regression, it's always been remarkable to me how the best art-literature, music and visual works-are created from progressive minded southerners.

Take for example, The Foreign Exchange. This North Carolina based duo, consisting of one Phonte Coleman, the rapper/singer of Little Brother fame, and Nicolay, a sonic intellectual from the Netherlands, regularly creates some of the most atmospheric, modern soul music currently populating the music blogosphere and digital music players everywhere. You won't hear The Foreign Exchange on commercial radio, but then why would you want to?

Continue reading Stardom Beyond Fame: The Foreign Exchange, tonight @ Shaka's

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Beats, Bartering and Brooklyn: The Foreign Exchange Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg (via The Revivalist)

by +FE on June 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Comments
Phonte "Phontigallo" Coleman and Matthijs "Nicolay" Rook named themselves The Foreign Exchange because they recorded their 2004 debut album, Connected, without ever having met in flesh. This transcontinental changing of hands - forged from their Okayplayer encounters - makes their moniker simple to understand, but there's much more to the name than that. The exchange of alien musical ideals between the two - Coleman's North Carolina hip-hop roots as one third of Little Brother, Nicolay's background as a Dutch electronic music producer - have come to reconcile a form of music that is not easily explained. When they received their first Grammy nomination in 2008 for the song "Daykeeper," they were classified as Urban/Alternative; a curiously damning and contradictory title, as it combines two terms that are limiting and vague, respectively. Appropriate that such an indescribable band chose Brooklyn as a performance stop. The New York City borough is a terminal where countless cultures, sounds and spirits collide and implode. If their performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg offered any resolution, The Foreign Exchange (+FE) has to be described as a jazz band. Not jazz in its predictable preconceptions, but rather as an abstract ideal, or a means to an end. The end is to create physical and intellectual rejuvenation for its listeners; the means is to use every melodic and lyrical resource that their mental disc-changer can muster.

Continue reading Beats, Bartering and Brooklyn: The Foreign Exchange Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg (via The Revivalist)

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Listen Up: Phonte Coleman, Nicolay of The Foreign Exchange began an ocean apart (via The Fayetteville Observer)

by +FE on June 7, 2012 at 11:01 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange's road to becoming a Grammy nominee began humbly enough on an Internet message board in 2002.

Phonte Coleman, one half of The Foreign Exchange, lived in Raleigh and was part of hip-hop group Little Brother at the time. He swapped music and ideas with Nicolay, a producer living in the Netherlands, on okayplayer.com, an online hip-hop community.

The idea of making an album together through digital exchange was ahead of its time for 2002, even though Coleman didn't see it that way.

Continue reading Listen Up: Phonte Coleman, Nicolay of The Foreign Exchange began an ocean apart (via The Fayetteville Observer)

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Leave It All Behind (via Mountain Xpress)

by +FE on June 6, 2012 at 11:55 PM · Comments
Hooking up a phone call with Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook, the stylistic poles and primary creators of electro-R&B outfit The Foreign Exchange, takes a good deal of coordination. On one particular Tuesday afternoon, Rook is ready and waiting, while Coleman is on a plane and in the middle of another interview. After holding for Coleman to finish and quickly overcoming a few connectivity issues, both men are on the phone. They rarely interact in their responses, content to offer their answers in turn, building on each others' points, reaching cohesive conclusions with isolated input.

Overcoming obstacles of communication has been an overriding theme of The Foreign Exchange. Coleman and Rook completed their 2004 debut Connected by sharing snippets via the Internet. The Raleigh-based Coleman met his complement on the hip-hop message board Okayplayer. Despite the fact that Rook resided in Holland, the two found immediate common ground, Rook's soul-inflected R&B soundscapes pairing perfectly with the pillow-y croons of the then-Little Brother emcee. These days, Rook has moved closer to a coastal home in Wilmington, but the pair still largely create in isolation.

Continue reading Leave It All Behind (via Mountain Xpress)

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Phonte and Nicolay make dynamic duo as The Foreign Exchange (via The Boston Globe)

by +FE on June 1, 2012 at 10:12 AM · Comments
There was a point when Phonte Coleman toyed with the idea of penning a relationship guide.

Because, you know, if Steve Harvey did it, right?

By and large, Coleman originally made his name as the third of the North Carolina rap group Little Brother that balanced rhymer's rhymes crafted for hip-hop purists with stories about dating and courting (there's a difference), breakups, sex, family, parenthood, and the nuts and bolts of everyday life.

But he did it with the kind of wisdom-chased wit that happened to make for convenient pocket-size philosophies for lovers.

Continue reading Phonte and Nicolay make dynamic duo as The Foreign Exchange (via The Boston Globe)

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Nicolay goes with a jazz groove

by +FE on January 22, 2012 at 7:28 AM · Comments
Nicolay Rook needed to do something.

He needed to do something to pass the time, to keep himself occupied, to prevent his musical skills from becoming atrophied. With Phonte Coleman, his singing/rapping partner in the Grammy-nominated, North Carolina-based, emo-soul duo known as The Foreign Exchange, working on a bevy of projects last year (including releasing his own solo debut "Charity Starts at Home"), Rook was looking for a project of his own. And thus, "The Shibuya Session EP" was born.

Released in November, the eight-track recording has the Dutch-born, Wilmington-based Rook hooking up with The Hot at Nights, an exploratory jazz trio from Raleigh, doing jazzy, occasionally avant-garde reworkings of several tunes from Rook's 2009 electro-soul album "City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya."

Continue reading Nicolay goes with a jazz groove

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Grammy nominee Nicolay is now in 'Session'

by +FE on January 19, 2012 at 8:15 AM · Comments
The last time the Dutch-born, Wilmington-based producer and musician Nicolay made a public appearance locally was about five years ago. It wasn't even a gig, per se, just a DJing session at the late, great night spot Bella Festa.

Things were a little different back then for Nicolay, who plays a gig on Tuesday at the Soapbox with exploratory jazz group The Hot @ Nights out of Raleigh.

His Grammy nomination, for Best Urban/Alternative track, from his group The Foreign Exchange's song "Daykeeper," had yet to occur. In fact, The Foreign Exchange, the duo Nicolay shares with Raleigh-based vocalist Phonte Coleman, was so obscure they were known to only the hippest of hip-hop heads.

Five years later, however, the Foreign Exchange has parlayed its Grammy nomination into a deeply devoted following that allowed the group to book its biggest-ever tour in 2011, not to mention allowing Nicolay to build up nearly 19,000 Twitter followers. (Phonte, a former vocalist with the hip-hop group Little Brother, has nearly 47,000.)

He's also taken quite the musical journey, from hip-hop to more of a soul/R&B/pop vibe with FE - even covering a James Taylor tune and doing a country version of a Foreign Exchange song on a live album - and expanding on his 2009 solo effort "City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya" on a live album with the Hot @ Nights.

Continue reading Grammy nominee Nicolay is now in 'Session'

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SoulBounce Honors 2011's Rapper Of The Year: Phonte

by +FE on December 30, 2011 at 10:10 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange could be considered a permanent fixture here at SoulBounce. We're not only fans and champions of their music but over the years we've formed a familial bond with the entire crew. Loving them is easy and when anyone from the fam drops a project, we're there to support. So when it was time for his solo debut album, it was pretty much a given that we'd love it. But we didn't know how much we'd love it, and Charity Starts At Home truly defied our expectations. When it came to hip hop in 2011 and who most held our attention here and therefore was a shoe-in for Rapper of the Year honors, it was all about one person: Phonte.

Tay rang in the year doing something that sent tongues wagging when he squashed his beef with former Little Brother member 9th Wonder after four years of not speaking. That reconciliation would lead to both artists working together once again on each other's new projects, which would later be scheduled for release on the same date, and an ensuing concert tour. A fiction writer couldn't come up with a more poetic storyline than their reunion.

Continue reading SoulBounce Honors 2011's Rapper Of The Year: Phonte

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Charity Starts At Home is #14 on SPIN Magazine's '40 Best Rap Albums of 2011' list

by +FE on December 29, 2011 at 11:48 AM · Comments
Tastemakers may have rediscovered this former leader of backpack-rap heroes Little Brother thanks to his neo-soul project Foreign Exchange and frequent shout-outs from unabashed fan Drake. But Phonte Coleman never stopped making hearty, soulful hip-hop that sticks to your ribs. Rejoining estranged LB producer 9th Wonder, he builds with Big K.R.I.T. and Pharoahe Monch, addressing strained relationships ("Who Loves You More") and sympathizing with unemployed folks ("The Good Fight"). As he puts it on "Everything is Falling Down": "Don't need a new style / Being dope is always in fashion." M.R.

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Urban Orleans reviews The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity Tour stop in New Orleans

by +FE on December 14, 2011 at 9:36 AM · Comments
Quite possibly one of the best (intimate) live shows to hit New Orleans this season involved a 7-piece soul-funk band, 2 gorgeous vocalists and 1 comedian, er rapper. Enter: The Foreign Exchange.

The show at One-Eyed Jack's last week seemed to be somewhat of an insider's affair, considering there really was no mass advertising for the show, yet every +FE fan in the Greater New Orleans area was certainly in the house. Even loyal Little Brother fans probably had no idea what they were in store for - the other side of MC/singer Phonte's alter-ego on full display as 1/2 of The Foreign Exchange.

After local hero DJ E.F. Cuttin warmed up the floor, the Grammy-nominated outfit, headed up by Dutch musician-producer, Nicolay, and lauded rapper Phonte of North Carolina (and 1/3 of Little Brother with Big Pooh & 9th Wonder), has included a rotating assembly of some of Soul, Funk and Hip Hop's best and brightest from YahZarah and Carlitta Durand to Darien Brockington and Motown's Zo, but this tour brought NoLa debut performances from not only Nicolay, Zo and the band... but the lovely and sensuous songstresses Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly graced the velvet-curtained stage at one of New Orleans' legendary former brothel burlesque houses - the perfect setting for the sultry set delivered by The Foreign Exchange. In fact, the sexy packed house was demanding more even post-encore.

It's safe to say, the secret is out: The Foreign Exchange won the oh-so-difficult and ever-coveted approval of the New Orleans audience. And we'll be watching for them to come back for more...

Don't believe us? Check out the photos from The Foreign Exchange @ One-Eyed Jack's 11/21/11 x Sierra Hudson here.
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Nashville Scene reviews The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity Tour in Nashville

by +FE on November 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM · Comments
Nashville Scene reviews The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity Tour in Nashville
The Foreign Exchange could not have picked a better time to pull into B.B. King's than last Friday. OK, maybe the showtime could have been better -- 6:30 p.m. is way, way earlier than the Spin is usually out and about. But in terms of timing the show exactly when The Spin was going to need a damn fine R&B show, The Foreign Exchange couldn't have done any better. While we usually avoid pop country at all costs, somehow we got roped into spending CMA week slobbing on the proverbial knobs of Music Row via some non-Scene-related freelance work. We felt dirty, we felt whorish, we had the most trite songs about flip-flops and Mexican beer stuck in our heads. It was awful. But one awesome set by The Foreign Exchange made everything all right.

Granted, The Spin being The Spin, we got there late -- having spent an ungodly amount of time looking for parking and trying not run over tourists with glazed eyes and small children running around. It was a pretty good reminder of why we never, ever go to Second Ave, especially on a weekend night when the Interstate & County crowd floods the city with their knockoff Affliction shirts and acid-washed jeans. We appreciate the fact these folks want to spend hard-earned money as tourists in our fair city. But good gawddamn, people, pay attention to where you're walking! They might not have street lights out in Bumpkinsville, but we do here, and the red hand means DON'T WALK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING STREET. And don't stand there looking blankly as cars beep at you. It's Urban Survival 101, folks: Avoid ending up at the business end of a moving vehicle. The Convention and Visitors Bureau really ought to include that in the brochures.

Continue reading Nashville Scene reviews The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity Tour in Nashville

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AllMusic reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on November 20, 2011 at 11:08 AM · Comments
Phonte Coleman of the defunct North Carolina rap duo Little Brother wears many hats: singer/songwriter, rapper, and, occasionally, comedian. Over the course of his career, it's been questionable which he wears best -- the adult contemporary/R&B outfit the Foreign Exchange pairs Netherlands producer Nicolay's warmly acoustic, Moog-driven production with Phonte's swooning singing vocals, which is quite a contrast from his aggressive, loosely percussive delivery as an MC over the hard-hitting boom-bap production of venerable hip-hop producer 9th Wonder. After three tremendous consecutive albums with the Foreign Exchange, his debut solo outing, Charity Starts at Home, is a well-balanced marriage of all of Phonte's musical inclinations. Phonte the singer, who gravitates to poignant love ballads, and Phonte the MC, who tends to relatable perspectives of family life and the working class, coexist here. It comes across as naturally human with a comedic twist, something that Phonte has always been good at. His brash sense of humor on "Sendin My Love" turns the internal conflicts of a married man into satire, while Phonte admits "I do this all for hip-hop! I'm lying like sh*t. I do this for my bills" on the album's opening track, "Dance in the Reign." Phonte also reunites with former fellow group member 9th Wonder on several occasions, namely on the standout "Not Here Anymore" (featuring rapper extraordinaire eLZhi) and an epic sample of Rose Royce's classic "Love Don't Live Here Anymore." Phonte doesn't stray too far from swooning R&B, though, as he sings a sentimental number over Zo!'s smooth piano riffs on "To Be Yours" and floats in anticipation on the ethereal duet "Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" with Carlita Durand. Charity Starts at Home proves that none of Phonte's talents are obsolete and he can merge all of them into one cohesive project that's as much of a treat as any of his other endeavors, if not more.
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The Foreign Exchange spreads the love at Masquerade (via accessAtlanta)

by +FE on November 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange kicked off its Authenticity Tour Wednesday night at Masquerade in Atlanta.

After opening with "Connected", one half of the duo, Phonte, told fans that he was fighting a 104 degree fever and was high on medicine. But that didn't stop him from belting out each song with strength and beauty. While the other half, Nicolay, kept his eyes closed his body began to move fluidly as if the music had entered his toes, traveled through his neck and exited through is head.

The FE live band included Zo! bopping on keyboards, (reminiscent of a cool high school band teacher), with singers Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly holding down the background.

"We are an equal opportunity employer," Phonte said, referring to the multicultural band, which received cheers from its diverse audience.

"All or Nothing" had folks wiggling, and with introductions out of the way, the band dug into tracks from Zo! and Sy Smith, whose velvety voice sounded like a young Eartha Kitt. All that was missing was a purr.

Phonte's soliloquy during "Ball and Chain" segued into "Don't Wait," and insightful tune about love and the dos and don'ts of relationships.

"It's so confusing," Phonte said of "real love" and "cyber dating." He said with online, you don't know what you're really going to get. He encouraged fans to look around the room and speak to each other because their mate could be right there at the FE concert.

"The music you listen to is a reflection of how you see the world, and how you see yourself," he said.

Phonte explained how the best surgeons want the best equipment, musicians and lovers of music should want the best as well.

"Only in music are you looked down on for wanting the best", half of the Grammy-nominated duo said. "Expect better and you'll get better."

"Take Off the Blues" had everyone dancing and grooving as the band blended Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" into the song. But it was "Daykeeper" that sent the audience into frenzy.

After asking how many folks believed in the power of dreams, the band ended the night with a church-like twist to "Dream of Me." For an encore they offered "God is Laughing at Your Plans and "I Wanna Know," which had couples twirling and single folks dancing with imaginary partners
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Nicolay With The Hot At Nights Take A Jazzy Excursion Back To 'Shibuya' (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on November 10, 2011 at 8:41 AM · Comments
There are those moments in time when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when something major happened even when you can't recall what you had for breakfast two days ago. That will forever be the case for me whenever I think about learning of Heavy D's death yesterday right when I was in the middle of giving Nicolay's new project with The Hot At Nights, Shibuya Session EP, a good listen. I tried to carry my listening party on, but that good listen turned into a good and ugly cry when the melancholy notes of "Inner Garden" hit my ear. That's not to say that the music isn't great, because this eight-song collection of new interpretations and arrangements of instrumentals from Nicolay's 2009 album, City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, is pretty excellent. This half of The Foreign Exchange linked up with the three-piece exploratory jazz outfit The Hot At Nights made up of Chris Boerner, Matt Douglas, and Nick Baglio on this EP, which is quite refreshing and shows another side of Nic's multi-dimensional talent. These renditions breathe new life into the music from City Lights Vol 2: Shibuya with the addition of live instrumentation to the previous electronic landscapes that Nicolay painted on songs such as "Shibuya Station." Even casual listeners of jazz (such as myself) and those with ears open to all types of music (such as myself) will appreciate Shibuya Session, which is available as a free download to sweeten the pot for any skeptics out there.

In addition to releasing Shibuya Session, Nicolay with The Hot At Nights will be going on tour to support the project. Kicking off in January in their home state of North Carolina, the 13-date tour will hit cities such s Atlanta, Nashville, Philadelphia, DC, NYC, and Boston to name a few. Check the entire schedule below and make plans to get the Shibuya Session experience live and in living color.
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Textura reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 30, 2011 at 5:12 PM · Comments
In contrast to the crooning balladeer persona Phonte Coleman presented on The Foreign Exchange's recent live outing Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange, his first official solo album Charity Starts At Home spotlights his hip-hop side. More precisely, the recording readjusts the impression established by the recent Foreign Exchange releases to show Phonte as someone equally adept at soulful vocal agility and smooth flow. The twelve-track album pairs him with guest MCs and singers (Elzhi, Median, Pharoahe Monch, Eric Roberson, Evidence and Big K.R.I.T., Carlitta Durand, Sy Smith, and Jeanne Jolly) and with a generous number of producers, too (Swiff D, 9th Wonder, Khrysis, Stro Elliott, Zo!, E. Jones, and S1 and Caleb all take turns behind the desk); in fact, a third of the album is produced by 9th Wonder, Phonte's former Little Brother colleague, who since the hip-hop trio's 2007 split has established himself via production work for artists such as Ludacris and Erykah Badu.

The album's hip-hop focus is established immediately when "Dance in the Reign" rolls out a dramatic downtempo groove as a base for Phonte's rhymes and Sy Smith's silken vocals. Sweetened with turntable swizzle by DJ Flash and soulful background singing, "The Good Fight" finds Phonte enumerating a laundry-list of everyday struggles, and the theme persists through "Everything Is Falling Down" in its lyrics ("I stagger in my footsteps and I don't even drink / I got so much on my mind, dog, that I can't even think") though some hint of salvation arrives in the form of Jeanne Jolly's beautiful refrain, even if her words don't reflect it ("It feels like everything is falling down"). "Not Here Anymore" bridges Phonte's two worlds in marrying his flow to a chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on a Foreign Exchange track ("Right where I thought I'd be / It's another part of me / And the world's so sad to see / that I'm not here anymore").

Continue reading Textura reviews Charity Starts At Home

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The Smoking Section reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 19, 2011 at 5:11 PM · Comments
Maturity and Hip-Hop go hand in hand like a hobo and an almond-shaped bar of Olay yet Phonte Coleman has made an earnest living from being that guy you revere as a professional artist-and turn around and get chummy with at your local pub. The past few years have been exciting for loyal disciples of the the former Little Brother's congregation as he has walked the unbeaten path to musical lore with his rap and blues hybrid, the Grammy-nominated ensemble, The Foreign Exchange. Success breeds regularity but longtime fans will rejoice that their man is putting his mind where his mouth is to spit lessons by way of the rap sage with his meritorious first solo outing, Charity Starts at Home.

Phonte stays true to his distinguishable form, weighing in on practical topics such as striving to be a better role model ("Who Loves You More") and keeping a spark in an otherwise good marriage ("Ball and Chain"). Copious platters of food for thought and duck soup aside, Charity Starts at Home is still an MC's MC's album, boosted by witty punchlines that don't require an isolated pause and sturdy instrumentals with symphonic balance from prime players like Khrysis, Swiff D. and the official reunion with 9th Wonder.

Continue reading The Smoking Section reviews Charity Starts At Home

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The A.V. Club reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 16, 2011 at 2:37 PM · Comments
Phonte of Little Brother came into hip-hop as an idealist fighting for the music's soul. After Little Brother flopped commercially with its major-label debut, The Minstrel Show, he became a pragmatic realist. In a characteristically subversive move, Phonte undercuts the posturing of hip-hop on "Dance In The Reign" from the new Charity Begins At Home by loudly proclaiming he's doing it all for the music, before conceding that he's really doing it just to pay the mortgage and the bills. The rest of Charity Begins At Home is just as refreshingly mature; it's an introspective album about the complexities, hardships, and joys of romantic relationships that go far beyond one-night stands and casual hookups. "Ball & Chain" explores the way the safety and security of monogamy can become smothering and claustrophobic under the wrong circumstances, while "Sendin' My Love" finds Phonte facing down and ultimately overcoming sexual temptation.

Charity Begins At Home proceeds at a casual, unhurried pace, with Phonte easily sliding between rapping, singing, and shit-talking in a manner that splits the difference between Little Brother's old-school grooves and the quiet storm of his R&B work with Foreign Exchange. With his gloriously grown-up solo debut, one of the smartest, most incisive lyricists alive proves it's possible to grow older in hip-hop while retaining your dignity. As Phonte raps on "Everything Is Falling Down," "I don't need a new style / being dope is always in fashion."
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Okayplayer reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 4, 2011 at 10:55 AM · Comments
September 13, 2005. The Minstrel Show represented a coming out for Little Brother, the North Carolina trio of 9th Wonder, Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte, even if political wrangling at The Source and BET stifled the album's national promotion, and threatened to mute what many considered an instant hip-hop classic. That's not to absolve the Southern group, as Little Brother's parody of popular black culture certainly didn't help their case. "Guess they wasn't ready for the real on the reel," Pooh quipped on "Curtain Call" from last year's Leftback, Little Brother's final album. Since then, the three men have endured a battery of changes. They disbanded. Then there was the very public dispute over the use of a single, with Phonte and Pooh on one side, and 9th Wonder on the other. The three eventually reconciled, although their Little Brother days were clearly behind them.

More than six years removed from that seminal L.B. recording, and Charity Starts At Home is a coming out of sorts for Phonte, known these days as the vocalist of The Foreign Exchange, which doesn't weave much rapping into its airy concoction of electro-soul music. Still, Phonte's proven this past year that he hasn't lost the propensity for witty wordplay and rich humor, trading bars with some of hip-hop's most respected luminaries. Maybe that's why Charity feels like another notch on Phonte's creative belt, a celebratory and triumphant debut for an artist who's already spent 10 years in the industry. But while other MCs might dump everything into their respective debuts, Phonte takes a lean approach, merging his raw Little Brother aesthetic with the smoother Foreign Exchange sound, resulting in a streamlined recording that leapfrogs between two distinct worlds -- complex lyrical compositions for hip-hop enthusiasts and mature ballads for grown-ups. This is sophisticated music for the adult soul.

Continue reading Okayplayer reviews Charity Starts At Home

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HipHop DX reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 3, 2011 at 9:00 PM · Comments
Just when listeners had fully abandoned all remnants of Little Brother, Charity Starts At Home drops. Since the North Carolina rap trio officially announced its breakup in January 2007, it seemed clear where each member was taking his talents: Phonte was nabbing Grammy nominations as one half of the R&B/Soul duo Foreign Exchange, Rapper Big Pooh manned his own solo rap career, and 9th Wonder used his production skills to amplify the sounds of artists like Ludacris and Erykah Badu while helming his Jamla Records. Optimism resurfaced when Phonte and 9th settled their differences, and suddenly we have Charity Starts At Home: Phonte's official solo debut, which features a third of its production by 9th himself. Thankfully, this record holds its weight by rekindling the youthful spirit from Phonte's Little Brother days and pairing it with the maturity from his more recent material.

Charity Starts At Home plays like a Best of Both Worlds for Phonte's career. He was always the more lyrically acrobatic member of LB, so it's gratifying to see him volley multisyllabic rhyme schemes and punchlines alongside the likes of Elzhi ("Not Here Anymore" ), Pharaohe Monch ("We Go Off"), and Evidence and Big K.R.I.T. ("The Life Of Kings" ) throughout the songs' collaborations. But as a married father and music veteran, Phonte's sung lyrics with Foreign Exchange have been very reflective and resilient, and his rhymes on Charity Starts At Home carry that same heartiness, with wit and technical flair to boot. "Sendin My Love" sees 'Te investigating others' fears of commitment when he visits a strip club after an argument with his wife, and "The Good Fight" dedicates itself to struggling to survive while chasing their dreams. "Fam in my ear all day, and they yellin'/keep it real 'Te, and don't ever sell out/ but how the fuck you sell out when ain't nobody selling?" the latter song quips. "To Be Yours" and "Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" usher Phonte into full Foreign Exchange mode, as he croons over subdued soundbeds.e.

Continue reading HipHop DX reviews Charity Starts At Home

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Exclaim! reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on October 2, 2011 at 10:04 AM · Comments
"Don't need a new style/Being dope is always in fashion," Phonte intones on "Everything is Falling Down" for good reason. Once you get past the disbelief that Charity Starts at Home is Phonte's first official solo effort, you realize what you're is going to get: cool production, that trademark North Carolina-inflected sharp witted raps and some "New Tigallo" by way of Foreign Exchange styled crooning. To the point, nothing less than what one expects from Phonte. With a twist, however; Phonte brings a newfound maturity to the table, an outlook framed by the dissolution of hip-hop trio Little Brother set next of the Grammy nominated success of R&B/hip-hop outfit Foreign Exchange. "Not Here Anymore" was just the teaser, the acknowledgement of Little Brother alum/producer 9thth Wonder and Phonte's partnership being stronger than ever. As expected, Phonte showcases his vocals (which grow more polished each time out). The short but sweet "We Go Off" features a nice Fatin 10 beat and an always welcome Pharaohe Monch appearance, while tracks like "Everything is Falling Down" wouldn't sound out of place on a Little Brother record. Pulling out the crystal ball, one sees Charity Starts at Home on the year-end best of lists.
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XXL Magazine reviews Charity Starts At Home

by +FE on September 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM · Comments
Praised for his efforts as a member of groups Little Brother and The Foreign Exchange, Phonte gets the solo shine that many have been waiting nearly a decade to hear on Charity Starts At Home.

Before jumping into the album's first verse, Phonte begins the offering's opener talking, promising, "I do this all for hip-hop!" before pausing and dismissing that thought, saying, "I'm lying like shit. I do this shit for my goddamn mortgage, nigga. For my bills." This sort of grown man, 9-to-5 approach has gained the North Carolina spitter legions of loyal listeners through the years, and it's the relatable outlook that persists on this album.

Continue reading XXL Magazine reviews Charity Starts At Home

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Phonte Breaks Down Personal Growth, Philosophy On Bringing Sexes Together Through Music (via HipHop DX)

by +FE on September 15, 2011 at 8:21 AM · Comments
With his solo debut on the horizon line, the Justus League forefather looks at his family tree with new insights and an olive branch in Hip Hop's battle of the sexes reveals his key to success.

If you let Phonte tell it, he used to look outside of himself when making music. Now, the North Carolina Hip Hop pioneer looks within.

That key change has helped the emcee/singer evolve in the last two years. At 32, Phonte admits that his twenties were often a "me against the world" period in his life, and that he now feels ready to deliver his solo debut, Charity Starts At Home on September 27. As the title indicates, Phonte is celebrating an inward focus, on a record he quickly admits, "isn't for everybody."

Continue reading Phonte Breaks Down Personal Growth, Philosophy On Bringing Sexes Together Through Music (via HipHop DX)

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The Foreign Exchange at the Neighborhood Theater - Real Hip Hop in the QC

by +FE on September 14, 2011 at 10:26 PM · Comments
I had spent most of a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning shuffling back and forth between Charlotte and Lake Norman. Enjoying the warm glow of Carolina sunshine and the breeze of a windows down and wind in my face kind of day. I love music. I mean love it the way a hippy loves love, hemp and patchouli. So there's is no genre that I will shy away from.But lately, maybe the past year really, the Charlotte hip hop scene and I haven't been seeing eye-to-eye. There will be the occasional show that pops up and a few open mics that entertain at best but the true hip hop savvy scene from years ago seemed to truly be lost. Lost in the fog of commercial one-hit-wonders and Charlotte's incessant need to be trendy, which in my humble opinion, picked the bare bones of an already incredibly thin hip hop scene. Now when I say Charlotte hip hop scene, I'm talking the days of Fat City, the Room, The Graduate, Jeff's Bucket Shop and the like. So there I am, basking in the comfort of my playlist. It was full of cool-out music, Esthero, Sweetback and the most recent addition, The Foreign Exchange, and Im askin myself why doesn't Charlotte get more live music like this? No sooner than that question popped in my head, I got phone call from Shutter 16 photographer, Matt Pock, informing me that we were going to cover the Foreign Exchange show that night. I would have my question answered that night in a way I have not experienced in years.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange at the Neighborhood Theater - Real Hip Hop in the QC

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8 Best Moments of Hopscotch Festival (via SPIN Magazine)

by +FE on September 14, 2011 at 8:34 AM · Comments
This weekend in Raleigh, NC, an eclectic collection of bands both new and old, from Boise, Idaho, dream-pop up-and-comer Youth Lagoon to Dayton, Ohio, rock vets Guided by Voices, gathered for the second annual Hopscotch Festival -- here, we break down the eight best moments of the festival.

No. 6: FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Some years back, Phonte Coleman, the former main man of North Carolina's defunct underground hip-hop outfit Little Brother, began collaborating with Dutch producer Nicolay, e-mailing tracks back and forth between continents. That evolved into the chill ambience of the Foreign Exchange's 2004 debut album Connected. Seven years on, that frosty vibe has warmed up to a sleek soul-revue-style live band tight enough to bounce quarters off of.

Still riding high off last year's Grammy nomination, Foreign Exchange played a celebratory show to a friendly hometown crowd. Coleman is a triple-threat on the mic, equal parts hip-hop emcee, R&B love balladeer, and animated preacherman. But it's a gospel of good times that he preaches - when Coleman called for choruses of "Amen" and "Hallelujah," it was about having fun.

"I love y'all back," Coleman said to the crowd's adulation.

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Phonte: In My Own Words (via The Source)

by +FE on August 30, 2011 at 1:13 PM · Comments
As a part of one of Hip-Hop's most influential groups, Little Brother; Phonte has always stood out. Ask around with anyone in the know, and he is pound for pound, one of music's most talented artists. He raps as good as any rapper in the game and sings just as good as any singer in R&B. Now, the freakishly talented artist out of North Carolina is ready to break out with his first solo project, Charity Starts At Home, and has linked back up with Little Brother member 9th Wonder after a long hiatus. In this interview, Tigallo speaks on his inspiration for the solo album, his relationship with Drake, 9th Wonder, the future of The Foreign Exchange and Little Brother, and more.
You shocked a lot of people by reuniting with 9th Wonder earlier this year. What exactly led to the reunion?

Me and 9th have a mutual friend in Fatin "10" Horton. Fatin is a producer in 9th's Soul Council production team and he's been a friend of mine since we were both teenagers growing up in Greensboro, NC. Through the years, he's always been a neutral party and always told us, "Look, whatever y'all gotta work out, that's on y'all; both of y'all are still my peoples." Fatin called me on New Year's Eve and said that 9th wanted to talk, and I told him to give 9th my number and we can hash it all out. He came to my crib on New Year's Day 2011 and we been rockin ever since.

The Foreign Exchange really allowed you to spread your wings as a complete artist, what does the future hold for that?

The Foreign Exchange has changed my life in so many ways. I tell everybody that +FE is me and Nic's 401K package. I love the craft of emceeing, but you can't rap forever. Being the person I am, I just love doing music. I don't want a vanity label, I don't want a bullshit clothing line, I want to make music until I die. +FE gives me the space to do that. I can sing til' I'm 70 if I want to. Me and Nic can be like Frankie Beverly and Maze and tour forever. You see Frankie step onstage with his white hat and them white linen pants, you know what time it is...lol.

Continue reading Phonte: In My Own Words (via The Source)

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+FE: Checkpoint (via Stark)

by +FE on August 30, 2011 at 8:37 AM · Comments
What began as a friendship between Dutch producer Nicolay and former Little Brother frontman Phonte in a forum on Okayplayer.com, lead to the birth of indie-soul juggernaut, The Foreign Exchange. Now a decade strong, the group reflects on their evolution and their search for authenticity.
Since embarking on their collaborative endeavor nearly ten years ago in 2002, The Foreign Exchange members Phonte Coleman and Nicolay have been breaking down non-believers with their modern take on timeless Hip-Hop Soul music religiously. But for what seemed like an effortless creative front, the duo actually spent their first two years conceiving the foundation for their sound via non-stop emails, with Nicolay sending his production and Phonte recording to them. "Light It Up," one of those records recorded during that time span, became the B-side to "Whatever You Say" from Little Brother's 2003 debut album, The Listening, (Nic also produced the "5th & Fashion" skit on LB's highly-anticipated sophomore album, The Minstrel Show) while the others helped to deliver Connected, +FE's classic debut LP in 2004, without the pair ever meeting face-to-face.

That same year their first officially meeting took place at a Little Brother show in Amsterdam -- the meeting place coincidentally taking cue from the influences within the sound that we've grown to love. A sound where experimentation with Hip-Hop, Electronica, Soul and Psychedelic was the norm for the group, and long before the music industry began to accept genre-bending formats as the new standard. +FE even drew inspiration from everyone, from The Beatles to James Taylor and Prince. So as the underground buzz began to stir, the idea of creating an new album under the same pressures of the first, seemed a tad ridiculous and extra. So Nicolay moved to Phonte's home state of North Carolina, where they began to work on another project.

Continue reading +FE: Checkpoint (via Stark)

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Textura reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on August 23, 2011 at 10:22 PM · Comments
Essentially "The Foreign Exchange Unplugged," Dear Friends: An Evening with The Foreign Exchange perpetuates the embrace of acoustic soul that was so much a part of the group's last album Authenticity. As such, we're a long way removed from the raw hip-hop stylings of the group's earlier work. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, as the music on this latest recording is as refreshing as a warm summer breeze, and its appeal is bolstered by the fact that so few groups aside from The Foreign Exchange are waving this genre flag, so to speak. That the recording's sole cover is of a James Taylor song rather than something harder-edged tells you something about the mellow vibe The Foreign Exchange's courting with the set.

Continue reading Textura reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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Independent Weekly reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on August 22, 2011 at 2:05 PM · Comments
Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook began The Foreign Exchange, as the name suggests, as an international file swap, with the Carolina-raised Coleman and the Dutch Rook building suave soul music through the Internet. But in the last several years, Rook has moved to Wilmington, Coleman has left Little Brother and the pair has made The Foreign Exchange a full-time, full-regalia operation. They've received a Grammy nomination, consistent critical kudos and, appropriately, a dedicated and worldwide fan base. In return for inviting them to our cities, they've invited us into the studio on Dear Friends. Recorded this past February at Durham's Sound Pure Studios in front of an audience of 40 fortunate fans, the CD/ DVD package is an intimate, scaled-down performance of several selections from The Foreign Exchange's entire catalog, exemplifying the magic that can happen when a band handles its music and career with care.

Continue reading Independent Weekly reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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Prefixmag reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on August 11, 2011 at 2:35 PM · Comments
Over the course of three studio albums, the Foreign Exchange, a collective built around the core duo of former Little Brother rapper/singer Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay, has refined an increasingly austere brand of hip-hop/R&B that has taken them from the freewheeling braggadocio of 2004's Connected to the sophisticated relationship melodrama of last year's Authenticity. One element of the group dynamic that has gotten lost in the fray as the subject matter has grown up is the sense of humor. Onstage, Phonte is a veritable comedian, and his bandmates are his foils. That playful joie de vivre carries over to the music as well on their latest release, the live CD/DVD Dear Friends: An Evening with the Foreign Exchange, which documents an intimate acoustic set played for a group of friends and lucky fans in Phonte's hometown of Durham, N.C. back in February.

The Foreign Exchange has been touring extensively since the October release of Authenticity (which charmed its way onto Prefix's Best Albums of 2010 list in December), so Dear Friends finds a band in top form tearing through a series of hits, select numbers from individual members' solo outings, and a James Taylor cover, aided by the singing talents of newcomers Jeanne Jolly, a North Carolinian songstress, and actress, singer, and songwriter Sy Smith. While the Foreign Exchange's canon makes fantastic use of producer Nicolay's icy electronics on record, Dear Friends takes advantage of the acoustic setting and imbues these songs with a kind of breezy, almost porchfront vibe.

Continue reading Prefixmag reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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SoulTracks reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on July 27, 2011 at 8:36 PM · Comments
With the right look, a functioning larynx and some creative engineering in place, practically anyone these days can have a 'hit'; but the litmus test of legitimacy comes from live performance, since the indelible moments that connect musicians to the masses simply cannot be faked. And while there's nothing wrong with special-effects-laden, larger-than-life stage shows, it's the rapport created by the organic synergy between the artists and audience that makes Dear Friends: An Evening With Foreign Exchange such a delight to experience.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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The Foreign Exchange pioneers long-distance music-making (via Fresno Bee)

by +FE on July 26, 2011 at 1:02 PM · Comments
The story of soul/hip-hop group The Foreign Exchange is a new-age tale about two guys who met on an Internet message board, traded musical ideas across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually became Grammy nominees.

It's made singer/rapper/songwriter Phonte and producer Nicolay -- who will play a concert at Fresno's Fulton 55 on Friday night -- unlikely music pioneers.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange pioneers long-distance music-making (via Fresno Bee)

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The Mixtape Monster reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on July 21, 2011 at 9:56 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange's (TFE) ability to interact with their fans has been an integral part of their success. From Twitter, to their own mailing list, to their first "grassroots" concerts in NC, all members of TFE recognize the importance of viral videos and word of mouth recommendations. That's why it was no surprise when I heard a while back of their plans to give a special concert for 40 friends and selected fans. Full disclosure: I mainly heard about this release ahead of time because I was one of the lucky few in attendance for the show.

Throughout their first 3 albums, especially the last 2, TFE has benefitted heavily from their fans ability to "put their friends on" their sound, music, and movement. Their fans, including myself, are known for their loyalty. We buy all the releases, download all downloads, share all the videos, and genuinely believe that TFE is one of the best groups making music now. TFE appreciates this, and it shows. They won't hesitate to retweet your tweet, or answer your questions about a release or video you direct towards them in a timely manner. They give you the digital download of the release you purchased on the release date while your order of the physical copy is in the mail so you don't miss out (perhaps the only group I know that does this!). If you are a vinyl head, they got you covered there too. It's clear that their fans are important to them, and they understand that in today's musical landscape it isn't necessarily the number of sales you make or fans you have, but the depth of the relationship that you develop with those fans. Case in point is their recent "Dear Friends: An Evening with The Foreign Exchange" DVD/CD combo that hit iTunes and their own theforeignexchangemusic.com site on June 28th.

Continue reading The Mixtape Monster reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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ThisIsRealMusic.com reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on July 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Comments
Transition isn't easy. It's one of those things where you have to be willing and ready for all the nuances that comes with change. Me? I've never been good with change. It scares me. I like things the way I like it. However, every now and then, a change occurs and I'm alright with it. It doesn't have the negative impact that I thought it would. What makes it okay is its authenticity (see what I did there). The intention of the transition and it actually showing forth as it is projected helps me to see the bigger picture. The avid music head that I am notices every change, especially within my favorite groups. This brings me to The Foreign Exchange. At the release of their new album Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange, I had so many questions. However, upon listening to the project, all of my fears and inhibitions regarding the group were left behind. Rather, I don't think I've ever felt more connected with them.

If you've never been to an FE show, I invite you to host a listening session with some of your closest friends of this album. It is truly amazing. A little toned down from their normal shows, this acoustic live recording is exactly what FE needed to ease into their next phase. Having three solid and very well accepted albums, as well as host of solo projects, under their belts, FE Music group decided to share some of their best with us. I, for one, was excited. The energy of this intimate gathering is felt through the presentation of their music. The album opens with "Fight For Love" from their recent release, Authenticity. With the assistance of the beautiful Sy Smith, who currently tours with FE, and the very talented Jeanne Jolly, the mood was set and all ears and hearts were open. Now, this may be a little different for some listening to it who are used to the original group dynamic. However, I think the change in pace has only made FE's music more powerful. The album continues to showcase some of their strongest performance hits such as "Lose Your Way" from Nicolay's City Lights Vol. 2, "Take Of The Blues", and "House of Cards" from Leave It All Behind. Two extraordinary performances to highlight include "Greatest Weapon of All Time" from Zo!'s Sunstorm album and a special remake of "Something In The Way She Moves" by James Taylor. In addition to the live performances, fans receive two new studio tracks,"Steal Away" featuring Jeanne Jolly and "All The Kisses" featuring Paris and Amber Strother from the AMAZING indie experimental soul group KING.

Continue reading ThisIsRealMusic.com reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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City Arts Magazine interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on July 6, 2011 at 4:40 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange's 2004 debut Connected surprised listeners with tight beats and sit-up-and-listen lyrical flow--even though North Carolina rapper Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay had never met in person. (Props to the okayplayer.com message boards for initially bringing them together.) As demonstrated by last year's Authenticity, their music now extends into R&B and neo-soul while staying true to their real-life wordplay and hip-hop roots. City Arts caught up with the duo ahead of the West Coast leg of their tour.

City Arts: The Foreign Exchange sound has shifted on Authenticity, but listening to your first album you can hear that those elements of soul and R&B have always been there.

Phonte: It's really an extension of what we had already done. We want to always build on our sound every time, but we never want to repeat ourselves. So with songs like "Sincere" [from the first album], those were kind of a foreshadowing of what was to come. There's really nothing that we did on [second album] Leave It All Behind or Authenticity that you didn't hear coming on our first album Connected.

Continue reading City Arts Magazine interviews The Foreign Exchange

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Connecting With The Foreign Exchange (via Stimulate Your Soul)

by +FE on June 24, 2011 at 6:26 AM · Comments
Grammy nominated duo Nicolay and Phonte make up The Foreign Exchange. With Phonte's rapping/singing and Nicolay's producing, the two found each other online and haven't looked back since. A soulful love story, their first album Connected was done all online before they even met. Between their Authenticity tour around the States, the man behind the music Nicolay took some time out to chat about why he uses live instruments when producing, his childhood dream of visiting Australia and the launch of their first intimate Dear Friends CD/DVD. Margaret Tra writes.

How's the Authenticity tour going?

It's been going really, really well. We're just having a blast; I think in general we are really excited to play some of the new tunes. Cause it kind of puts a new fresh dose of energy for our show. We have flipped things a little bit, we've changed a one or two things around. And as a result it's kind of like a brand new show to us. It's just been a lot of fun, we've been having a really good time.

Continue reading Connecting With The Foreign Exchange (via Stimulate Your Soul)

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The Foreign Exchange & Amber And Paris Strother Of KING Sound Sweet As 'Kisses' (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on June 14, 2011 at 9:25 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange are at it again. Phonte teamed up with ingenues Amber and Paris Strother of KING to give fans "All the Kisses," a song that is quite literally as sweet as a forehead kiss. With the spirit of a Leave It All Behind track, the beat contrasts just enough to create a sense of dynamism that sonically emulates the longing of romance. Yearning is attractive on a man, and it's nice to hear Phonte singing from a love-struck perspective again. He has a certain everyman quality that shows up as vulnerability in his voice, and that element is reflected here to great effect. Amber and Paris, aka "The Sirens," seductively reveal their talent throughout the song but leave you with an insatiable craving for more. It's almost as if their voices are delicate, delicious wisps of sound floating on air. Between their honeyed harmonies and Phonte's breathy vocals, you are guaranteed to feel a little worked up after hearing this jam. And don't worry, this gem from their June 28th release, Dear Friends, is available for free download, so you can add it to the mixtape you'll be making for that special someone after you hear it.
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Pump Up The World - A Conversation with The Foreign Exchange (via kinetik*culture)

by +FE on June 13, 2011 at 5:40 PM · Comments
Brought together via the message boards on Okayplayer.com, rapper Phonte Coleman and producer Nicolay Rook have made some of the most progressive, evocative soul music of this decade. Their indie approach to the business and art of music has garnered them a Grammy nod, worldwide recognition, and a flock of die-hard fans. They took time to speak with me in the thick of their "Authenticity" tour, and had some interesting reflections on touring, the birth of the "Return the Mack" remake, and making magic happen.

Authenticity is a lot moodier than your last two albums, and you are definitely touching on relationships issues that people usually don't bring to light. Do you find that people want more happy material from you guys, or is your audience growing with you musically?

Phonte: I think for the most part the audience has grown with us. They have faith in us to pull through with whatever it is we're going to do, even if it's not as up as they're used to. They trust in us to execute it to the fullest. Me and Nic knew, releasing this record, that this would probably be a slower burn than our other records. 'Connected' and 'Leave it All Behind' were very much records that you 'get' from jump. 'Authenticity' was a much more subdued record, and really is something that takes a lotta listens to really understand. Truth be told, I didn't really 'get it' until two months after it was out, just because I needed the time after completing it to have some space away from it to regain perspective. One night I was up working and going through emails in the middle of the night and I let the album play from top to bottom, and I was like "damn, I get it now." Which is odd, we made it, but that was really how it was.

Continue reading Pump Up The World - A Conversation with The Foreign Exchange (via kinetik*culture)

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After The Original reviews The Foreign Exchange at World Cafe Live

by +FE on June 12, 2011 at 8:00 AM · Comments
If you ever have the opportunity to see The Foreign Exchange perform, no matter where you are or what you're doing, cancel any other plans you have for the night and prepare for one of the best concerts you will ever see.

The first question you might be asking yourself is who is The Foreign Exchange? The Foreign Exchange is an R&B group featuring Phonte Coleman, member of the hip-hop group Little Brother on vocals, backed by producer and instrumentalist Nicolay. They met on an online forum over at Okayplayer.com in 2001-2002 where Phonte reached out to Nicolay after hearing some of the production he had posted. The rest is history. Since 2004, the group has released three studio albums and started their own music label. Their first album, Connected, was recorded while Nicolay was still living in the Netherlands, and Phonte was living in North Carolina. In fact, they have never recorded a song in the same studio at the same time since they began working with each other.

Continue reading After The Original reviews The Foreign Exchange at World Cafe Live

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The Foreign Exchange - An Interview With Nicolay & Phonte (via The Loop Detroit)

by +FE on June 3, 2011 at 7:32 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange has long been a favorite of The Loop Detroit. Since the early days of when this site was Renaissance Soul Detroit, Nicolay has been a good friend and great supporter of it all. He's been a true school J. Dilla head. The Foreign Exchange machine continues to troop on with the release of last year's phenomenal album Authenticity. Recently, the band came into Detroit for a show back on May 8th at The Magic Stick, which I ended up DJing at too. It was an amazing show with a great performances and super stellar crowd. Beforehand, I got to chat with Nicolay and Phonte about the band, their childhood, when Nicolay worked with Wiz Khalifa, and all sorts of Detroit stuff.

The Loop Detroit: Talk about the live show for The Foreign Exchange
Phonte: It's really about showing people a good time. It's truly about giving a place for people to escape to. Just enjoy live music being played and the live music atmosphere of us all doing something at one time together. In the culture we live in, thats becoming less and less of the thing. Everybody's becoming more isolated.

TLD: Talk about the new album Authenticity.
Nicolay: We wanted to keep things stripped down as opposed to what we used to do in the past. We wanted to showcase and highlight the songs themselves and the performances. Keep it as simply as possible. A lot of people have really responded to the lyrics because on this album, they are really center stage.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange - An Interview With Nicolay & Phonte (via The Loop Detroit)

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'Dear Friends,' The Foreign Exchange Have Something New On The Way (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on June 2, 2011 at 8:07 AM · Comments
The June new release schedule just got way more interesting. Ending the month with a bang will be The Foreign Exchange with the June 28th release of the live CD/DVD combo, Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange. Recorded this past February at SoundPure Studios in Durham, NC, Dear Friends captures +FE in all of their live glory in front of an audience of 40 handpicked fans who were the first to see and hear this new touring lineup featuring vocalists Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly in action alongside Phonte, Nicolay, and Zo!. Fresh from their spring tour, Dear Friends is the perfect accompaniment to their concerts for everyone who wishes they could bottle up the energy on stage and take it home with them or for those who've never seen The Foreign Exchange live. This release will also feature two new studio cuts, "Steal Away" by Jolly and "All the Kisses" featuring sisters Amber and Paris Strother from the overnight sensation of 2011, KING. Excited yet? You will be after you view a clip of the DVD of Authenticity's "Laughing At Your Plans" getting the live treatment after the bounce. Dear Friends is guaranteed to be a must-own for +FE fans and lovers of good music period.
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DCist interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on April 22, 2011 at 10:02 AM · Comments
There's almost no question that North Carolina-based duo The Foreign Exchange love D.C. They routinely work with local artists such as Zo! (check Zo! and Phonte's humorous remake of "Return of the Mack") and YahZarah. Last year, the guys scored a Grammy nomination with Three Star alumna Muhsinah for the song "Daykeeper." And lest we forget, they've been gracious enough to speak with DCist on two previous occasions.

But if there's any other reason to like MC/vocalist Phonte and Dutch-born producer/instrumentalist Nicolay, it's that they make incredibly good music. Their third album, Authenticity, continues down a similar path blazed by their last release, Leave It All Behind. However, as they describe it, Authenticity is a little more stripped down than their previous offerings. What remains constant, though, are fantastic sonic arrangements and some quite adept songwriting which, for example, makes the "odd guy gets dream girl" trope seem fresh and probable on "Maybe She'll Dream Of Me." Regardless, it's apparent that a relationship born out of mutual respect for each other's work and facilitated by the Internet has blossomed into a full-blown musical operation that's garnered a worldwide fan base and critical acclaim.

Continue reading DCist interviews The Foreign Exchange

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365 Albums A Year interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on April 10, 2011 at 11:15 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange are an extremely talented duo consisting of singer Phonte and producer Nicolay. After releasing their first album together in 2004 and switching genres in 2009, their latest album, Authenticity, shows once again great growth from the group. It's no surprise that it placed at #12 in our top 50 albums of 2010; "From romanticizing to reminiscing, philosophizing, glorifying, and degrading love it seems the album glides along on elegantly like its skating on ice."

In our conversation with the duo, we've talked about their upcoming projects (Phonte even dropped a release date!), working with The Based God, Internet as a promotional tool, Nic's passion for collecting vintage synths, their relation with film, and much more.

Continue reading 365 Albums A Year interviews The Foreign Exchange

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The Foreign Exchange's RBMA Session at the Listening Room (via Culture Bully)

by +FE on March 28, 2011 at 10:06 AM · Comments
Foreign-Exchange-Phonte-Nicolay-Listening-Room-Nashville-4.jpg Sitting in as guests of the Red Bull Music Academy, Phonte (Little Brother) and Nicolay--collectively known as the Foreign Exchange--participated in a Q&A session at Nashville's Listening Room Saturday afternoon. Discussing a variety of subjects with host Sean Maloney of the Nashville Scene, the floor was eventually opened up to the audience for questions. Alternating in answering, each artist revealed a variety of details about their upcoming affairs. Aside from commenting on their upcoming tour, their affinity for self-marketing and their rather liberal perspective on filesharing, when asked by a crowd member about how they've avoided such modern trends as using autotune or layering tracks with a slew of guest contributors, Phonte responded by making an important distinction. "Use technology as a tool--don't use it as a crutch." He continued, "If I can't hit that note live I'm not gonna hit the autotune just for that."

While Phonte and Nicolay went on to respectively participate in a songwriting class and production demo, perhaps the most intriguing information came during the Q&A. Nicolay explained that the duo were presently working toward the release of an "acoustic" album which would document a recent mini-concert that found the group swapping their typical production for such musical standards as a grand piano and acoustic guitars. Shortly after, Phonte went on to reveal (after a bit of prodding from Nicolay) that he would be dropping a solo release later this year. Tentatively set to hit retail shelves September 13, the album will not only serve as the veteran artist's solo debut, but it will also mark the six year anniversary of the release of Little Brother's highly acclaimed second studio album, The Minstrel Show.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange's RBMA Session at the Listening Room (via Culture Bully)

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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.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Bringing Authenticity to Music

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A 'Slight' Recap Of The Foreign Exchange's Acoustic Album Recording (via The WareHouse)

by +FE on February 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM · Comments
This past weekend in Durham, North Carolina, the good folks at The Foreign Exchange held a private concert for around 30 of SOME OF their closest fans. It also doubled as a recording for a future 'live' album that they plan on releasing for their FANS to enjoy. I was lucky enough to be able to attend this event. This is going to be my 'ramblings' on the event that took place on Sunday February 20th around 6:00 P.M.



Unfortunately, I was NOT able to take my camera inside and NORMALLY that would put a damper on my personal spirits as I HATE TALKING ABOUT EVENTS without visuals. However FE had cameras ALL AROUND and some photos were 'leaked' out so I do have some visuals to work with. Before you say it, these are people I consider MY FRIENDS too at this point so I was not about to go 'rogue' and start disrespecting their rules. So no, I don't have many pictures of my own on this go around. I know I said I planned to take some. I got something better though. The experience. I mean after writing about their music  here on the blog & seeing them perform, I STILL am blessed to have seen this event. So it is a MORE THAN FAIR TRADE OFF for me. Besides, when I tell you that there were cameras EVERYWHERE...I am not lying. When that happens, I will post some up here and link you to the rest. @ the rest of the photos coming out.


Continue reading A 'Slight' Recap Of The Foreign Exchange's Acoustic Album Recording (via The WareHouse)

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The Foreign Exchange Records Acoustic Album In Front Of Small Audience (via Music.MyNC.com)

by +FE on February 22, 2011 at 8:13 AM · Comments
Sunday evening, I was reminded of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, where the film's stenciled white rabbit graffitied around Brooklyn pointed the way to a secret performance from the fictional, enigmatic indie rock band Where's Fluffy?

But standing on Washington Street in Durham, instead of Fluffy, letter-size sheets of paper emblazoned with The Foreign Exchange's signature plus sign pointed the way to an exclusive, invitation-only performance from the R&B band at SoundPure Studios.

As the clock ticked closer to 6 p.m., a line of 30 or so people who traveled from as far as Cleveland for the event formed outside the Durham recording studio. And as the line began to snake down Washington, the air of mystery grew with anticipation of what to expect of the evening ahead.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange Records Acoustic Album In Front Of Small Audience (via Music.MyNC.com)

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How I Got To Meet My Favorite Band in Five Days (or, An Evening with The Foreign Exchange) (via Scott's Groove Locker)

by +FE on February 22, 2011 at 7:58 AM · Comments
We highly recommend you read this excellent recount of The Foreign Exchange's private concert in Durham NC.
On a whim I submitted an email last week to an open call contest for a private FE concert. I figured, what could it hurt? I never win anything anyway. I would have loved to see them again because I learn something new every time I see them live, but come on: it's an open call to thousands of fans, spread out over multiple social networks, taking place five days after the call, all the way in North Carolina. Let's be extremely conservative and call it a one in ten thousand shot. This is a Grammy-nominated group we're talking about here.

Continue reading How I Got To Meet My Favorite Band in Five Days (or, An Evening with The Foreign Exchange) (via Scott's Groove Locker)

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The Foreign Exchange's 'Authenticity' Gets The Theatrical Treatment

by +FE on February 22, 2011 at 6:46 AM · Comments
"Authenticity" is arguably my favorite track from The Foreign Exchange's latest album of the same name. I am, therefore, very pleased to see the newly released video for "Authenticity" be given a serious, theatrical tone after being placed into the hands of director Matthew Cherry. Given the song's overal theme, it's to be expected that the translation of this onto celluloid would lend itself to melancholic overtures. I must say, however, that I am thoroughly impressed with the direction, acting, and overall presentation of this video. Kudos to The Foreign Exchange even if they were not nominated for a GRAMMY this year--next year perhaps?--and kudos to Matthew Cherry for a job well done.
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Roundhouse interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on February 8, 2011 at 7:32 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange are critically-acclaimed Hip-Hop duo Phonte Coleman and Nicolay. Their soulful sound has captivated listeners over the course of three exceptional albums, and even earned them a Grammy nomination in 2010. Redtop caught up with them last month whilst they were in London playing their first shows in the capital in over five years.

Continue reading Roundhouse interviews The Foreign Exchange

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Gooddayz Magazine reviews The Foreign Exchange at Paradiso, Amsterdam (NL)

by +FE on February 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM · Comments
Upon returning home from last night's Foreign Exchange gig at the Paradiso (Amsterdam) I realized that what I had been witness to was not only a great performance, but also a family reunion of sorts. Mom and Dad Nicolay (as Phonte referred to them) were joined by friends and family to welcome home their multi-talented son Matthijs Rook (a.k.a. Nicolay) and his band of highly gifted musicians and vocalists. Also contributing to the intimate nature of last night's homecoming was the venue. Percentagewise I'd say the attendance was about 50%, which is a good thing as it gave the audience the room to freely move around and fully enjoy the performance. As opposed to the crowded and noisy sold-out concerts that are usually held there! All these circumstances gave the evening a warm and even emotional undertone that elevated the entire experience that much more. The Foreign Exchange show also happened to be my first concert in 2011, and I couldn't have hoped for a better way to start the New Year.

Continue reading Gooddayz Magazine reviews The Foreign Exchange at Paradiso, Amsterdam (NL)

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Lime Magazine reviews The Foreign Exchange at Cargo, London (UK)

by +FE on February 1, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Comments
If you are not into The Foreign Exchange or you have not heard of them then fix up! Truthfully I cannot carry on in the same way that smokers who give up suddenly become the biggest patrons of abstinence. It was only an introduction to The Foreign Exchange by my sister Tochi that initially got me interested.
However once I had heard them I was hooked: once you go Foreign, you never go back. Over in the UK after a prolonged period away to promote their new album Leave It All Behind I got a chance to see them perform at Cargo. Comprising of the ultra charismatic emcee Phonte and the quietly brilliant producer Nicolay, The Foreign Exchange are totally sublime. Their sound is like some ultra expensive velvet as it caresses your senses to a brilliant level but live they take their sound to a whole new experience. Even though Phonte admitted they were absolutely bush wacked after five days of touring over Europe the energy, vibe and vigour with which they performed was off the hook. It was 90 minutes of pure niceness. The highlights had to be when they dropped what seemed like spontaneous digressing jams, that just fully exposed the talent of the whole ensemble in The Foreign Exchange. The group were professional, talented and a joy, it was a great night.

Continue reading Lime Magazine reviews The Foreign Exchange at Cargo, London (UK)

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Brave Soul Collective Artist Feature: The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on January 20, 2011 at 10:15 AM · Comments
Our Brave Soul Artist feature for this month are a pair of brilliant musicians/artists whose musical union has yielded some seriously powerful, memorable, soulful music. Consisting of rapper/singer/songwriter Phonte and producer Nicolay, The Foreign Exchange came together via the online hip-hop community Okayplayer.com in 2002. After trading files through Instant Messenger for over a year, Nicolay (living in his native Holland at the time) and Phonte (a Raleigh, NC resident) completed their debut album before they ever met each other in person. The album, "Connected," was released in 2004 to positive reviews, and was praised by legendary DJ's such as Jazzy Jeff, King Britt, and DJ Spinna for its inventive mix of hip-hop, R&B, and electronica. Their sophomore album, "Leave It All Behind" (2008) found The Foreign Exchange much closer in geography (Nicolay becoming a resident of Wilmington, NC), but located much further from their hip-hop origins. On the strength of their exhilarating live show and several nationally programmed music videos, "Leave It All Behind" became the group's most successful album to date, culminating in a Grammy-nomination for the album's first single, "Daykeeper". Authenticity, which was released on October 12, 2010 on +FE Music, is The Foreign Exchange's third album.
Late last year, I had the privilege of speaking to these two men about their work as artists, their influences, and their formula for creating such amazing material. I'm honored to kick off 2011's Brave Soul Artist features with an in-depth interview with Nicolay & Phonte of The Foreign Exchange. Read on, get informed, inspired, and ENJOY.

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JET Magazine's 5 Rising Indie Artists include The Foreign Exchange and YahZarah

by +FE on December 27, 2010 at 9:03 AM · Comments
Check out the current issue of JET Magazine (Russell Simmons on the cover). Their "5 Rising Indie Artists" list includes both The Foreign Exchange and YahZarah!
THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE: This collective, helmed by artists-producers Nicolay and Phonte, has at different times included YahZarah. The group's new album, Authenticity, came out in October and extends the percolating and idiosyncratic rhythms of 2008's Leave It All Behind. The band will tour behind the album in 2011.
YAHZARAH: This Washington DC native has been around for nearly a decade, singing background for Erykah Badu and others. Her latest album, The Ballad Of Purple St. James, released in May, is her fourth and most accomplished effort. Graceful and salient, YahZarah's music recalls the funky, adventurous side of vintage Teena Marie with the buoyancy of Minnie Riperton.

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TGRIOnline.com reviews N'Dambi and Zo! & The SunStorm Allstars at Black Cat, Washington DC

by +FE on December 20, 2010 at 2:13 PM · Comments
On paper, a night featuring heralded underground soul songstress N'Dambi and local DC cause celebre with national trending aspirations Zo! (government name Lorenzo Ferguson) sounds like a recipe for success. The two artists represent the twin hopes for traditional rhythm and blues style in the 21st century. N'Dambi, a former backup singer for Erykah Badu, carries forth the Nona Hendryx meets Nina Simone style artistry of her mentor, music as art, art as music, a funky melange of rock and soul. Zo!, alongside his Foreign Exchange Records supported "Sunstorm All Stars" supporting cast is a producer, composer and songwriter par excellence, a little bit of Isaac Hayes, a little bit of Smokey Robinson, with a spoonful of Ramsey Lewis tossed in for good measure, a feel good sultry blend of adult contemporary music. He's not concerned with popping bottles, he's concerned with getting deeper into the heart of the matter. However, on this night in Washington, DC, what was drawn up on paper, failed to materialize, as a night with the best of intentions fell short of their destination.

This is not to say that it was a night that was without spellbinding performances. Zo and his Sunstorm All Stars are the best live act in soul music today. Having witnessed their live show twice this year, it's easily the best ticket in the genre. It has everything you'd expect from the more mainstream side of R & B, just not wrapped in a broadcloth of tawdry behavior. This is classic music by extremely talented musicians who know what that means. Lead single from Zo's latest album Sunstorm, "This Could Be The Night" is a sensual jam with a George Benson swing, meaning that for more modern ears, it recalls Montell Jordan's "Get It On Tonight," in that it's grown and sexy without being debased. The set features the ever dapper Ferguson behind a dual decker keyboard and organ, a consummate band leader, leading his charges through a tightly produced set that highlights exquisite artistry. Though Monica Blaire was not present, Deborah Bond's take on the 11 minute suite "Make Love To Me" was absolutely magical. The song is a moody jazz winner, allowing for a virtuoso female vocalist to improvise and reach an orgasmic peak under the blanket of restrained elegance. If not aware, it is the year's finest soul performance, and absolutely worthy of consideration for achievement.

Continue reading TGRIOnline.com reviews N'Dambi and Zo! & The SunStorm Allstars at Black Cat, Washington DC

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Beatnik Online interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on December 14, 2010 at 1:37 PM · Comments
Leave It All Behind, the second album by The Foreign Exchange, is a beautifully produced piece of work. Producer Nicolay and vocalist Phonte released the album in 2008, surprising fans with a lush, complex soul record. The album sounds as if it could have been made at a studio like Electric Ladyland or The Hit Factory, and the elements of its production are a testament to the work that went into it. Some songs contained 64 separate vocal tracks, all expertly mixed and blended. The lead single, Daykeeper, went through dozens of different mixes alone, and took over a year and a half to complete. This was a big, powerful, major league sounding album.

But Leave It All Behind was not made at Electric Ladyland or The Hit Factory. It was made in the living room of an ordinary beach house in Wilmington, on the coast of North Carolina. There, Nicolay (Matthijs Rook), newly arrived in the US from his home country of the Netherlands, sat down to mold the raw material into a cohesive album. And he did it without anything that could even remotely be called a classic studio setup.

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Prefix's Best Albums Of 2010

by +FE on December 14, 2010 at 5:03 AM · Comments
Prefix Magazine has selected Authenticity among their Best Albums Of 2010!
32 The Foreign Exchange: Authenticity

The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity, Phonte and Nicolay's third album together, is easily their finest yet. It's an honest, revealing glimpse into the complexities of romantic relationships -- a welcome change of pace at a time when R&B/soul is mostly filled with sex-fueled romps. Where Authenticity excels, though, is in Nic's experimental blends of synthesizers, keys, and acoustic guitars paired with Phonte's increasingly melodic and refined songwriting.
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Oh Drat reviews Authenticity

by +FE on December 7, 2010 at 1:41 PM · Comments
Authenticity is the third album from the Grammy nominated collaboration of Phonte and Nicolay, and shows a further maturation of The Foreign Exchange. If the leap from their first album Connected to second Leave It All Behind was a revolution, Authenticity is an evolution in the Foreign Exchange's sound.

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Oh Drat interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on December 7, 2010 at 1:40 PM · Comments
After meeting on the internet in 2002, Phonte and Nicolay have made waves with The Foreign Exchange, both as a hip hop and a soul group. The lead single from their last album Leave It All Behind was nominated for a Grammy, and they recently released their third album Authenticity to across the board praise (check my review here). I caught up with the guys to talk message boards, sampling, leaving a legacy and more...

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Textura reviews Authenticity

by +FE on December 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM · Comments
Just as The Foreign Exchange's 2008 album Leave It All Behind stylistically departs from its predecessor Connected, so too does Authenticity shift away from Leave It All Behind. Connecting the dots between the three releases, one finds the Nicolay-and-Phonte-led outfit moving from hip-hop to exuberant soul-and-funk to, on the new release, mellow soul balladry and acoustic folk. Ironically, such a seemingly safe move turns out to be the most risky: rather than courting new listeners with in-your-face exuberance, the duo opt for something closer in spirit to...adult contemporary? Yes, it's true, and most of the time it works too.

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 24, 2010 at 12:32 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange refuse to be boxed in. If you haven't figured that out already then you probably really aren't all that familiar with this outstanding project that pairs the production genius of Nicolay with the vocal talents of Phonte. On their third album Authenticity, TFE do not in any way try to duplicate the success of their previous album Leave It All Behind, but instead venture into new sonic territories. While Authenticity may be more downbeat and melancholy than previous albums, taken on its own merit it is a gorgeous and extremely layered piece of work that finds Nicolay and Phonte truly stretching themselves to their creative limits.

There has always been a touch of sadness within the Foreign Exchange's music but on Authenticity that aspect is brought to the forefront. Lost love, crumbling relationships and general love woes seem to take up most of the album's running time, but this sadness is also reflected in the sound. The album's first half takes on a downtempo vibe that perfectly reflects the melancholic lyrics. The best of these is the album open "The Last Fall", a dramatic and decidedly retro track in which Phonte declares "I'm never gonna love again." It is a severe departure from LIAB's more sunnier relationship outlook. Midway through the album delivers its highest points. The Darien Brockington assisted "Don't Wait" is a real stunner of a track that recalls the best of 80s R&B. Jesse Boykins III shows up on "Don't Make Me A Fool", which is the only time the album really goes for the hip-hop flavored soul that many have come to expect from this collective. But it is becoming increasingly evident that Nicolay and company have created a very unique space with the Foreign Exchange. With Authenticity they have further expanded their sound to include elements of blues, folk and country with equal amounts of love and respect. Their sound is a constant evolution of ideas from the classically trained and experimental Nicolay and the American R&B and hip-hop sensibilities of Phonte that never fails to surprise with its complexity and beauty.
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Nu-Soul Magazine's +FE Music Interview Series Part 4: The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay)

by +FE on November 24, 2010 at 8:28 AM · Comments
Fall is a beautiful season. It's that time of the year when all that was transitions into what will be. Lovers reintroduce themselves as the leaves decorate the pavement through a cluster of colors. And while all that surrounds us settles into its proper place, The Foreign Exchange reemerges with their third album that captures this transition perfectly. Drenched in love, clarity, anguish, and everything in between, Phonte and Nicolay bring forth an experience that is just as their album says--authentic.

Nu-Soul had the opportunity to catch up with The Foreign Exchange and speak to them about their new album Authenticity, how they maintain their creative autonomy, and the greatest lesson that they've learned from each other.

Continue reading Nu-Soul Magazine's +FE Music Interview Series Part 4: The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay)

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Nu-Soul Magazine's +FE Music Interview Series Part 3: Zo!

by +FE on November 24, 2010 at 7:56 AM · Comments
Lorenzo Ferguson aka Zo! is the epitome of the music producer. The multi-instrumentalist, former baseball player and current public school educator has long been someone whose music was loved, but whose face was never seen. With the release of his highly anticipated project, SunStorm, we get to see the man behind the music in a whole new light.

Zo! is a man whose music I've come to love over time. Not just for the incredible production, heartfelt lyrics, or haunting melodies, but for the realism and honesty that is conveyed on each track. His latest project, SunStorm, an autobiographical album that is the culmination of a musical journey, is his best work to date. While his musical resume grows and he continues to hone his craft, this musical architect creates feel good music for the soul.

Continue reading Nu-Soul Magazine's +FE Music Interview Series Part 3: Zo!

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The Foreign Exchange continues its unmitigated risks on Authenticity (via Independent Weekly)

by +FE on November 18, 2010 at 8:22 AM · Comments
"Y'all motherfuckers trying to get that Grammy again!" That's Phonte Coleman--the songwriting, singing and sometimes rapping half of the experimental soul group The Foreign Exchange, impersonating the potential detractors of his group's new, disarmingly serious record, Authenticity.

Their last album, 2008's Leave It All Behind, received a Best Urban/ Alternative Performance Grammy nomination for the song "Daykeeper." Nicolay Rook, the group's producer, laughs at the all-too-real impersonation, stealing a glance away from the heaping plate of hush puppies in front of him. The duo has again rendezvoused on a Wednesday afternoon in late October, at the Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q restaurant in the little town of Warsaw, off Interstate 40's Exit 364. The stop is equidistant from Rook's Wilmington home and Raleigh, where Coleman resides.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange continues its unmitigated risks on Authenticity (via Independent Weekly)

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The Foreign Exchange keeps it real with 'Authenticity' (via Star News)

by +FE on November 14, 2010 at 8:16 AM · Comments
When the Foreign Exchange - a musical collaboration between Raleigh-based vocalist Phonte and Dutch-born, Wilmington-based producer Nicolay - was nominated for a Grammy last year, the duo knew they couldn't rest on their laurels.

So they stepped up their game. Even before the hype had faded, even before the Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative track went to India.Arie in late January, Phonte (a former member of N.C. hip-hop group Little Brother) and Nicolay put other plans on hold to start work on what would be the group's third album.

That album, "Authenticity," released in October by the group's own Foreign Exchange Music label, debuted at No. 145 on the Billboard top 200, a respectable ranking for a purely independent record.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange keeps it real with 'Authenticity' (via Star News)

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Blogcritics Music reviews The Foreign Exchange's Authenticity release concert in New York NY

by +FE on November 12, 2010 at 11:58 AM · Comments
When it comes to my music, there are few artists that affect me in a way that defines a whole portion of my life. In a sense, some artists become the soundtrack of my life because of how much their music lyrically and sonically means to me. At times the reason for the choice is simply because you enjoy the music. But at times there are songs and albums that not only become our favorites because of the sound but because of the parallels between life and song. When the meaning of the song has a connection to your life's experiences, it becomes a much deeper emotional experience. The Foreign Exchange and their band of merry musicians are certainly in that category for me.

After seeing FE perform at BB Kings back in 2009, my fiancée and I made sure that we would not miss their return to BB Kings on Oct. 23rd, 2010. Arriving early to the scene, we were greeted by the sounds of DJ Brainchild spinning an eclectic mix of hip hop and funk. Experiencing everything from Slum Village to Barry White, the crowd spilled into BB Kings anticipating yet another amazing performance for this year's CMJ Festival.

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URB reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 6, 2010 at 8:12 AM · Comments
The new FE album "Authenticity" clocks in at a polished eleven tracks, with the memorable "Everything must go" starting off with a synthesizer melody that hypnotizes from start to finish. "This city ain't the same without you" utilizes fan favorite Yazarah's vocals. MTV picking up "The Ballad of Purple St. James'" first video for rotation is as just a much a testament to the FE+ label, as is the newest tight knit ZO! full length. Nicolay's solo catalog continues to develop over time, and "Don't Wait" provides the proof Darrien Brockington's eventual solo album is long deserved. I have no doubt we'll see a rise in notoriety of all of the artists in the collective in the not so distant future.

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The A.V. Club reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 3, 2010 at 6:31 PM · Comments
It takes courage to reinvent yourself as a silky soul crooner after developing a hard-earned reputation as one of the most insightful, funny, gifted rappers around, but former Little Brother frontman Phonte has never lacked chutzpah or ambition. The Grammy-nominated renaissance man's first collaborative album with producer Nicolay, Connected, joined the hip-hop boom-bap of Little Brother with shimmering electronic soul. Its follow-up, the aptly named Leave It All Behind, all but abandoned rap, as does the duo's assured new Authenticity, a warm, comforting security blanket of an album. It's a work of hushed intimacy and unabashed romanticism that uses synthesizers to create incongruously organic, natural-sounding grown-folks R&B. The disc sometimes feels like one long, hypnotic, deeply soothing groove separated into tracks, but the sprightly "Maybe She'll Dream of Me," which features Phonte's sole rap on Authenticity, feels like a hit single from an alternate universe where pop music is a meritocracy instead of a rigged game. Phonte exposes his soul in song after song; like a bona fide soulman, he's fearless about broadcasting his softness and vulnerability. Thankfully, he's now in a gentler R&B realm that, unlike hip-hop, sees those qualities as strengths rather than weaknesses.
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New York Amsterdam News reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 2, 2010 at 4:47 PM · Comments
It's one thing for musicians to change their sound gradually and still remain uniquely them. It's another thing altogether to jump ship from album to album and still maintain a sound that belongs to you. The Foreign Exchange (which consists of singer/rapper/songwriter Phonte and producer/musician/arranger Nicolay) has done exactly that. Starting with 2004's firmly rooted in hip-hop Connected, moving to 2008's modern-day classic R&B sound on Leave It All Behind and ending with their new release, Authenticity, the duo have once again changed their sound and created another successful work of art.

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The Napster Blog reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 1, 2010 at 8:36 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange, last year's surprise Grammy-nominees, return with their newest set, Authenticity. The team of Phonté Coleman and Nicolay continue on their foray of making beautiful soul music with a sound similar to their last album, the heralded Leave It All Behind. Nicolay's production shows more maturation, even more so when compared to Foreign Exchange's hip-hop heavy debut, Connected. Tracks like "All Roads", "Fight For Love" and "Don't Wait" all display Nic's lush and developed soundscapes. With YahZarah and Darien Brockington returning, Phonté continues his transformation from being one of hip-hop's most clever wordsmiths to soulful singer-songwriter extraordinaire, expertly penning songs about love, love lost, it's positives and, definitely, it's negatives. But that's what Authenticity is about: Love, and everything it entails, good and bad. If you dug LIAB, then Authenticity should not disappoint.
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Potholes In My Blog reviews Authenticity

by +FE on November 1, 2010 at 7:14 AM · Comments
We always knew Phonte could sang. His career in North Carolina's Little Brother was peppered with turns as a vocalist, most memorably on The Minstrel Show's "Cheatin'", an uproarious send up of mainstream R&B's penchant for cartoonish melodrama. Still, though, when Tay went full on crooner for Leave It All Behind, his and Dutch producer Nicolay's second album as the Foreign Exchange, it was a bit of a curveball. Even so, Tay and Nic made it a smooth transition with an album full of Nicolay's stellar production and Phonte's smoothly sung loverman platitudes. This is a group that never hesitates to challenge its fanbase with each work, and Authenticity is no exception. Where Leave It All Behind was an ode to being in love, Authenticity trafficks in stories of exhaustion, resignation, and quiet, mannered desperation that find the group exploring new musical territories.

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The Foreign Exchange: Authentic Souls (Part 2) (via The Well Versed)

by +FE on October 30, 2010 at 9:36 AM · Comments
TWV: You said that this album is more catered towards a man than a woman. Can you elaborate on that?

Phonte: Most R&B is pretty much men singing what they think women want to hear. Guys kind of get left out in the cold. There's a misconception that guys don't like R&B. Guys like to hear male singers but it has to be something that speaks to them on some level. No disrespect to Trey Songz, because he has songs that I like but I can't ride with four other dudes listening to Trey Songz. That's just not going to happen because most of his songs are tailored to women. My homeboys can't be singing "My Neighbors Know My Name." I'm sorry.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Authentic Souls (Part 2) (via The Well Versed)

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SoulCuts reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 30, 2010 at 9:30 AM · Comments
Authenticity is a tightly crafted collection of atmospheric electro-soul and pop that could well see Nicolay and Phonte surpass their earlier Grammy nomination. It's a brave record, short and to the point, both lyrically and musically. I'm reminded of the writer's maxim: edit, edit and edit again! There's not an ounce of fat on Authenticity, each track is delivered succinctly, right from the heart of the matter. It's a welcome antidote to the usual bloated R&B from across the pond.

The album's overarching soundscape expands on the music Nicolay explored on his Shibuya release, marrying it exquistely to Phonte's songwriting to produce a soul album that defies the critic's usual sophistic genre classifications. For music lovers, that's certainly worth a round of applause.

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Okayplayer reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 28, 2010 at 10:26 PM · Comments
Is Phonte Coleman depressed or something? It's not an unreasonable question to ask while listening to Authenticity, the third album from the rapper-turned-singer's alternative-R&B/soul group the Foreign Exchange. Picking up where they left off with their Grammy-nominated sophomore effort Leave It All Behind, Coleman and producer Nicolay have crafted an album in the age of the digi-single; a commendable feat that sets them apart from the rest of their "contemporaries" (though let's be honest, this is a group with no peers). As the lonesome leaf that adorns the album's cover might indicate, this is not a cheery affair.

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Pitchfork reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 27, 2010 at 9:36 AM · Comments
The narratives surrounding the Foreign Exchange's albums often overshadowed the conversation around the music itself. On their debut, Connected, it was that rapper Phonte and producer Nicolay constructed their tracks through back-and-forth Internet correspondence, having never met by the time their album was released. With their follow-up, Leave It All Behind, it was that the group had committed a total about-face, Phonte having traded rapping for singing. In both cases, the results of such improbable experiments were astonishing. But unlike Connected, which seemed to lose steam with time, Leave It All Behind had a different trajectory. That album grew only richer and more impressive as the years passed, revealing itself to be a remarkably complex, mature R&B record.

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Prefix reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 26, 2010 at 12:13 PM · Comments
In 2010, it's not terribly bizarre to learn that a musical act has created its latest track or album by sending tracks through e-mail or an instant-messaging service. But when singer-rapper Phonte Coleman and producer Nicolay joined forces via the infamous OkayPlayer boards in 2004, this method of creating music was basically unheard of. But because of the distance between them - Phonte resides in North Carolina and Nicolay in the Netherlands - these two basically had no other option. As such, they dubbed themselves The Foreign Exchange and crafted their widely heralded debut, Connected, with both names being a clear play on their situation. And on that record, the duo and their guests showcased an organic yet electronic take on soul-infused hip-hop. It was such a natural sound and pairing that Nicolay and Phonte realized they had something special on their hands.

Enter sophomore effort, Leave It All Behind, which dropped in late 2008 and slightly referred to how the producer himself left his life behind and moved to North Carolina. With the two of them living nearby, they could record together in the studio and allow for an even truer interaction. That led to their second album showing a greater feat of songwriting and production, both handled by Nicolay and Phonte. True collaboration might be important in any given recording session, but here it took on a new life because Phonte was ready to show the world his vocal chops. Across the entirety of Leave It All Behind he spit two verses. The rest he crooned with a sincere, honest tone, like an old-school R&B/soul-man with some help from full-time singers Yahzarah, Darien Brockington, and Muhsinah. Together, they made such a mark that even the Grammy's nomination panel took notice and put "Daykeeper" up for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2009. Sure, those awards might not mean much to some, but considering the Foreign Exchange's opponents - acts like India.Arie (who won) and others - it meant a lot. So much, in fact, that Phonte put recording his solo debut on hold to get back in the studio with Nicolay to create their third album, Authenticity.

Continue reading Prefix reviews Authenticity

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The Foreign Exchange Reign Over The Empire City (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on October 26, 2010 at 9:24 AM · Comments
Phonte, Nicolay and their musically gifted collective known as The Foreign Exchange, including Zo!, Darien Brockington, and guest vocalist Chantae Cann, played BB Kings in New York City Saturday night and, as usual, did not disappoint. The show served as the official album release celebration for their third album, the excellent Authenticity.

As a Certified +FE Stan I looked forward to hearing live versions of their newest tracks, but remained curious in the days leading up to the show as to how the somber underbelly of Authenticity would merge with the happier Leave It All Behind and decidedly more hip-hop Connected material. It was made quickly evident, however, that there would be no palpable delineation between the songs they're most seasoned at performing (i.e. fan favorites "Take Off the Blues," "Come Around" and the GRAMMY-nominated "Daykeeper") and the future classics, which made for an organically cohesive show. The newest additions to their eclectic catalog merge extremely well with the older joints and pretty much solidify The Foreign Exchange "sound"--that achingly soulful, "grown folk relationship soundtrack" sound that resonate so deeply with those of us who've been through some real life shit.

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The Foreign Exchange's 'Authenticity' Is As Real As They Come (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on October 25, 2010 at 9:05 PM · Comments
Let's face it, The Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind is a tough act to follow. Released in October 2008, the album overshadowed everything released that year, wound up atop many "Best Of" lists (including being named Album of the Year by this music blog), was home to the GRAMMY-nominated single "Daykeeper" and quite literally caught everyone out there with how unbelievably awesome the whole package was from start to finish. How do you top that? Well, if you're The Foreign Exchange, the goal isn't to repeat what you've already done, which they've made quite clear throughout their career. Everyone thought that they had Nicolay and Phonte pegged after Connected dropped in 2004, but LIAB was a thematic and sonic evolution from their stellar debut. Focused on celebrating the highs and recognizing the lows of relationships, there was less hip hop, more soul and it was all good. So with the release of the group's third album, Authenticity, if there is one thing to be sure of, it's that another surprise is awaiting once you sit down and press play.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange's 'Authenticity' Is As Real As They Come (via SoulBounce)

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The Foreign Exchange: Authentic Souls (Part 1) (via The Well Versed)

by +FE on October 22, 2010 at 8:55 AM · Comments
TWV: It's been 6 years since Connected was released as two guys who just enjoyed each others music from two different continents. Honestly, did either of you ever think that this is where you would be at in your respective careers? Making this kind of music?

Phonte: I always thought we'd be making music together to some capacity. But in terms of Nic moving stateside and moving at the level we are now, I truly didn't see that coming. I kind of knew from our first record that it would be more than hip hop. We both had aspirations of doing something outside of the realm of hip hop. In terms of it turning into a full blown company and us producing for other people, I damn sure didn't see that happening. We've been blessed.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Authentic Souls (Part 1) (via The Well Versed)

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Q&A: The Foreign Exchange's Phonte Coleman On How To Make Grown Up R&B That You Can Listen To With Other Men In the Car (via The Village Voice)

by +FE on October 20, 2010 at 4:41 PM · Comments
When Phonte Coleman, the singing, songwriting half of r&b duo the Foreign Exchange (the other half is producer/multi-instrumentalist Nicolay Rook), talks about the group's new album Authenticity, he's close to apologetic. That's because unlike 2008's Leave It All Behind, the group's Grammy-nominated celebration of love's up-and-down complexities, this new one is an extended, depressive suite about wizened contentment and well, existential dread. Authenticity is purposefully one-note: spare, frosty electronic soul about how much damned work it is to be in a relationship. We met up with Phonte last week in Raleigh, North Carolina, to discuss the record as the Foreign Exchange prepared for their two CMJ shows this Saturday: A free one at the Union Square Best Buy at 2:30 p.m. and then a 7 p.m. performance at BB King's.

Continue reading Q&A: The Foreign Exchange's Phonte Coleman On How To Make Grown Up R&B That You Can Listen To With Other Men In the Car (via The Village Voice)

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The Foreign Exchange is USA Today's Pick of the Week!

by +FE on October 19, 2010 at 3:05 PM · Comments
"Maybe She'll Dream Of Me", the first single taken from The Foreign Exchange's new album Authenticity, is USA Today's Pick of the Week!
Maybe She'll Dream of Me, a soulful contemplation on a guy's chances with a woman so beautiful that she may have never "heard a no before," is from the new album Authenticity by the Foreign Exchange, the inventive duo of North Carolina rapper/singer/songwriter Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay. It makes one wonder if the reality could ever live up to the fantasy.

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Live Music Guide reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 19, 2010 at 1:28 PM · Comments
In 2002, American rapper/singer Phonte Coleman and Dutch producer Nicolay sat at their computers, more than 3,000 miles apart, while producing their first album Connected through the hip-hop and alternative website okayplayer.com. Before meeting face-to-face, the duo released their premier album as The Foreign Exchange, aptly named for their unique but magical musical composing situation.

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The Couch Sessions reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 19, 2010 at 11:29 AM · Comments
The internet is real dope when you think about it. I actually have no idea what the world would look like without it. I can't imagine a day going by and not checking my email, reading the sports pages of newspapers across the US, tweeting and finding some unreleased music to download.(Don't act like I'm the only one) The internet is also responsible for one of the most innovative groups in music today, the Foreign Exchange.

If you're not up on the Exchange, Phonte (from Little Brother) and Nicolay met on the Root's website Okayplayer and began recording and sending music back and fourth before ever meeting. Something that would've been impossible 15+ years ago, in 2004 became a reality with the group's first album "Connected" and the two doubled down for their sophomore album "Leave It All Behind" which was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. So, how do follow up a Grammy nomination? Easy. Keep making great music. Which is exactly what the group does with their 3rd album "Authenticity".

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Soulections.com reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 14, 2010 at 4:04 PM · Comments
By this point, the Internet and iTunes are a buzz with Authenticity, the 3rd full length album from the duo of Phonte and Nicolay. It's hard to follow up a Grammy nominated album as well as going from a relatively small group of fans to a more mainstream and widespread audience. So how does the group do and what do we get? Let's find out...

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Blogcritics Music reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 14, 2010 at 3:36 PM · Comments
Continuing their R&B experiment, Phonte and Nicolay take their Grammy nominated project The Foreign Exchange to another level with their third release entitled Authenticity. Settling on an amazing sound they crafted on their sophomore album, FE is comfortable continuing their soul journey together.

With Phonte, an accomplished emcee formerly of the group Little Brother and Nicolay, a producer comfortable in the soul or hip hop production circle, FE (Foreign Exchange) has the potential to take a number of directions when they get together. Their debut album Connected exists as a genre smashing blend of hip hop and R&B which to date has kept their fans on their toes in anticipation of what direction new music will take. Filled with features as well as danceable numbers, it remains as a timeless classic that has a fresh take on the blend of hip hop and R&B with Nicolay's signature sound.

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The Well Versed reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 14, 2010 at 7:38 AM · Comments
A Grammy nomination and an accessible new sound are good and all, but there isn't much that can truly comfort a relationship gone sour. With their third album, Authenticity, Foreign Exchange--the musical duo of vocalist Phonte Coleman and dutch producer Nicolay--lurk in post-breakup purgatory before finding their way out by remembering the good times and staying optimistic for the future.

Continue reading The Well Versed reviews Authenticity

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Soul UK reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 13, 2010 at 3:05 PM · Comments
October 12th should have been a date marked on every soul music lovers diary, for that was the day that saw the release of Authenticity, the third album for the Grammy nominated duo, The Foreign Exchange. With two albums under their belt, both of which are hailed as modern classics, the group were always going to have a steep hill to climb if they were going to live up to the extreme hype off the back of 2004′s Connected and 2008′s Leave It All Behind. Well folks it looks like we can all breath a sigh of relief as Nicolay and Phonte have released another certified classic that will surely be regarded as one of, if not the, best release of 2010.

Continue reading Soul UK reviews Authenticity

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Rawemag reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 13, 2010 at 7:55 AM · Comments
Their 2008 release, "Leave It All Behind," got them a Grammy nomination for the song "Daykeeper." Despite not winning (they should've won) , The Foreign Exchange is back with a vengeance in the form of "Authenticity."

Typically, when one thinks of The Foreign Exchange--thoughts run to humor, and hip-hop, however, these elements are not necessarily shown as much with this album. What "Authenticity" lacks from predecessors "Connected" (2004) and "Leave It All Behind" (2008) it gains with it's contemplative and dark honesty. This album features just four collaborations, two from longtime Foreign Exchange collaborators Yahzarah, and Darrien Brockington, as well as collaborations from Chantae Cann and Jesse Boykins III. The album is different from other Foreign Exchange music, however it's still a great album.

Continue reading Rawemag reviews Authenticity

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Washington City Paper reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 13, 2010 at 7:49 AM · Comments
Gentlemen, raise your hands if you've been here: You meet "the one," that woman who you just know is the best thing you've ever encountered. Then, you embark on what promises to be an astonishing love affair of deep infatuation and refreshing spontaneity.

But soon you analyze the relationship and aren't thrilled with what's there, and you're forced to sever the bond. Or, maybe she's the one who leaves, pulling out the rug from under your feet. Then you stomp around with your favorite liquor and swear off love forever.

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LA Weekly reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 11, 2010 at 5:11 PM · Comments
Being in love is like being underwater. All outside noise is dulled; all light is ethereal. But, when isolated, your lover's dulcet voice can be deceptive, and that shimmering light can be marred by pockets of shadows.

The Foreign Exchange's latest album, Authenticity, is a love letter, but one told in reverse, and one that sees no point in sparing feelings. That's no surprise. Phonte Coleman, one half of The Foreign Exchange and one third of the now-dissolved North Carolinian hip-hop group Little Brother, has always been about truth in verses. After all, his raps told of a broke college grad with a record deal who can only afford to take his date to Applebee's, not some typical (and typically untrue) blunts-n-broads braggadocio.

Continue reading LA Weekly reviews Authenticity

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ThisIsRealMusic reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 11, 2010 at 11:06 AM · Comments
After a two year waiting period, those of us who appreciate good music, no longer have to twiddle our thumbs or subject ourselves to random that is being put out today. The Foreign Exchange is back, and has done it yet again with another gem for the masses. Authenticity is nothing short of its title: pure, beautiful, authentic, with a touch of real, and a hint of (dare I say it)...dark? This album is different, yet consistent with what FE is known for: good music.

Continue reading ThisIsRealMusic reviews Authenticity

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allmusic reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 11, 2010 at 9:16 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange family's third 2010 release, following YahZarah's The Ballad of Purple St. James and Zo!'s SunStorm, Authenticity is the third proper album from the flagship act helmed by Nicolay and Phonte. It's somehow more lush and downcast than 2008's Leave It All Behind, frequently dipping into an alluring type of despondent heartache that is improbably soothing. Opening with an eerie intro similar to that of the Grammy-nominated "Daykeeper," Authenticity promptly gets to the black heart of the matter: "Loved you good, and you wrote our heartbreak in the sky." Phonte, whose singing voice is equally resigned and penetrating, lets loose a torrent of Hear, My Dear-worthy bombs, like "Love is at worst an excuse/At best it's a truce/So what is the use?" The song's tremulous, synthesizer-laced production would have fit on Nicolay's City Lights, Vol. 2: Shibuya, had Nicolay experienced a crippling loss during the trip that inspired that album. The following slow-motion title track, rhythmically resembling warped Purple Rain-era Prince, furthers the album's theme of pouring everything into a relationship despite being aware of the futility. Here, Phonte is in full soul-baring confession mode: "She's all that I could dream, but she tears me apart." A couple significant songs detour from bad-lover territory, though they could be re-sequenced to seem more like chronological scenes from a relationship in gradual decay. "Maybe She'll Dream of Me," sweet and percolating, is a light song in the best sense, but in the context of all the heartache, one gets the overriding notion that it's more about pursuing something that could only be too good to be true. "Make Me a Fool," as in "I'm not asking you to be an angel/Just don't ever make me a fool," seems to sense the inevitable in spite of its guard dropping. More moody, modern R&B that sounds like nothing else and reveals remarkable depth (there's even a little well-placed twang and some violin), Authenticity is neither an everyday nor an every-day album, unless playing it is necessary for the sake of convalescence.

Continue reading allmusic reviews Authenticity

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SoulTracks reviews Authenticity

by +FE on October 11, 2010 at 6:43 AM · Comments
The very first review of The Foreign Exchange's new album, Authenticity!
Wistful, contemplative, and darkly honest, what Authenticity loses in the humor and haunting refrains of its predecessor it gains in...well...authenticity! Leave It All Behind, one of the best albums of any generation, was always going to be a tough act for the North Carolina meets The Netherlands collective to follow. The good news is that The Foreign Exchange production quality, feel, and signature sound of LIAB bleeds over into Authenticity with enough residue that ensures the two are undeniably in relationship with one another, if not always peers. Nonetheless, Authenticity has an attractive DNA all its own, one greatly benefiting from the evolving and constantly surprising talents of its frontman, Phonte. No longer obviously couched by the proven vocal talents of vets Yahzarah, Musinah, and Darien Brockington, Phonte's more assured vocals fly solo through this project's misty skies considerably more than on previous FE offerings. His songwriting also bears greater distinction. Lyrically bare and just shy of the blues, Phonte's philosophical pen goes to the heart of men, pulling the covers off male bravado to reveal a cavernous sensitivity and their often masked insecurities. Authenticity's uniquely autumn atmosphere, matter-of-fact vocals, and august, love weary lyricism invites travellers into yet another magical world orbiting in FE's ever-expanding electro-soul universe.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews Authenticity

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Zo! artist feature on Brave Soul Collective

by +FE on September 28, 2010 at 10:35 AM · Comments
Our Brave Soul Artist feature for this month is a self proclaimed "Musical Architect" and a true definition of an artist. Multi-Instrumentalist/Producer Zo! is Detroit-area born and raised Lorenzo Ferguson. Music was always present in and around the Ferguson house, which let to Zo! taking piano lessons at age 6... which he absolutely despised. The idea of working toward a Major League Baseball career served as the greatest inspiration through his teenage years much more so than the concept of practicing music. After his parents consistently pushed and encouraged him to stick with music, Zo! discovered a newfound passion by teaching himself how to play piano by ear by age 11. Zo! got his production start in 1992 when his parents brought home a Proteus MPS keyboard and a Brother PDC100 sequencer for him to figure out. Since then, he has emphasized the use of live instrumentation as the blueprint for his music while constantly looking to expand his sound with each album release.

Continue reading Zo! artist feature on Brave Soul Collective

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The Foreign Exchange: The Right (Creative) Decisions (via Unsigned The Magazine)

by +FE on September 21, 2010 at 8:31 AM · Comments
Searing and soulful verses served over ethereal, aquatic beats, colored with varying tones and textures that intrigue the ears and expand the mind...these are the trademark characteristics that Nicolay and Phonte Coleman have established musically as members of the duo Foreign Exchange, a phrase that describes the combination of their Dutch and Durham, NC roots and musical influences.

Their 2004 debut, Connected, was a long-distance alliance of beats and rhymes tossed back and forth via the internet, and 2008's Leave It All Behind, which featured the poignant, Grammy-nominated "Daykeeper," maintained the momentum and broadened their fan base.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: The Right (Creative) Decisions (via Unsigned The Magazine)

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Textura reviews SunStorm

by +FE on September 1, 2010 at 6:18 AM · Comments
Listening to Zo!'s SunStorm is much like taking a bite out of a Proustian madelaine. After just a few minutes of exposure, a veritable floodgate of memories and associations appears: Songs in the Key of Life, Atlantic Starr, Soul Train, Breezin', Deodato, '70s Philly Soul, Donny Hathaway--you get the idea. All such associations might suggest that SunStorm is thus a retrograde or 'old-school' recording, but I'd prefer to call it timeless. Music of such quietly celebratory sincerity and soulfulness never goes out of style and if anything we could do with a whole lot more of it. Hip-hop is part of SunStorm's stylistic mix but the album's primary focus is soul music of the delectably funky and sexy kind (sometimes directly so, as in the love jam "Make Love 2 Me," which--consistent with its make-out vibe--unspools for ten oh-so-amorous minutes).

Continue reading Textura reviews SunStorm

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Washington City Paper reviews SunStorm

by +FE on August 13, 2010 at 1:18 PM · Comments
There's a moment near the end of the martial-arts film The Last Dragon in which the protagonist Bruce Leroy realizes he has "the power," an unmistakable, self-actualizing glow that enables him to conquer obstacles (and catch a bullet in his teeth). Lorenzo Ferguson, a Silver Spring-based producer, is basking in his own Leroy-style aura. Here's a man who has already enjoyed a respectable career as a multifaceted artist with a handful of enjoyable projects to his credit. With SunStorm, however, Zo! successfully marries his aesthetic to The Foreign Exchange's for a project that is as seamless as it is timeless. It might even teach you some moves.

Continue reading Washington City Paper reviews SunStorm

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SoulTracks reviews SunStorm

by +FE on August 7, 2010 at 10:04 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange Music is at it again with the release of producer and multi-instrumentalist Zo!'s Sunstorm. After contributing to a number of Foreign Exchange projects such as Yahzarah's The Ballad Of Purple St. James and Little Brother's curtain call album Leftback, Zo! has delivered a palette of uplifting and passionate soul offerings that are sure to please. Channeling his inner Quincy Jones, Zo! has crafted an impressive album of his own sonic vision with the help of amazing vocalists such as Sy Smith, Lady Alma, Darien Brockington, Yahzarah, Carlitta Durand, Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, Jesse Boykins III, Chantae Cann, Monica Blaire, and Eric Roberson. Sunstorm is truly the Back On The Block of 2010.

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews SunStorm

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews SunStorm

by +FE on August 3, 2010 at 7:15 AM · Comments
If you need further proof that anyone affiliated with The Foreign Exchange is changing the shape of contemporary soul, look no further than the latest release from extended +FE member Zo! Enlisting the aid of fellow touring Foreign Exchange members Yahzarah, Phonte, and Darien Brockington as well as extended Nicolay alumni like Sy Smith and Carlitta Durand and progressive soul standouts like Eric Roberson, Monica Blaire, and Lady Alma, Zo! has crafted a true masterwork of epic proportions with Sunstorm.

Continue reading Nu-Soul Magazine reviews SunStorm

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Zo!'s SunStorm shines bright (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on August 3, 2010 at 7:06 AM · Comments
If you're a passionate music lover like I am, then you already know that there's nothing worse than waiting patiently for an album to drop, only to realize that it was nowhere near as good as you'd hoped it'd be. Well, that is so not the case with Zo!'s highly-anticipated album, SunStorm. We've seem glimmers of his greatness on his 12 previous releases, namely 2009's tantalizing just visiting too EP, but on his first full-length project on The Foreign Exchange's homegrown imprint, he proves what we had all hoped: that he's one of the most exciting things to happen to music in a minute.

Continue reading Zo!'s SunStorm shines bright (via SoulBounce)

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allmusic reviews SunStorm

by +FE on July 30, 2010 at 9:49 AM · Comments
SunStorm is Lorenzo Ferguson's follow-up to 2009's Overdue Process -- a full-length collaboration with MC Asylum 7 -- and payback from several sessions beside the Foreign Exchange and its affiliates. It's also the natural extension of the Just Visiting EPs, in which the multi-instrumentalist/producer and a rotating array of vocalists reinterpreted soft soul of the mid-'70s through the early '90s -- hits and cult classics like Minnie Riperton's "Perfect Angel," the Jones Girls' "Nights Over Egypt," and Mary J. Blige's "Love No Limit." Ferguson's keyboards and beats have always been flexible enough to accommodate vocalists and MCs with equal ease. Here, they are especially geared toward the former, though Phonte pulls double duty on the uplifting tone setter "Greater Than the Sun" and Rapper Big Pooh briefly drops in on the loose-collared "This Could Be the Night." True to its title, SunStorm emits a constant flow of radiant, positive energy, even when the love songs convey turbulence. Ferguson gracefully switches between lively pianos and darting synthesizers over beats that gently bounce and flutter, and drafts in some occasional woodwinds and brass. This places the album as much in line with the most musical strain of broken beat (à la 4hero, Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Kaidi Tatham) as adult contemporary R&B. If the wide-scoped progressive jazz and R&B station WJZZ -- a fixture in Ferguson's native Detroit -- still existed, it would no doubt wear this album out. Given the number of featured vocalists, the station would not run the risk of losing any ears in doing so.
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Soul UK reviews SunStorm

by +FE on July 27, 2010 at 11:06 AM · Comments
Well folks the wait is over. It is now July 27th and you can all get your hands on one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Zo!'s Sunstorm.

The Detroit producer / multi-instrumentalist has been honing his craft for years releasing EP's along the way, however it was hooking up with Phonte (and the rest of the Foreign Exchange crew) that really saw the tables turn and saw Zo! gain some much deserved attention. After working with FE on their Grammy nominated Leave It All Behind album, and releasing the free EP ...just visiting too, all was on course for him to become a member of the +FE Music label and release his full-length debut.

Continue reading Soul UK reviews SunStorm

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The Foreign Exchange makes Atlanta connection; new album in the works (via Atlanta Hip-Hop Music Examiner)

by +FE on July 6, 2010 at 11:21 AM · Comments
Atlanta was ready for The Foreign Exchange. On a warm Friday night in late May, their show at Midtown's Masquerade was filled with the grown and sexy people of what the music industry calls "urban alternative." The mostly coupled-up coterie was formed by women in colorful dresses and sandals and men in button-downs and jeans or graphic T-shirts bearing images of rock and hip-hop icons. If you didn't get close to the front, you could bob and weave your way to a better view through the afroed and loc-ed up folks that made of up the majority of the standing room only area. And the numbers didn't lie; the capacity crowd of the venue showed that a performance from the North Carolina via the Netherlands collective was well worth the wait.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange makes Atlanta connection; new album in the works (via Atlanta Hip-Hop Music Examiner)

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The Foreign Exchange rocks B.B. King's (via SoulTracks)

by +FE on June 21, 2010 at 8:02 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange was working especially hard, commencing their loaded weekend schedule in Philadelphia, performing during The Roots Picnic. A short but sweet set was just enough to whet the appetite of the New Yorkers who traveled down for the day. Nonetheless, on Sunday night, it was all about New York City. The energy was palpable. And with Jesse Boykins III opening, the audience was in for a solid night of comedy, grooves and entertainment the only way FE knows how to deliver.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange rocks B.B. King's (via SoulTracks)

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The Foreign Exchange to bring Authenticity this October (via SoulBounce)

by +FE on June 14, 2010 at 9:55 AM · Comments
October 12, 2010. Add this date to your calendar right now and circle it in red, schedule an alarm or do whatever you need to do to remember it because that, my friends, is the release date of The Foreign Exchange's third album. Entitled Authenticity, Nicolay and Phonte will be coming back once again to change the game that we call urban music. Their sound is constantly evolving and from the delicious sneak peek that I've heard, one thing is for sure--expect the unexpected from these cats and their cohorts YahZarah, Darien Brockington and Zo!. While we wait for Authenticity to drop, you already know that next to FE's official website, SoulBounce will be Foreign Exchange Central in the coming months. So, yes, go ahead and start getting excited from now.
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Recap: The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's, New York (via Suite903)

by +FE on June 11, 2010 at 1:45 PM · Comments
Arriving at B.B. Kings Sunday, June 6th armed with camera, pen and pad, I was ready with high expectations for The Foreign Exchange. The multi-faceted identity of FE is represented by YahZarah, Phonte and Darien Brockington, together combining an ecclecic recipe of hip-hop, blues, funk, reggae with a complete "feel good" gospel experience.

Nicolay's genius production sets the tone of the show with the witty lyricism of Phonte; smooth serenading of Darien Brockington, topped off with the sultry vocals of Yahzarah St. James. It only takes one live show to see that this union's very existence, which can only produce the kind of music that is timeless. The Foreign Exchange show was very entertaining, but do not take that description loosely. The experience of being at a Foreign Exchange concert is nothing short of musical genius.

Continue reading Recap: The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's, New York (via Suite903)

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The A.V. Club interviews Phonte

by +FE on May 26, 2010 at 8:23 AM · Comments
Little Brother exploded onto the underground hip-hop scene with 2003's The Listening, a classic debut that won accolades from top tastemakers like ?uestlove and Pete Rock. When the group signed to Atlantic for its controversial follow-up, The Minstrel Show, it looked like it was primed to cross over from the underground to the mainstream. But the trio's stint on a major label proved disastrous, and the album tanked commercially. Producer 9th Wonder left Little Brother before the release of 2007's underrated Getback, for which the group re-upped with the independent label that released its debut, ABB.

Frontman Phonte, meanwhile, branched out as half of The Foreign Exchange, an ambitious collaboration with Dutch musician/producer Nicolay; together, the pair compiled an album through instant messaging and trading sound files. The 2004 debut, Connected, was one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade, a lush, seductive masterpiece that perfectly fused laid-back soul with thoughtful, introspective, melodic hip-hop. The Foreign Exchange shocked many people by picking up a Grammy nomination for best urban/alternative performance for "Daykeeper" from its 2009 follow-up, Leave It All Behind, which abandoned hip-hop altogether in favor of R&B and soul, focusing on Phonte's singing. This year, Phonte reunited with the remaining half of Little Brother, Big Pooh, to release Leftback, the group's fourth and purportedly final album. The A.V. Club recently spoke with Phonte about ending Little Brother, music-industry bullshit, and beefing with 9th Wonder on Twitter.

Continue reading The A.V. Club interviews Phonte

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The Foreign Exchange: Class In Session; Music 3000 (via Allhiphop)

by +FE on May 24, 2010 at 3:46 PM · Comments
The school bell has rung and the lesson for today is Music 101 and it's not just your ordinary Top 40 heard on the radio. But, rather a duo whose eclectic and eccentric sound which fuses "R&B, Hip-Hop and electronica," earning them a rave reviews and the much garnered Grammy nomination. The Foreign Exchange consisting of Phonte of North Carolina and Nicolay from Holland, is more than a group with a funky name but the group to watch. With a new album on the way,

AllHipHop.com: Your last CD was in 2008, are you planning to release any new music?

Nicolay: Yazarah (a fellow collaborator) has been touring with us and has been featured on all of our albums. She is actually one of the first artists that we are coming out with on our imprint. We are working on a new album for The Foreign Exchange for the fall. We definitely have a lot of music coming out this year.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Class In Session; Music 3000 (via Allhiphop)

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The Foreign Exchange brings soul to Akron (via fullasoul.com)

by +FE on April 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM · Comments
There's no questioning how rich in soul music history we are in the state of Ohio. 20 years ago, an Ohioan would never need to go far to find some live soul music goin' down nearby. In 2010, it's a different story. Cleveland gets theirs, no question...but to see a surge of R&B artists making their way down the road to Akron the last couple of years has been bliss.

Saturday night, the city was blessed with it's first appearance by the Grammy-nominated Foreign Exchange. Having not seen them before live, I had no idea what a treat we were all in for.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange brings soul to Akron (via fullasoul.com)

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Phonte Talks Little Brother, 9th Wonder and The Foreign Exchange (via Soul Sessions blog)

by +FE on March 19, 2010 at 5:28 PM · Comments
In January Little Brother announced that the upcoming LP, Leftback, will be their final album. I was too salty when I found out! Anyone that knows me knows that I have always been the biggest Little Brother supporter. The North Carolina duo had me at The Listening with songs like "Speed", "Whatever You Say" and "The Get-Up". To this day Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh (and even 9th Wonder who exited) remain one of my favorite groups in Hip Hop... ever.

I was able to catch up with Phonte and talk about Little Brother's retirement, get the truth about why 9th Wonder bounced, and find out what's next for the Grammy nominated Foreign Exchange.

Continue reading Phonte Talks Little Brother, 9th Wonder and The Foreign Exchange (via Soul Sessions blog)

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Underground Artists Strike A Pose During 2010 Grammy Week (via Sub Centric blog)

by +FE on March 2, 2010 at 12:43 PM · Comments
Underground Artists Strike A Pose During 2010 Grammy Week (via Sub Centric blog)
More photos from The Foreign Exchange's Grammy week!
While major artists like Beyonce may grab all the headlines during the Grammys, it is a still a time for buzz-worthy and up and coming talent to network and show what they've got. Photographer Kawai Matthews of Air Philosophy, a true supporter of the underground soul movement, managed to snap some gorgeous photos of 2010's crop of Urban Alternative nominees (along with some future nominees) at this year's KCRW Pre-Grammy Brunch hosted by radio personality Garth Trinidad.

Continue reading Underground Artists Strike A Pose During 2010 Grammy Week (via Sub Centric blog)

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The Foreign Exchange to Release Third Album This Fall (via Exclaim.ca)

by +FE on February 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange to Release Third Album This Fall (via Exclaim.ca)
Phonte, one half of acclaimed North Carolina rap duo Little Brother, has revealed in an Exclaim! interview that the third album from his Grammy-nominated side-project the Foreign Exchange will likely see a fall 2010 release.
Although he's promoting Little Brother's final album LeftBack, due out April 20, Phonte is hard at work on the yet-to-be-titled Foreign Exchange release with Dutch producer Nicolay. "Daykeeper" from The Foreign Exchange's sophomore album Leave It All Behind was recently up for a Grammy in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category.

"It feels really good to get that kind of recognition," says Phonte. "It lets you know that people are listening and that your peers are supporting what you do, so it's an honour."

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange to Release Third Album This Fall (via Exclaim.ca)

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The Foreign Exchange won't rest on Grammy laurels (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

by +FE on February 10, 2010 at 7:32 AM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange won't rest on Grammy laurels (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)
Sleep is a luxury Phonte and Nicolay still can't afford.
Say what you will about the commercial excess of the Grammy Awards, for an artist, there's nothing more validating than receiving a nomination. It means even more for independents with no major-label backing. So when Phonte Coleman's wife woke him up to tell him that his alt/soul group The Foreign Exchange had received a Best Urban/Alternative Performance nod for the song "Daykeeper," he reacted like any exuberant artist would - he fell back asleep.

"Honestly, I had been working so much, it didn't hit me until I completely woke up," he laughs.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange won't rest on Grammy laurels (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

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In The Lab With The Foreign Exchange (via Unique74)

by +FE on February 10, 2010 at 7:24 AM · Comments
I recently had the chance to catch up with the Grammy Nominated THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE. The collective have been making waves in the music scene and are setting a tone for many more great albums to come. They shared their process behind the magic of putting together Leave It All Behind to Nicolay's sojourn in Shibuya.

You guys are red hot and raising the bar. "Leave It All Behind" is in constant rotation in my mixes, the album is crazy nice (translation: its a really good record). What was the inspiration behind recording this album?

PHONTE: For me it was wanting to explore different kinds of music, doing something that I didn't have a chance to do up until that point. I wanted to stretch out and try something new.

Continue reading In The Lab With The Foreign Exchange (via Unique74)

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Wilmington musician headed for the Grammy awards (via Star News Online)

by +FE on January 30, 2010 at 8:45 AM · Comments
Wilmington musician headed for the Grammy awards (via Star News Online)
For any performer, there's always that moment just before he steps out on stage, into the spotlight.

For the Dutch-born, Wilmington-based musician and producer who calls himself Nicolay, that moment is now. It just depends on how bright the spotlight is going to be.

If The Foreign Exchange, Nicolay's R&B/hip-hop collaboration with Raleigh vocalist Phonte, wins a Best Urban/Alternative Performance Grammy for the song "Daykeeper" on Sunday, it's going to be blinding.

If they don't, well, it's still going to be pretty bright.

Continue reading Wilmington musician headed for the Grammy awards (via Star News Online)

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The Foreign Exchange On Grammy Nomination, Music And More (via Soul Sessions blog)

by +FE on January 25, 2010 at 10:19 AM · Comments
Hands down, The Foreign Exchange was one of the most genius singer - producer collaborations to happen to urban music in the early 2000s. The trans-Atlantic duo, who first met on the popular online message board, Okayplayer, is categorized best as R&B meets contemporary electronic meets hip hop. The first ingredient is Nicolay, a Dutch producer from the Netherlands who hones in on his talent of concocting original composition. The second ingredient is Phonte, rapper slash singer, and one half of the acclaimed hip hop group Little Brother. The rest is history.

I first grew fond of The Foreign Exchange after hearing the 2004 debut album, Connected, which featured a host of appearances including Rapper Big Pooh (of Little Brother), YahZarah, Darien Brockington and Median. Tracks like "Nic's Groove", "Happiness" and "Be Alright" were on constant rotation. Now, six years and one album later, The Foreign Exchange are practicing their acceptance speech. Their sophomore album, Leave It All Behind, is nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the track "Daykeeper" which features one of my favorite jazzy soul sistas', Muhsinah. I was more than delighted to catch up with Nic and Phonte and talk to them about The Foreign Exchange, their exciting nomination, and what's in store for the future.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange On Grammy Nomination, Music And More (via Soul Sessions blog)

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The Foreign Exchange: Leaving The Old Behind (via Okayplayer)

by +FE on December 24, 2009 at 5:24 AM · Comments
Call me crazy but I used to think artists sat around awaiting Grammy nomination announcements the way NCAA teams gather to await March Madness Tourney selections. I had concocted this preposterous mental scenario that included the artist and their closest family and friends huddled in the living room or studio awaiting the announcement. Although it's a major deal that some artist pursue throughout their entire career to no avail, Phonte Coleman found the peace of mind to sleep when most of the world was anxiously awaiting the 2010 selections.

Nominated for "Daykeeper" off their latest project Leave It All Behind, The Foreign Exchange, comprised of Nicolay and Phonte (Little Brother) feels the love. The group that came to existence via the Okayplayer message boards has received warm reception from domestic and international crowds. The overall success of this album in and outside of their "traditional" fan base has been somewhat surreal. Compared to Connected, Leave It All Behind is a more soulful R&B inspired album. Criticized by some for being too R&B, Foreign Exchange remains unaffected by these negative observations and continue to make music they can trust and believe in.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: Leaving The Old Behind (via Okayplayer)

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Nicolay: Never Losing His Way (via The Indiestry Magazine)

by +FE on December 22, 2009 at 6:53 AM · Comments
Nicolay (born Matthijs Rook) has always been behind the scenes when it comes to his production. Unlike other well-known music producers who shout out their names on records like Swizz Beatz (SWIZZY!), DJ Khaled (WE THE BEST!), or Lil' Jon (YEEEAH!), Nicolay remains relatively quiet and let's his music do the talking for him.

Born and raised in Holland, Nicolay was trained to learn how to use classical instruments and has worked to become a music producer since his youthful days.

"My motivation is based on making music and music-related things," Nicolay said. "I've always been the type of person to mess with instruments and recording devices for hours on end."

Continue reading Nicolay: Never Losing His Way (via The Indiestry Magazine)

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Connecting with The Foreign Exchange (via SOBO Magazine)

by +FE on December 16, 2009 at 11:26 AM · Comments
The world of technology is amazing. The world we live in can now make almost anything possible with the click of a mouse and some computer skills. What's more impressive is technology has afforded many musicians and artists the luxury that would have been unheard of decades ago. For Phonte Coleman and Nicolay, it was the click of a mouse that brought these two talented individuals together to make one of the most unique duos in music history, The Foreign Exchange.

Meeting each other through the popular website forum Okayplayer.com, the two would exchange music and lyrics through e-mails and make their dynamic debut album, Connected (2004), before meeting each other face to face. Phonte, a member of the group Little Brother, and Nicolay, producer extraordinaire from the Netherlands, have blessed the masses with some amazing work, so much that at press time the duo was nominated for a Best Urban/Alternative Performance Grammy for the single "Daydreamer" from their second release, Leave It All Behind (2008).

Continue reading Connecting with The Foreign Exchange (via SOBO Magazine)

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Wilmington producer Nicolay relishes Grammy nomination (via Star News)

by +FE on December 9, 2009 at 3:51 PM · Comments
Wilmington producer Nicolay relishes Grammy nomination (via Star News)
A modest home in a neighborhood near where College Road turns into Interstate 40 isn't where you might expect a Grammy nominee to live.

But that's exactly where Nicolay - the independent Dutch producer and musician who helps create the sound for R&B/hip-hop group The Foreign Exchange - received the news last week that he and vocalist Phonte, of Raleigh, had been nominated for a Best Urban/Alternative Performance Grammy for their song "Daykeeper."

"We've just been going nuts for the last week, man," Nicolay said, sitting in his living room with his wife, Aimee Flint, who serves as The Foreign Exchange's "director of operations," handling business dealings, promotion and a million other things.

Continue reading Wilmington producer Nicolay relishes Grammy nomination (via Star News)

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SoulTracks reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on December 9, 2009 at 3:40 PM · Comments
Relaxed, contemplative, and cucumber cool in its approach to nouveau -80s electronica, Nicolay's Shibuya demonstrates why the Great Dutch is in demand as an indie soul and hip hop producer, but not necessarily why the multi-instrumentalist is a compelling enough solo talent. Gratefully, the music here is not aggressive or obnoxious enough to be considered commercial synth pop, but nor is it languid or atmospheric enough to fully earn chillout or lounge cred. On his genre-free instrumentals, Nicolay only intermittently creates a soundscape that stands up without a vocal or instrumental solo riding over his electro-soul beats. When it does rise above a hot track for someone else's spotlight, as on elaborate thought pieces like "Meji Shrine" or the compellingly rhythmic "Crossing" and "Shibuya Station," Shibuya delivers the addictive dopamine of Nicolay's previous two City Lights offerings. Flashes of unique composition and arrangement are heard scattered on various bars within songs, as on "Rain in Ueno Park ," but the Shibuya standouts are those that include vocals from his rapidly expanding Foreign Exchange camp. On the musical perfection, "Saturday Night," and on the stunningly kaleidoscopic "Wake Up In Another Life," artists like the feather-voiced Carlitta Durand and an uncredited Phonte bring a frivolity and attractive brightness to nocturnal Nicolay's Neptunes-lite compositions. Rather than bringing undue attention to themselves on these tracks, the singers actually draw you into appreciating Nicolay's quietly cerebral musicianship. Like jazz pianist Billy Strayhorn before him, Nicolay's best work seems to be that done for others to shine, in turn giving this understated artist his most blinding moments.
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allmusic reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on November 9, 2009 at 8:12 AM · Comments
The second volume of Nicolay's City Lights series is a travelogue that, through the eyes of an amazed and slightly dazed visitor, reflects the character of Tokyo's Shibuya ward -- getting lost in its nightlife, basking in its spirituality, and several points in-between. In the wake of the producer's work on the Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind, a lack of progression would have been excusable, but Nicolay manages (remarkably enough) to expand his range both stylistically and conceptually. Mostly instrumental, Nicolay plays everything with the exception of a couple piano solos (provided by Zo!), while FE partner Phonte wrote and arranged for the four songs with vocals, all of which feature Carlitta Durand's whispery, sweetly uplifting voice. Faultlessly sequenced, just about every track is a set-up for what follows, and though the whole set is bathed in a unifying luster, the shifts in sound are not insignificant. Ranging beyond Nicolay's past output, Shibuya delves deeper into the boundless energy and complexities of late-'70s jazz fusion, steps into lush deep house, and otherwise moves smoothly on mellow downtempo pieces that are too stimulating to be regarded as mere mood music. What puts it over the top is not necessarily its central track or overall highlight but its two biggest surprises: the crisp, sleek, and discreetly dubby "Saturday Night," a four/four-rooted club track that could be a soundclash with the Force Tracks label circa Hypercity, and the beaming and almost frantic "Wake Up in Another Life," a dead ringer for an imagined West London broken beat interpretation of late-'70s George Duke (like "Yeah, We Going" or "Up from the Sea It Arose"). Nicolay's sense of wonderment shines through all of this, another unassuming gem from one of the most creative and increasingly chameleonic producers around.
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Unique74 reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on November 9, 2009 at 7:59 AM · Comments
Ambient tones, soulful echoes and electro sounds are few of the many ingredients created in this audio collage. Nicolay clocks in with a sequel to "City Lights v1″ , in which "City Lights v2″ bears a mature and seasoned sound. The many moods that are captured on this album takes the listener on an audio canvas as a painter searching for a visual climax. "Bullet Train" reigns in a euphoric yet busy atmosphere, while dwelling in a dark and promise future. "Omotesando" has a loose and open feeling while leaning on a heavy Jazz Fusion groove, this is my personal favorite under the "City Lights". "Meiji Shrine" gives a pinch of the Nicolay signature sound found in previous works, while serving as a reminder that the funk is still in control. The "buzz" cut is "Wake Up In Another Life" featuring vocalist Carlitta Durand, this lively piece is another highlight on the album worth checking out. This release sets a fresh and redefinitive approach in additon to exploring new ground, "City Lights v2″ is the sure shot!
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The Couch Sessions reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

by +FE on October 29, 2009 at 6:33 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange, the North Carolina based duo of Little Brother's Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay is steeped in legend. Meeting online via the hip-hop site Okayplayer, they exchanged beats and rhymes over the Internet, creating a friendship and leading to the group we now know today. Over the years, The Foreign Exchange has grown and matured, flipping its sound from its roots of hip-hop to the laid back almost Radiohead-like soul of their latest project Leave It All Behind, which received Album of the Year Honors from The Couch Sessions in 2008.

Earlier this week, The Foreign Exchange graced DC for the second time this year, spreading their magic on yet another capacity crowd at Black Cat.

Continue reading The Couch Sessions reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

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The Anti-Pop Blog reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

by +FE on October 29, 2009 at 6:23 PM · Comments
Very few things have the capacity to keep me waiting in line for an hour on a cold rainy New York City Friday night. Very few. One of those things, apparently, is the opportunity to see The Foreign Exchange perform live. The duo plus special guests and their band performed at BB King's on Friday October 23rd as part of CMJ Week. With tickets purchased way in advance, I was elated to see the team up close and personal. I've evolved into quite The FE fan over the past year - their latest album Leave It All Behind reeled me in with its relatable and well-written song lyrics penned and sang by Phonte, smooth and ear-pleasing beats produced by Nicolay, and soulful crooning from guest singers like Darien Brockington, YahZarah, and Muhsinah. So, I stood in the rain, waiting to be engaged and musically stimulated, along with a long line of other people. Was it worth it?

Hell yes!

Continue reading The Anti-Pop Blog reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

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Textura reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 28, 2009 at 9:20 AM · Comments
Nicolay's Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2 exudes the kind of effervescent joy one experiences when visiting an exotic new land for the first time. Specifically, its fifteen tracks collectively convey the excitement the typical Westerner might feel when first exposed to downtown Tokyo in all its night-time metropolitan glory. The idea for the project came about when Nicolay's first visit to the city in November 2006 proved to be life-changing and invigorating. Returning stateside, he laid down basic tracks for not one but three albums, the previously-issued Time:Line and Leave It All Behind recordings as well as the latest, a sequel to Where City Lights Volume 1. Just as the soulful emphasis of The Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind differentiated itself from the hip-hop stylings of Time:Line, so too does Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2 distance itself from the others by embracing an instrumental style that uses current electronic music and production technologies to produce music with strong roots in '70s jazz fusion. That bridging of musical eras serves as a metaphor for the commingling of ancient and modern traditions that exists within the city as a whole.

Though the album is largely instrumental in make-up, Durham, North Carolina vocalist Carlitta Durand adds her honey-dipped voice to four tracks, with two strategically placed at the beginning and end. Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2 plays like a travelogue, with Durand acting as tour guide for the lush opener "Lose Your Way" ("We'll take a walk through the city tonight") before a visit to "Shibuya Station" sets us off on a dizzying dash through the city. Electric piano and synthesizers add splashes of saturated colour to the song's broken beat soundtrack, after which we make our way through the equally hectic "Crossing." Subsequent stops include visits to a "Meiji Shrine" and "The Inner Garden" before the "Bullet Train" eventually brings about "Departure" (whose laid-back, quasi-hip-hop swagger could perhaps intimate a return of sorts for Nicolay too).

Continue reading Textura reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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Music Addikts review The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | Oct 23, 2009

by +FE on October 28, 2009 at 8:21 AM · Comments
4daLove

They say if you can make in NYC, then you can make it anywhere. Well, Music ADDIKTS made their way to NYC last weekend to get "Connected" with The Foreign Exchange. The excitement about this show had been building for months. On Friday, October 23rd, with show tickets in hand and flight schedules confirmed, 3 of your Music ADDIKTS - soulHIGH, LoverofSoul and 4daLove hit the Big Apple.Since we were all there, you get to hear all of our opinions about the show, from beginning, middle and end.

And so it begins....

After a quick dinner in the city, we headed to B.B. Kings at 10:45pm with every intention of getting a front-row spot for the 11:30 show. Wrong! The line was off the proverbial chain. Who knew that Foreign Exchange had such a fan base in NYC?? Like true fans we took our place in line and waited and waited.

Continue reading Music Addikts review The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | Oct 23, 2009

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True Genius Requires Insanity reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

by +FE on October 27, 2009 at 6:33 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange is the Postal Service of soul music: an up-and-coming producer joins a lead vocalist on a side project that is completed in true 21st century fashion, without sitting down in a studio to collaborate. Both projects have spawned albums that are modern classics. Both even chose tongue-in-cheek monikers that allude to the manner of their genesis. But while Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello are on hiatus, the pairing of Phonte and Nicolay is going strong.

Last Sunday, the Foreign Exchange family brought their transcontinental soul sound to a packed house at the Black Cat. Many live performers, especially in support of albums with a host of guests, suffer when they try to recreate the record, sans featured players. The Foreign Exchange is having none of it, bringing vocalists YahZarah, Darien Brockington, and Carlita Durand and backing three-piece Zo! and the Els along for the ride. And not just any ride, but a singular experience: part concert, part musical therapy, part church revival, all designed to make the audience - as the album instructs - leave it all behind.

Continue reading True Genius Requires Insanity reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC | Oct 25, 2009

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Pop Matters reviews The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | Oct 23, 2009

by +FE on October 27, 2009 at 5:01 PM · Comments
As long as The Foreign Exchange is performing, no one can ever even think about showmanship being dead. The eight-piece band that took the stage of B.B. King's Blues Club & Grille on Friday night moved the crowd in a way that few acts are capable. And it all started at 1 a.m. As such, you would think a show starting that late would lend itself to a somewhat less-than-energetic audience. But that was simply not the case--this is New York City we're talking about.

The quartet started up that distinct musical intro that kicks off both Foreign Exchange albums, Connected and Leave It All Behind. But the track they would begin playing was actually off producer-mastermind Nicolay's latest, City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya. And, on cue, out came songstress Carlitta Durand to sing the album's gorgeous opener, "Lose Your Way."

Continue reading Pop Matters reviews The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | Oct 23, 2009

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"This is Why I Write for Not Drugs" (on The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | October 23, 2009)

by +FE on October 25, 2009 at 11:38 AM · Comments
A couple of days ago I went to one of the more entertaining concerts I've ever been to. It wasn't the best performance, it wasn't the best venue, but it was by far the most entertained I'd been at a concert...ever.

A group called the Foreign Exchange performed (if you don't know them, get to know them, they are incredible). They played at B.B. King's Bar and Grill in NYC for almost 2 hours straight. Phonte (one half of the Little Brother duo) held the mic in check and Nicolay (producer from the Netherlands/my favorite producer) led the 4-piece band.

The group itself is comprised of more than just the two. Something like the Mars Volta do, I assume (Cedric and Omar consider themselves the Mars Volta, while the other members are part of the Mars Volta Group), the Foreign Exchange, I guess do as well. They have a drummer, a bassist, another keyboardist (Nicolay plays keys as well), and three more vocalists that finish the actual group.

Continue reading "This is Why I Write for Not Drugs" (on The Foreign Exchange at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York | October 23, 2009)

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Okayplayer reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 24, 2009 at 10:21 PM · Comments
Shibuya - never heard of it, but it's kind of fun to say. A section of Tokyo as infamous for Gwen Stefani's Harajuku minstrels as its overcrowding, Nicolay draws a parallel vision that removes Japan from the outer space category it may hold in Western imagination and places it skillfully back on Earth. Nicolay captures the excitement of this faraway land like a child chasing a butterfly as it floats away on a gentle breeze. The sounds and moods Nicolay constructs from inspiration are at once mellow and erratic, raindrops and technological blips. Yet, no matter what town he decides to inhabit, the sound is vintage Nicolay, smooth, organic and experimental.

The first suite of the album, "Shibuya Station" through "Satellite," immerses the listener in the environment of Shibuya ward, the hectic whirlwind of the train station, its busy intersections and rain falling in the park. The second suite takes you on a tour of ancient and modern day landmarks from "Meiji Shrine," a mystic instrumental reflecting the shrine dedicated to Tokyo's Emperor Meiji and his wife, to "Omotesando," a breezy track named after the ritzy shopping district. Throughout the journey, Shibuya is given the "New York, New York" treatment with the bombast of an electronic Broadway musical mixing with the whimsy of touching down in the big city for the first time. Along with Foreign Exchange band member Zo! on keys, Carlitta Durand's seductive vocals add perfect accents to the airy compositions.

Part video game, part jazz rock fantasyland, if Nicolay's sonic travelogue is to be believed, Shibuya is a land steeped in rich history as it seizes firm hold of an unbounded future. No matter where you are, the intricate layers of Shibuya transport you to another place.
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Music Addikts interview The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on October 21, 2009 at 8:06 AM · Comments
Recently Music Addikts got a chance to kick it with Nicolay and Phonte of The Foreign Exchange. The two originally met through Okayplayer.com and completed their first album as a group before even meeting face-to-face. Although their meeting was a little unconventional, the studio chemistry between these two is evident in the Hip-Hop infused "Connected" as well as the more mellow R&B charged "Leave it All Behind". Whether rapping or singing the end result is the same...a fix that any ADDIKT can appreciate. If you aren't familiar with The Foreign Exchange let the Music Addikts introduce you to one of our favorite groups in this exclusive interview. For all you long time fans go below the jump to find out what artist F.E. would love to collaborate with, their thoughts on Twitter and what's next for them as a group as well as solo artists. Drop us a line if you enjoyed the interview and even if you didn't.

Continue reading Music Addikts interview The Foreign Exchange

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URB Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 20, 2009 at 1:14 PM · Comments
Somewhere in between producing for both Phonte and Big Pooh of Little Brother and doing a full album with Texas MC, Kay, the Netherlands smoothest producer Nicolay found the time to make an electro-pop record. Following up his timeless City Lights Vol. 1 and Vol. 1.5 is City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya.

First things first, this LP has Nicolay venturing far from the soulful bounce that can be found on the first one and a half installments of the City Lights series . It's evident that along with he and Phonte's critically acclaimed second installment as Foreign Exchange, Nicolay began to change his style from space age bounce to disco-dance groove. But it's all to the good, Nicolay's new found vision is a refreshing journey of live instrumentation and programmed drum beats. Tranquil beats like "Rain In Ueno Park" and "Omotesando" are reasons I believe Nicolay's a master of his craft. However, it's tracks like "Satellite" and "Saturday Night," which features Carlitta Durand, that secure this record a spot in Express for Men and crowded techno club's rotation's. But, aside from a few hiccups, Nicolay does a stellar job leading listeners off the trail of breadcrumbs he's scattered over the past few. Shibuya certainly breathes a breath of fresh air into the world of sped up soul samples and boom-bap drum breaks.
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Grown Folks Music reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 20, 2009 at 11:40 AM · Comments
A few months ago I was casually perusing my twitter feed when a few buzzwords flashed upon my screen: Prince, ?uestlove, Purple, to say the least I was intrigued. Upon further investigation I was pleasantly surprised to hear (and download for free on nicolaymusic.com) an incredible take on the Prince classic "Take Me With U". "Purple Flip" is a collaborative effort between the aforementioned ?uestlove, Nicolay, ZO!, Phonte and Carlitta Durand it was my first and brief introduction to The Foreign Exchange family. I filed a card in my mental rolodex and made sure to follow the tweeters in question. Fast Forward a few months and I have now added a new buzzword to my musical vocabulary: SHIBUYA.

City Lights Vol. 2: SHIBUYA is the latest offering from Nicolay, the multi-instrumentalist/producer/DJ and one half of The Foreign Exchange with rapper/singer/songwriter Phonte. This marks the fourth solo outing for Nicolay and is the third recording in a series of projects (Time: Line and Leave It All Behind) influenced by his first visit to Tokyo in 2006.

Continue reading Grown Folks Music reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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Tha Recipe interviews Nicolay

by +FE on October 20, 2009 at 8:04 AM · Comments
Tha Recipe had a chance to talk with Nicolay, (the Dutch Master and ½ of the Foreign Exchange), on the 1 year anniversary of their ground breaking project "Leave it All Behind". We talked about his new solo album Shibuya, City Lights Vol 2, life on the road, and what's coming up next for him, Foreign Exchange, as well as other artists performing under the Team Foreign Exchange banner.

TR: Congratulations on the one year anniversary of 'Leave It All Behind'. The baby is growing up!

Nic: Thank you, I can't believe it's been a year already. It's cool to see an album reach a milestone like 1 year and still have relevancy.

Continue reading Tha Recipe interviews Nicolay

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Pitchfork reviews "Saturday Night" from City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 19, 2009 at 11:52 PM · Comments
Nicolay's second record with Little Brother MC Phonte (2008's Leave It All Behind) was an underheralded work of alternative R&B; Nicolay's solo project, a tribute to a trip he made to Toyko's Shibuya district, follows this understatedly smooth vibe, all rough edges of genre-recombination sanded down like a 2000s recap of a late-1970s fusion record. It doesn't quite live up to the excellence of the former project, though; meandering instrumentals that soundtrack memories aren't always easily translateable, with an unfortunately low "songs" to "album interludes" ratio. But on "Saturday Night", Nicolay and vocalist Carlitta Durand get the balance about right, veering just on the correct side of the divide that separates conservatively bland from evocatively sophisticated.

A six-minute celebration of everybody's favorite night of the week, it's simply structured into two halves, an aerodynamically smooth build and a propulsive release supported by a gravelly bass engine. It's glossily atmospheric, a soundtrack to city lights rolling rapidly over car winshields. It's also unabashedly cosmopolitan and feminine, its streamlined sheen all the more enveloping when Nicolay drops a more compulsively jacking rhythm for the last minute, a whirring rush of tastefully restrained, classy hedonism.
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Beyond Race Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 12, 2009 at 9:20 PM · Comments
Sometimes bleak, sometimes abundant, Nicolay's signature mode is to paint an emotional landscape through beautiful groupings of sounds, making the listener feel as though you are inside of his journey. In the case of City Lights Vol. 2, the journey is one to Shibuya, Japan, where the absence of lyrics and the emphasis on layered instrumentation serves the purpose of bringing you to his place of intent.

Nicolay's keyboard sampler melodies are opulent, profound, and sometimes melancholic. On songs like "Rain in Ueno Park", a feeling of entranced nostalgia is created from the sounds of rapid rainfall, giving off the visual of being alone in the city where the rain dissipates just as it approaches dusk. The more upbeat songs like "Saturday Night" and "Wake Up In Another Life" are paired with house beats and vocals from Carlitta Durand, whose gentle and airy vocals are dreamlike and familiar.

Continue reading Beyond Race Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 12, 2009 at 9:12 PM · Comments
Nicolay is one busy man. The prolific producer behind the Foreign Exchange releases his third project in just over a year, moving away from the hip-hop/soul vibe that he is mainly known for. On City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, the Dutch beat master crafts a love letter to Tokyo's Shibuya district and the result is a gorgeous, layered mostly instrumental piece that plays like a soundtrack for city life.

On this eclectic release, Nicolay is free to indulge his free-wheeling love of electronica, which occasionally has popped up on previous release and collaborations. On City Lights Vol. 2 he goes full force displaying a swirl of house grooves, nu-jazz, and downtempo electronica that is as musically complex and emotionally rich as any of the all-vocal albums he has produced. But never fear, there are vocals to be found, with vocalist Carlitta Durand popping up on four tracks spread out throughout the album. The first single "Lose Your Way" drips with urban melancholy with lyrics that speak of finding one's place in the big city. Yet the album will be most remembered for the sexy house cut "Saturday Night", a finger-snapping groove that should be getting spins from the world's best jocks for its catchy lyrics and funky breakdown. On the instrumental tip, the future funk of "Mieji Shrine" is sure to get heads nodding.

For fans of the Foreign Exchange this album may take getting used to, but for fans of Nicolay, this album, with its varied assortment of experimental beats, will be a welcome addition to their collection.
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The Find Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on October 12, 2009 at 9:06 PM · Comments
Daytime TV (as usual) plays its hand of predictability. While mainstream radio follows the same path once those 20 tracks begin their recycling phase. You try to find a classic to help pass the time but even Illmatic doesn't quite cut it because this day, doesn't feel like a Hip Hop day. So.. Shibuya.

Proof that Nicolay, truly is a beatsmith who can fill many voids. A Jack of all trades who for once can profess to be a master of all of them. 99% of Instrumental albums, whatever the genre, are simply a collection of beats that may or may not have been picked up by one artist or another if their producer had so chosen. Volume 1.5, as good as it is, falls under this beat collection mantra thanks to its Hip Hop backbone. Shibuya is one of the few that are created with a purpose from the outset. The key to this albums appeal is its constantly changing landscape. There's a hint of everything from Electro to Nu Jazz and almost everything in between.

Continue reading The Find Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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Baltimore Performing Arts Examiner interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on October 8, 2009 at 8:36 PM · Comments
Seven years ago Phonte (a North Carolina native) and Nicolay (a Holland native) began swapping music via America Online's instant messenger (AIM). Now, with two critically acclaimed indie albums under its belts, The Foreign Exchange will soon journey to Baltimore.

The group's last album Leave it All Behind (2008) is more R&B and less hip hop than its debut album Connected (2004). Yet, Nicolay said fans shouldn't think of the latest album as an abandonment of hip hop.

Continue reading Baltimore Performing Arts Examiner interviews The Foreign Exchange

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Crack Makes The World Go Round: "My nostalgic thoughts on City Lights Vol. 2"

by +FE on October 1, 2009 at 2:23 PM · Comments
Seriously, who wouldn't want to be there right now?

Imagine, the sounds of people bustling, the sight of the lights, the smell of...awwwww Japanese food flowing up the nostrils..that tingly sensation that makes you feel all warm inside.

That is what I feel, when I listen to Nicolay's Citys Lights Vol.2 Shibuya.

Its absolutely amazing what music can do to the soul. It only works if you open up. Corny and weird as it is. It will work every time.

Continue reading Crack Makes The World Go Round: "My nostalgic thoughts on City Lights Vol. 2"

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12ftDwende interviews Phonte

by +FE on September 30, 2009 at 1:55 PM · Comments
Phonte Coleman is pretty much what you would get if you crossed Pablo Neruda with Carlos Bulosan, William Faulkner and Etta James: Soulful, uniquely southern, precisely half-past battle weary with open-hearted pourings that could line the Milky Way with sincerity and polish it with hard-bitten wisdom.

Phonte has no trouble reconciling his duties as a member of the fiercely loved Little Brother and the fan-favorite duo The Foreign Exchange, who are currently touring in support of their latest project, the critically lauded and publicly loved Leave It All Behind a melodic tour-de-force offering that can best be described as Post-When Everyone Shut The Fuck Up and Stopped Trying To Categorize Dope Shit.

Continue reading 12ftDwende interviews Phonte

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Wejetset reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 29, 2009 at 10:00 PM · Comments