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Indie-soul collective Foreign Exchange plays the Cat's Cradle (via The News & Observer)
It seems like only yesterday Phonte Coleman was just a North Carolina rapper/singer, one-third of the up-and-coming hip-hop trio Little Brother. Back then, Coleman was also exchanging music files with an Internet help desk employee and aspiring producer in the Netherlands (Matthijs “Nicolay” Rook), hoping the two could make music together.

Phonte and Nicolay remain focused on The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing)
With their fifth studio album, Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey, The Foreign Exchange has perfected its sophisticated take on R&B, incorporating not only a range of sticky sweet melodies, but also a smattering of nuanced romantic themes like domesticity and compromise. But whatever you do, don't call it ''grown man music.''

The Foreign Exchange Evoke Chaucer on 'Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Exclaim!)
''More than anything else, the biggest crime as an artist is to be boring.'' Phonte Coleman, the primary songwriter, vocalist and animated gif half of the Foreign Exchange, has probably never been at the receiving end of such an accusation. Over the course five albums with partner Nicolay, Phonte has equated love to an excuse, displayed affection through lunchtime chicken wing delivery, and made a gorgeously passive-aggressive ode to the better mate. His songwriting is unparalleled in its combined frankness, humour and relevance in our everyday dalliances.

The Foreign Exchange introduces its own Song of Solomon: 'Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Washington Post)
Phonte Coleman, the rapping, singing half of the hip-hop/R&B duo the Foreign Exchange, has a complicated relationship with religion. When he was growing up, he detested the mandatory trips to his grandmother’s baptist church, so he joined the choir just to make the ordeal more palatable. At least from the choir stand there was an added element of entertainment. Stationed behind the preacher, young Phonte could gaze upon the flock and see who was fanning themselves, who was trying not to fall asleep and who was struggling to stay on beat.

The Foreign Exchange's Nicolay tours to find new inspiration (via IndyWeek)
Phonte Coleman and Matthijs 'Nicolay' Rook keep their distance. Together, they've made several albums, toured the world, been nominated for a Grammy and built a little independent empire under the name The Foreign Exchange. But Coleman raps and sings from Raleigh, while the Dutch-born Nicolay lives in Wilmington. The space between them must be fertile, as they both pursue separate artistic offshoots. Coleman has his hip-hop and TV endeavors, while Nicolay has just released his expansive fourth solo album, City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto, in which he offers up a Euro-soul take on South Africa's native rhythms.

We Be Spirits interviews Nicolay
Nicolay is one of the most eclectic and innovative music producers around, full stop. His first notable achievement as producer came in 2004 after Connected was released – the debut album of The Foreign Exchange, of which he is half. The album was famously recorded with the 'exchange' of electronic files across the Atlantic; the artists meeting only after it had been finished. He has since gone on to cover new and exciting musical ground releasing albums as a solo artist, as well as part of TFE.

Nicolay wraps his experiences abroad into a jazzy album (via Star-News)
It was around 3 a.m. one morning in May of last year when the Wilmington-based musician Nicolay and his neo-soul band, The Foreign Exchange, crossed Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa. They were dead tired from being on tour, and only hours earlier had played a sold-out show for fans they didn't know existed.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Continue reading MY Lifestyle Magazine interviews The Foreign Exchange

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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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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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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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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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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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Life As A Grammy-Nominated Independent Artist: Nicolay Of The Foreign Exchange (via Hypebot)

by +FE on October 3, 2012 at 8:04 AM · Comments
Hailing from the Netherlands, Grammy-nominated musician and producer Nicolay is an independent in every sense of the word. The Dutch producer first made his mark in a transatlantic collaborative project with Phonte Coleman, who at the time was ½ of the highly respected North Carolina hip-hop duo, Little Brother. The two met on OkayPlayer message boards after Phonte asked to place rhymes over one of Nicolay's beats. The two have since gone on to form the Grammy-nominated independent group, The Foreign Exchange. In this exclusive interview, Hypebot's Hisham Dahud discusses with Nicolay life as an independent artist, his views on crowdfunding, streaming services and a whole lot more.

Hisham Dahud: How has being a Grammy-nominated independent artist affected your views on the artist / fan dynamic? What does this say about the connection that musicians need to build with their fan bases?

Nicolay: I believe that the connection between artist and fan has become the very center that everything revolves around. Any musician should ask himself or herself this question:

"Why would anyone purchase my album when they have instant access, whether it is legitimate or illegal, to literally all of the music past and present that their heart desires?"

It mostly has to do with that connection. Besides loving your music, a fan wants to care about you and about what you represent, and feel that you care about them as well. Just being on "American Idol" is no longer going to cut it. That's why the up and coming independent artists have a leg up. Major label artists that depend on huge marketing budgets to promote their releases are now competing with a new generation of artists who have literally grown up on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and are reaching people in totally new ways. If you follow current sales trends then you know that more often than not, the indies are starting to come out on top.

Continue reading Life As A Grammy-Nominated Independent Artist: Nicolay Of The Foreign Exchange (via Hypebot)

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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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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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On the Record with Nicolay (via Pittsburgh City Paper)

by +FE on January 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Comments
We spoke with Nicolay, a Grammy-nominated producer and instrumentalist and one half of the duo Foreign Exchange, in advance of his show at Shadow Lounge Tuesday.

I've read that you've worked with guitarist Chris Berner through your Foreign Exchange project, and in that project you were making more hip-hop and electronic stuff. This EP sounds a lot more classic, like you can lounge to it, whereas Foreign Exchange stuff kinda makes you wanna hit the dance floor. Can you tell me a little bit about how this EP came to fruition? What drove you, personally, into this smooth jazz sound?

I've always been a very big jazz fan. You can definitely also hear that in a lot of the Foreign Exchange records. But it never really went beyond being an influence. I've always dreamed of doing an actual "jazz" project, but not really claiming it to be jazz as much as it is just my interpretation of it. As you say, I've really tried to come up with a very classic sound where everything is played on actual instruments. There's no sequencing or computers or any of that stuff involved. In a lot of ways it was about a desire for me to further challenge myself and really look for depth in a direction we don't normally go in.

Continue reading On the Record with Nicolay (via Pittsburgh City Paper)

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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: 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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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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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.

Continue reading Beatnik Online interviews The Foreign Exchange

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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...

Continue reading Oh Drat interviews The Foreign Exchange

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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San Francisco Bay Guardian Online interviews The Foreign Exchange

by +FE on September 9, 2009 at 6:37 PM · Comments
"I love singin', but I think I'mma call my solo album, 'Fuck That, Coretta ... These Niggas Thaink I'm Soft,'" tweeted Phonte Coleman. "Thoughts?"

The message appeared on the Southern rapper's Twitter page a day after our interview, when I asked him, "All your projects seem to have a smooth, soulful, almost smooth jazz kind of sound. What is it about that sound that appeals to you?"

While I don't know if my question prompted Phonte's subsequent post, it's clear that Leave It All Behind (Foreign Exchange Music), his 2008 album with Nicolay as the Foreign Exchange, charts new depths of mellowness. In person, Phonte is a hilarious, extremely un-PC wisecracker, as subscribers to his Twitter account (and, back in the Stone Age, his MySpace page) will confirm. However, Phonte's turn as sincere loverman simply explores a side of his personality already revealed in his work as one-third of Little Brother, the hip-hop group for which he remains best known.

Continue reading San Francisco Bay Guardian Online interviews The Foreign Exchange

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The Anti-Pop Blog interviews Nicolay

by +FE on September 9, 2009 at 2:03 PM · Comments
When used correctly, the Internet proves to be an amazing place. It is, after all, the birthplace of musical gem The Foreign Exchange, a hip-hop/R&B group comprised of American rapper/singer Phontè (of Little Brother) and Dutch-imported producer Nicolay. In an interview with Nicolay last Friday, I got some insight on who this mastermind really is - what inspires his music, what's next for The Foreign Exchange, and, more immediately, what to expect from his latest project, City Lights Vol 2: Shibuya. The self-proclaimed "regular dude", whose stage name is actually the third of 3 first names (charge that to being European), is excited about the September 15th physical release (the digital version is already available) of Shibuya, a collection of 15 tracks inspired by a brief but fruitful trip to Japan.

"I had a very lucky opportunity to visit Japan, specifically an area in Tokyo called Shibuya, which, it's kind of like Manhattan in New York - it's the busiest, trendiest neighborhood in Tokyo and it's like always moving...I was there for about 5 days - I was there for a show - but we just really tried to take everything in and see as much as we could in those 5 days." His biggest takeaway was the reminder to remain true to himself as a musician. "That whole trip really just opened my eyes in a lot of ways to just be more open-minded...I kind of really started thinking that, you know, for myself, I sometimes had been too preoccupied with what the listener would sometimes think of what I do that I sometimes forget about, you know, just letting whatever kind of idea through me, just letting whatever kind of music comes - just letting that out instead of trying to censor yourself, or thinking like "well a fan of The Foreign exchange will most likely listen to this, and this and that." So really if anything it just really inspired me, or kind of really helped me to open up my mind a little bit more about, you know, other options, other possibilities, other forms of music. It was really good that that sort of came out."

Continue reading The Anti-Pop Blog interviews Nicolay

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12ftDwende interviews Nicolay

by +FE on September 6, 2009 at 2:32 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange story has been well documented: two musicians, one in North Carolina, the other in the Netherlands, met on an internet message board and created an album by sending files back and forth through e-mail and instant messaging, hence the name Foreign Exchange. In short, 2004's Connected was the product of two brothers connected by their love of music. Emcee Phonte had already made a name for himself as 1/3 of Little Brother, but the album introduced the world to Nicolay, whose lush soundscapes provided the perfect soundtrack to "renew your love affair with hip hop".

Five short years later, Nicolay stands out as one of the most innovative and inspiring producers in hip hop. The Dutch producer expertly harnesses the "organic and emotive qualities of classic soul" with each release. His third solo album, the highly anticipated City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, will be released later this month

Continue reading 12ftDwende interviews Nicolay

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NBC Bay Area: "Yoshi's Foreign Exchange Goes Live at Midnight"

by +FE on September 5, 2009 at 10:34 AM · Comments
Holland meets North Carolina to make The Foreign Exchange, a soulful hip-hop duo consisting of Dutch producer Nicolay and southern singer slash emcee slash part-time comedian slash whatever he wanna be, Phonte.

They play Yoshi's San Francisco with a full band at midnight on Saturday, Sept. 12. Wait, what? Yeah - midnight, y'all - for a special "Beyond Jazz Music Series." You can get tickets for $25 at the Yoshi's website.

Why the eff do you care?

One: you're nosey. The guys sat down with me for about half an hour to answer some of my favorite questions. Phonte talks about how he wishes he was Theo from "The Cosby Show," why he is the boss of himself, and spying on his kids. Nicolay shares college dropout fantasies, stories of his mama's records, and more. More on that in un momento.

Two: story time!

Continue reading NBC Bay Area: "Yoshi's Foreign Exchange Goes Live at Midnight"

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Foreign Exchange: North Carolina Dutch hip-hop (via Nuvo)

by +FE on August 13, 2009 at 8:27 AM · Comments
Sure, the Internet is killing off multinational conglomerated music Goliaths, but it's also spurring a new era of creativity and collaboration between artists previously separated by genres and geography.

Consider how hip-hop duo The Foreign Exchange came together. North Carolina native Phonte (of the rap group Little Brother) and Dutch producer Nicolay met on the Web site Okayplay.com and began to send tracks and vocals to each other via instant messaging. Those tracks eventually came to constitute the duo's first album under The Foreign Exchange moniker, Connected, which was released to critical acclaim before the artists ever met face to face.

Phonte couldn't quite believe his ears when he first heard Nicolay's rich production. "We had a bunch of conspiracy theories going on, because at the time he was overseas and was kind of like a mysterious figure," Phonte recalls during a recent phone interview. "It wasn't like we could hook up over at his house. We thought, 'What if he's really a girl? What if he's got a whole staff of beatmakers?'"

Continue reading Foreign Exchange: North Carolina Dutch hip-hop (via Nuvo)

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The Indianapolis Recorder: "Who Is The Foreign Exchange?"

by +FE on August 13, 2009 at 7:27 AM · Comments
Who is The Foreign Exchange you ask? The Foreign Exchange is the perfect fusion of soul, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and electronica - sounds masterminded by Phonte (of hip-hop group Little Brother) and producer, composer and performer Nicolay.

"It was around 2002 so it was somewhat of a radical concept to be making an album by e-mailing parts. When (Little Brother) was doing records, Nic and I were doing stuff for the first album and it was actually Pooh (the other half of Little Brother) who thought of the name," said Phonte. "We were in the studio and he said 'it's like a foreign exchange program.'"

The two met on a Web site message board courtesy of Okayplayer.com, began making music and instantly realized they had something special; they had synergy. Nicolay was living in Holland while Phonte resided in North Carolina.

Continue reading The Indianapolis Recorder: "Who Is The Foreign Exchange?"

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Potholes In My Blog: Foreign Exchange is the future of the funk

by +FE on August 6, 2009 at 8:58 AM · Comments
In the past six years Nicolay and Phonte have definitely put their stamp on black alternative music. I first heard Nicolay back in 2002 on Little Brother's - 'Whatever You Say' (12″) on a track called "Light It Up". It was hip-hop but soulful made by this relatively unknown Dutch producer unless you were on Okayplayer. Phonte and Nicolay continued sending each other music back and forth over email (thus the name Foreign Exchange) while Nicolay was in the Netherlands. Two years later they released Connected.

Sonically Connected was an extension of what Little Brother had already achieved with The Listening hip-hop-wise combined with musicality of Nicolay. It had a bit of everything in terms of influences and genre; whether it was jazz, soul/R&B, electronic or hip-hop. It was such a cohesive piece of work I almost wish it hadn't been released through BBE, but that's another blog entry. Whether they knew it at the time, Phonte and Nicolay had a definite chemistry between artist and producer that translated into some quality music.

Continue reading Potholes In My Blog: Foreign Exchange is the future of the funk

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Nicolay on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show (97.9 The Beat)

by +FE on July 2, 2009 at 9:44 AM · Comments
Ooookkkaaayyy!
Nicolay calls in to the nationally syndicated Rickey Smiley Morning Show for a quick interview about The Foreign Exchange. We find out that Rickey is a big Foreign Exchange fan, who plays Leave It All Behind every evening and thinks every track on it is a HIT! Listen to the audio below.

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VIBE.com: 60 Rappers In 60 Days: Phonte

by +FE on June 29, 2009 at 11:29 AM · Comments
Phonte was singing before your favorite rapper sang!
It's a cliché to say, but in the case of Phonte, the North Carolina MC may just be your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. In a recent interview, Drake, the current "it" boy of hip hop, mentioned Phonte, as one of his favorite MCs. Period.

For those who've followed Phonte Coleman since he burst onto the scene in 2003 with his partner-in-rhyme Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder, collectively forming Little Brother, Drizzy's pick came as no surprise. MC and critics alike have given props to Phonte's witty wordplay and Southern-tinged flow since Little Brother's debut, The Listening (ABB). But in 2004, Phonte switched things up and began to amass a new set of fans with The Foreign Exchange, a collaboration with producer Nicolay. Together the two released Connected (BBE, 2004) to critical acclaim. In 2008, they released their sophomore effort, Leave It All Behind (Hall of Justus/ Nicolay), which Phonte is currently promoting on a nationwide tour.

Continue reading VIBE.com: 60 Rappers In 60 Days: Phonte

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The Last Broadcast interviews Nicolay

by +FE on April 16, 2009 at 12:06 PM · Comments
Hailing from the Netherlands, Nicolay has brought a new sense of style and grace to the world of Hip Hop. A sound that is smooth as silk and has enough beat that it can get your body moving. Music as unique and fantastic as his is compared to very few. Being a solo artists, one half of The Foreign Exchange Producer for numerous artists Nicolay brings a fresh new sound to the world of Hip Hop. He is as cool as his music and as nice as anyone can get. I had the privilege to talk with Nicolay, this is what he had to say.

Turtle: How are you doing today?

Nicolay: I'm not doing too bad today actually, it's a day like any other I'm just working on a few things. Just finishing up a few things so its not bad.

T: Can you give a little back story on how you became a producer?

N: I was actually the type to play in bands, that was my main musical reference point. It didn't always go the way I wanted it to. It wasn't paying the bills, so I decided to stop all of that, and just get a job. In the evening hours I more or less started producing for my own enjoyment. I never really intended doing more than that. Out of that freedom grew something that ultimately people really liked. So, really it was a matter of me almost stepping away from music to get back to it in a very different way.

Continue reading The Last Broadcast interviews Nicolay

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A new song and dance for The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

by +FE on December 3, 2008 at 7:28 AM · Comments
Rapper/singer Phonte is a little nervous, though getting him to admit it takes some coaxing. Yes, he's toured the world for years as one half of the acclaimed rap group Little Brother, but this is the first time that he's ever toured with Nicolay, the Dutch producer with whom he makes up the genre-bending group Foreign Exchange. And even more notable, this is the first time that he's singing the entire way through.

"Nervous? Come on, fam," he exclaims, before laughing and finally succumbing. "Nah, there's always a bit of nervousness. This is literally the first time [Nicolay and I] have ever played together, like ever," he stresses. "But I'm beyond certain we'll do a great job."

Continue reading A new song and dance for The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing Atlanta)

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The Foreign Exchange: No Rearview (via Rubyhornet)

by +FE on November 3, 2008 at 6:02 AM · Comments
The new Foreign Exchange album existed mainly as an idea, or topic of discussion for Hip Hop fans. Nestled somewhere next to that new Reflection Eternal disc, between Detox and Blackstar was a new LP that Phonte and Nicolay both said they were working on. Fans held their collective breathes, hoping that the new album would actually come to fruition. Writers tried to sneak in questions pertaining to the new disc while conducting interviews about The Minstrel Show or Getback, Hear or Time:Line. The new record is now in stores, and the interviews focus on Leave It All Behind, rather than rumors and hopes of what it could be.

"I think in the past we were reluctant to talk about it cause we didn't want to ruin the surprise of it. We were still trying to find our way in terms of what we were going to do, or, if and when we were gonna do another Foreign Exchange record," Phonte told us just a couple days after the release of the LP. "Now that it's finally here it feels good to finally have it out for the world to hear."

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange: No Rearview (via Rubyhornet)

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