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Phonte and Eric Roberson - Tigallerro
Phonte and Eric Roberson
Tigallerro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zo! - ManMade
Zo!
ManMade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phonte - Charity Starts At Home
Phonte
Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Foreign Exchange - Authenticity
The Foreign Exchange
Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zo! - SunStorm
Zo!
SunStorm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicolay - Here
Nicolay
Here

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

The Foreign Exchange - Connected
The Foreign Exchange
Connected

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

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

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

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

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First Listen: The Foreign Exchange brings ''Shelter'' to us in new single (via @SoulTracks)

by +FE on September 14, 2017 at 12:23 PM · Comments
The idea of being sanctuary for another in a relationship is one of the most seductive themes in romantic novels, movies, and, of course, song. Usually such songs don't bear much of a groove much less possess a stridently contemporary feel to them as "Shelter," since the offer of safety lends itself to balladry and also happens to be among the most traditional hands one can extend to an intimate partner. But, The Foreign Exchange has its own long tradition of upending expectations. The North Carolina outfit's collaboration with Oli Lazarus's UK-based Reel People Music to release that label's new Hide & Seek compilation series yields a percussive debut single that's not quite as danceable as most of that soulful house label's legend, and strongly bears the band's usual crisp, melancholic stamp. Yet, the very fine cut is somehow still bold enough to hold an ambient mid-tempo groove and suggest movement in its production if not in your hips.

As with most of The Foreign Exchange's catalog, the work is serious, resistant of musical cliché, and is unabashedly mature in its relationship observations. Singer/rapper Phonte Coleman and singer/songwriter and longtime +FE collaborator Carmen Rodgers have a beautiful, if plainspoken blend against Nicolay's evening cityscape sounds of synths, percussions, and electronic accents. The effect is classic The Foreign Exchange with its signature ability to make what is naturally cold in electronic music sound unnaturally warm and human.

Interestingly, "Shelter's" autumn preamble, while solid, is far from the strongest on a collection that overflows with more vibrant and catchy tunes, including Pirahnahead & Diviniti's "The Beauty of Life (featuring Carmen Rodgers)," Gwen Bunn's "Without A Doubt," and the Brandyesque "MPH" featuring Bosco. Having too many single-worthy songs is, of course, a high-class problem that surely fans of Reel People and The Foreign Exchange will appreciate while hop-scotching through Hide & Seek. More than the sacrificial offer of a love's covering, here lies some welcome shelter from the storms of bad music releases blowing through 2017.
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AllMusic reviews 'Tigallerro'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IndyWeek reviews City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

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

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Textura reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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

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

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

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

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Pitchfork reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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

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

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AllMusic reviews 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Foreign Exchange rates high to a packed house at Plush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Textura reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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Star News reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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State Magazine reviews Love In Flying Colors [NL]

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

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Indy Week reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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Potholes In My Blog reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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Popblerd! reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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Pitchfork reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews Love In Flying Colors

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SoulTracks reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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

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

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Exclaim! reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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

Continue reading HipHopDX reviews Love In Flying Colors

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SoulBounce reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

Continue reading SoulBounce reviews Love In Flying Colors

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AllMusic reviews Love In Flying Colors

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

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

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

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

Continue reading Textura reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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AllMusic reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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

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

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

Continue reading Soul Train reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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Potholes In My Blog reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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

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

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

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SoulTracks reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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

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

Continue reading SoulTracks reviews +FE Music: The Reworks

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Foreign Familiarity

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

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

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

Continue reading Foreign Familiarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Foreign Exchange plays its first Boston-area show (via The Bay State Banner)

by +FE on June 14, 2012 at 10:05 AM · Comments
Almost immediately at a Foreign Exchange (FE) show you come to two quick conclusions. If this music thing doesn't work out, lead vocalist Phonte Coleman has a future in comedy. His spot-on Kirk Franklin impression is probably sending us all to hell. And also, this is going to be a good time.

Coleman's good-natured laughter contributed to the house party atmosphere of the Grammy-nominated R&B/hip hop duo's first Boston-area stop at Cambridge's Middle East.

Phonte and producer Nicolay started their musical relationship the new-fashioned way, via the internet. Meeting on the message boards on Okayplayer.com, the duo began crafting their unique sound of electro and hip hop-infused neo soul before ever meeting face to face.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange plays its first Boston-area show (via The Bay State Banner)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AllMusic reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After asking how many folks believed in the power of dreams, the band ended the night with a church-like twist to "Dream of Me." For an encore they offered "God is Laughing at Your Plans and "I Wanna Know," which had couples twirling and single folks dancing with imaginary partners
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Textura reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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The Smoking Section reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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The A.V. Club reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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

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

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HipHop DX reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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Exclaim! reviews Charity Starts At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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Textura reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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

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

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

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Prefixmag reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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

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

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SoulTracks reviews Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After The Original reviews The Foreign Exchange at World Cafe Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh Drat reviews Authenticity

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

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Textura reviews Authenticity

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

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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URB reviews Authenticity

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

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The A.V. Club reviews Authenticity

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

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

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The Napster Blog reviews Authenticity

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

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

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SoulCuts reviews Authenticity

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

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

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Okayplayer reviews Authenticity

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

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Pitchfork reviews Authenticity

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

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Prefix reviews Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Live Music Guide reviews Authenticity

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

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The Couch Sessions reviews Authenticity

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

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

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Soulections.com reviews Authenticity

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

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Blogcritics Music reviews Authenticity

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

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

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The Well Versed reviews Authenticity

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

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Soul UK reviews Authenticity

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

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Rawemag reviews Authenticity

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

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

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Washington City Paper reviews Authenticity

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

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

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LA Weekly reviews Authenticity

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

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

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ThisIsRealMusic reviews Authenticity

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

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allmusic reviews Authenticity

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

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SoulTracks reviews Authenticity

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

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Textura reviews SunStorm

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

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Washington City Paper reviews SunStorm

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

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SoulTracks reviews SunStorm

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

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Nu-Soul Magazine reviews SunStorm

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

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Zo!'s SunStorm shines bright (via SoulBounce)

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

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

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allmusic reviews SunStorm

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

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

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

Continue reading Soul UK reviews SunStorm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SoulTracks reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell yes!

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

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Textura reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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

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

Continue reading Textura reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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

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

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

And so it begins....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okayplayer reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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

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

Part video game, part jazz rock fantasyland, if Nicolay's sonic travelogue is to be believed, Shibuya is a land steeped in rich history as it seizes firm hold of an unbounded future. No matter where you are, the intricate layers of Shibuya transport you to another place.
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URB Magazine reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wejetset reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 29, 2009 at 10:00 PM · Comments
Inspired by a consciousness-awakening trip to Tokyo, soulful producer Nicolay presents his latest album, City Lights Volume 2 - Shibuya. Similar to City Lights Volume 1 from years ago, this Volume is mostly made up of instrumental compositions. Listening to the project, there is a unique balance of intricate beats woven together to create the sensation of warm vibrations traveling through space and time.

Harmonious vocals from Nicolay's newest prodigy Carlitta Durand, compliment a few of the tracks and give the album a beautiful melodic balance. Even though most fans may be familiar with his soul and hip hop productions (The Foreign Exchange, Dutch Masters, Little Brother, etc.), Nicolay is not afraid to step outside the box and explore new possibilities of sound. City Lights Volume 2 - Shibuya is just that distinct, refreshing and exceptional.
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SoulBounce: "Nicolay shines on City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya"

by +FE on September 24, 2009 at 12:21 PM · Comments
The Foreign Exchange is a musical reflection of the global glue adhering our spirits together. What started as two musicians swapping files over the internet, Nicolay and Phonte have transformed their passion for music into an international movement, while bringing other like-minded souls along for the ride.

It began with Connected, their 2004 inaugural offering of Hip Hop lyricism and vibrant beats mixed with soulful crooning. In 2008, the critically-acclaimed Leave it All Behind increased their momentum and crystallized their style into the world of the grown and sexy. With enhancements from Darien Brockington, Muhsinah, Yahzarah, Zo! and the Els, Nic and Tay leaped from the laptop to the stage before appreciative audiences around the world.

Continue reading SoulBounce: "Nicolay shines on City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya"

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Independent Weekly reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 24, 2009 at 8:49 AM · Comments
Three years ago, a German rap artist invited Dutch producer Nicolay Rook to deejay his set in Tokyo. Upon returning to Wilmington, N.C., where Nicolay has lived since 2006, Nicolay immediately began recording music inspired by his five-day stay in the city's Shibuya district. The project was put on hold, though, as LPs with Houston emcee Kay, of the Foundation, and with Durham's Phonte Coleman, Nicolay's partner in the svelte soul jam The Foreign Exchange, were priorities. After the completion of Leave It All Behind, last year's second Foreign Exchange album, Rook put the finishing touches on Shibuya: City Lights, Vol.2, his instrumentals-based project. Coleman came on board to write four songs for Durham darling Carlitta Durand to sing. The 15-track LP showcases a highly finessed producer who continues to grow but never overwhelms.

Recent history suggests that any Coleman project comes with at least one of three gifted female vocalists--Yahzarah, Muhsinah or his newest singer-fling, Carlitta Durand. Which vocalist comes along shouldn't be much of a worry for two reasons. First, Coleman--a gifted, gabbing rapper and sentimental soul man--provides mandarin lines aplenty: "Even when the nights are quiet and the moon is rising/ Every face has some glory to sell," Durand sings on the lead single, "Lose Yourself." What's more, Nicolay is often at his strongest without any vocal company. He relies on gradual builds to drag listeners in, pushing their guards down, charging through slow storms of emotion. "The Inner Garden" may not be Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire," but if you follow its pulse close enough, it leads to its own ecstatic nirvana with beautiful chord repetition that whisks the close listener to a plush spiritual escape. "Saturday Night" salutes the house music gods as it works to become the life of the party, while "Meiji Shrine" hides its reference to another deity--the late hip-hop idol Dilla--beneath its ethnic title. And despite only one vocal appearance by Phonte Coleman, the other half of The Foreign Exchange, you're hard-pressed not to hear Shibuya as an extension of Leave it all Behind's often melancholy approach. That is, it doesn't fight back with attitude.

Continue reading Independent Weekly reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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My Love For Music: "My Thoughts On Nicolay's City Lights Vol. 2"

by +FE on September 21, 2009 at 2:28 PM · Comments
I remember back in 1991 hearing Seal's first LP and how I was so memorized with that sound I couldn't stop playing it and especially the track "Voliet". I didn't know if I could feel that way about another LP...until now. The new LP from Nicolay, "City Lights: Volume 2. Two things I loved what Nicolay does, how he "bleeds" one song into another and how he using different sounds to weave into many of the tracks. I'm truly digging this LP because for me it feels like a new beginning.

The track, "Lose Your Way" gives me the feeling of that when looking out the city at night it gives me that utopia feeling.

Continue reading My Love For Music: "My Thoughts On Nicolay's City Lights Vol. 2"

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Potholes In My Blog reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 21, 2009 at 9:16 AM · Comments
I certainly hope you have your bags packed before popping this disc into your stereo or loading it onto your mp3 player. If not, that's fine. I guess. But don't be surprised if playing Nicolay's latest, City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, has you craving a trip to the Japanese city of the same name. And it's not that his soundscapes are oozing with traditional sounds from the country or anything like that. It's just such an engrossing and gorgeous piece that you will want to experience everything he did for yourself. For you see, the Dutch producer was inspired during his trip to Shibuya a few years ago - you can read about that here. He was so inspired that he wanted to lay down his thoughts for all to hear. And it's safe to say we're thankful he did just that, because even with its imperfections, his second volume in the City Lights series is a fantastic example of artistic growth and expression.

In fact, perhaps the most appealing feature of this record is its clear display of artistic growth. Many of the experimental sounds on here should come as no surprised to seasoned fans of Nicolay's work. Leave It All Behind, his last effort as part of the Foreign Exchange with Phonte, featured plenty of subtle nuances showing off just where Nic was headed. It was not thrust into your eardrums like on here, though, so it's possible those intricacies were missed by some listeners. Although, one could argue that the dubstep-esque "If This Is Love" was a fine foreshadowing of Nic's left-field tendencies. But other than that, they were more interwoven into his production.

Continue reading Potholes In My Blog reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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International Relations Never Sounded So Good (via Neon Tommy)

by +FE on September 18, 2009 at 8:49 AM · Comments
The South's one big family. It doesn't matter if you've never met Millie, your fifth-cousin-twice-removed-on-your-daddy's-sister's-husband's-side before. When you see her at the Fourth of July reunion, you know she's fam'ly.

So it was with The Foreign Exchange Monday night at The Roxy. From MC/singer Phonte's jaunty bowtie and feather-adorned fedora to Dutch producer Nicolay's cool-breeze beats, the pair set a tone that this Southern girl immediately recognized as "home." The show moved from languid summer picnic to lively juke joint in transitions as smooth as Phonte's silky croon.

Continue reading International Relations Never Sounded So Good (via Neon Tommy)

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Seattle Weekly reviews The Foreign Exchange at Nectar Lounge, Seattle

by +FE on September 17, 2009 at 1:09 PM · Comments
A grown and sophisticated crowd was on hand last night to greet the Foreign Exchange, the R&B outfit headed by producer Nicolay and vocalist Phonte, for their very first Seattle appearance. With two synths and a powerhouse collection of singers, the Foreign Exchange jammed out for over two hours, managing to blend the sensuality of R&B and the liveliness of hip-hop to produce an impressive night of music and a very entertaining platform for the enigmatic, bow-tied Phonte. While Phonte's better known project, rap duo Little Brother, often attracts a younger and more self-consciously underground audience, last night's crowd was mature, attentive, and filled with couples who responded enthusiastically to the Foreign Exchange's smooth and unabashedly soulful sound. "This isn't just music, this is a ministry," said Phonte after one of his many tangents on the art of love, and judging by the hands in the air, he was preaching to the choir.

Opening was local hip-hop group the Physics; performing for the first time with a live band, the live instrumentation brought out the melodic personality and thoughtful, intricate composition exhibited by their latest project, the High Society EP. With producer Justo behind the turntables and sometimes popping out to rap along, MC Thig Natural capably led a collective of two backup vocalists and a very talented trio of musicians, resulting in perhaps the Physics' strongest performance to date. The major disappointment was the absence of Monk Wordsmith, the Physics' second MC who was unable to perform due to an out-of-town work conflict. While Thig valiantly rapped his brother's lines and sustained the energy of the band, Monk's laid-back confidence would only have enriched and enlivened their performance, missed most on songs like "Callin' Out" and "Back Track." The crowd was won over by the playful ditties of "I Just Wanna Beat" and "I Heart Beer," and had a great response to the closing and ridiculously catchy "Ready For We" off their debut FutureTalk. I overheard one audience member, who was hearing the group for the first time, excitedly refer to the Physics as "Outkasty." With a live band, the Physics distinguish themselves even more as a group with consistent and quality musicality as well as lyricism, a standard to which other local hip-hop groups should aspire.

Continue reading Seattle Weekly reviews The Foreign Exchange at Nectar Lounge, Seattle

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Redlightdistrict reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 15, 2009 at 7:31 AM · Comments
City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya is the newest venture between Little Brother's, Tiggalo (Phonte) and Dutch producer, Nicolay; collectively known as The Foreign Exchange. Though it [City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya] does not contain any lyrics as in rapping or crooning from Phonte, it does however feature vocals he wrote. The album's title comes from one of Tokyo's twenty-three wards, Shibuya. While Shibuya is a hub for young people (trendy fashion outlets and nightlife), the city also includes monuments or historic areas that are suggestive of Japan's storied past. After visiting Japan, Nicolay rejuvenated by the sights and sounds of this busy metropolis, aimed to capture this feeling through his music; the outcome is nothing short of exquisite. Nicolay is successful at juxtaposing if you will sounds that are reflective of the moods garnered from different settings; take for example the somber sounds of Meiji Shrine versus the hectic bustle of Shibuya Station. Similarly the Carlitta Durand assisted (one of the newest additions to The Foreign Exchange Music imprint) house influenced Saturday Night is sure to gear listeners for the club....Cést Noir anyone? Not only is City Lights Vol. 2 loaded with winning instrumentals, it is also a well conceptualized project for mature ears that is indicative of Phonte's song-writing prowess as well as Nicolay's dexterity on the boards.
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Tha Feedback reviews The Foreign Exchange at Someday Lounge, Portland

by +FE on September 14, 2009 at 6:22 PM · Comments
Let me tell you, from jump this show was ROCKING. They started off with "Lose Your Way" then proceeded to run the gamut of hits from their first album, Connected, all the way to their latest album Leave It All Behind.

What really made the show pop was the addition of the soulful voices of sultry soul singer with the powerful vox out this world, Yahzahrah; power tenor & underrated singer & often-featured FE vocalist Darien Brockington; and the lovely, big voiced yet sweet toned Carlitta Durand. These three + Phonte' holding the vocals down gave the show LIFE. Made it more than a hip-hop show actually -- it became a musical journey ranging from hip-hop freestyles, church chat, chords and interludes, to outright jams from Nicolay and the heat that was the band.

Continue reading Tha Feedback reviews The Foreign Exchange at Someday Lounge, Portland

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Leisure Lab reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

by +FE on September 9, 2009 at 3:50 PM · Comments
Nicolay's City Lights Volume 2 has arrived, and the record is truly something to behold. Much like the preceding City Lights, this volume is primarily instrumental; however Shibuya includes vocal pieces written by Phonte and performed by Carlitta Durand. The album also features guest appearances by keyboard virtuoso and Foreign Exchange live band-mate, Zo!.

Shibuya takes its inspiration from the Tokyo neighborhood that Nicolay visited in 2006. Nic says, "When I came back to the States, I immediately locked myself up in the studio and came out with several new tracks that all felt different, but fresh. At that point, it really hit me. If I wanted to begin unlocking my true potential, I had to open myself up completely to whatever ideas would present themselves to me."

Continue reading Leisure Lab reviews City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya

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The Foreign Exchange Brings A Feel-Good Review To The Roxy (via The Sunset Strip)

by +FE on June 24, 2009 at 12:34 PM · Comments
I first heard of The Foreign Exchange from Garth Trinidad's show on KCRW. He was playing a track from a Mushroom Jazz CD called "Nic's Groove." I was drawn to the groovy blend of hip-hop, R&B, with a touch of house, and wanted to hear more. So I picked up not one but two copies of their debut album Connected -- the original CD and the equally impressive instrumental-only version -- and became a fan.

These discs and the band's recent follow-up, Leave It All Behind, deftly blend so many sounds that I had no idea what their live show would look or feel like.

Continue reading The Foreign Exchange Brings A Feel-Good Review To The Roxy (via The Sunset Strip)

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The Napster blog reviews The Foreign Exchange live at The Roxy Theatre

by +FE on June 16, 2009 at 1:24 PM · Comments
The line at the world famous Roxy Theater on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood went down two blocks the night of Sunday, June 14th. I've been to at least ten shows at the Roxy in the past and only once for a John Legend show has the line extended down similar to what I saw on Sunday. To be honest, initially, I was annoyed. Maybe I'm just a snob, but I hate waiting in lines and while I knew that the Foreign Exchange would bring in an audience, I didn't think it would be like this. Nevermind the fact that this would mark FE's first performance in LA. Nevermind that their latest album Leave It All Behind was one of my favorite albums last year and was my candidate for Album of the Year when it came out. I hate waiting in line. HATE it. To my surprise the line moved quickly enough and by the time I got in, the room was almost full. And you could feel the energy and anticipation.

Continue reading The Napster blog reviews The Foreign Exchange live at The Roxy Theatre

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Nicolay's cover of Nautilus chosen as 'Click hear' on Exclaim.ca

by +FE on June 1, 2009 at 9:39 PM · Comments
More props for Nicolay's version of the Bob James classic!
Along with James Brown's "Funky Drummer," Melvin Blisss's "Synthetic Substitution" and the Honeydrippers' "Impeach the President," "Nautilus" by Bob James qualifies as one of the most important and most sampled records in hip-hop history. James may be best known for "Angela," which became the theme song for the TV show Taxi, but many of his tracks have been cribbed for hip-hop tracks, with "Nautilus" turning up on Run DMC's "Beats to the Rhyme" and Ghostface Killah's "Daytona 500" among countless others.

Remaking "Nautilus" isn't a task that one would take on lightly, but Nicolay, the producer comprising one-half of eclectic soul outfit Foreign Exchange has just decided to let his version out of the vault for free downloading. Apparently, back in 2006, the Dutch-born producer was approached to work on a project called "Sampling Bob James: The Nautilus Project" and he delivered a total re-working of the track from scratch sans samples, for a project that has yet to see the light of day.

Continue reading Nicolay's cover of Nautilus chosen as 'Click hear' on Exclaim.ca

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The Washington Post reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC

by +FE on March 12, 2009 at 10:57 AM · Comments
When an MC hits the stage wearing a bow-tie, it's a good sign that an interesting show is about to take place. For the Foreign Exchange's sold-out date at the Black Cat on Friday, singer/rapper Phonte broke out what he called his "finest haberdashery," but even though he was wearing a suit and tie, he assured the crowd that "this is a [expletive] party!"

In keeping with that promise, the Foreign Exchange -- a duo consisting of Phonte, from the North Carolina hip-hop outfit Little Brother, and Dutch producer Nicolay -- delivered an incredible night of dreamy R&B/hip-hop.<

Continue reading The Washington Post reviews The Foreign Exchange at Black Cat, Washington DC

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4DaSoul reviews The Foreign Exchange at Highline Ballroom, New York

by +FE on March 11, 2009 at 9:42 AM · Comments
2009 looks to be a great start for Foreign Exchange. Individually Phonte and Nicolay already had a loyal fan base. But as a duo, the unlikely collaboration of these 2 brothers from another mother managed to capture lightning in a bottle twice. Last year their sophomore LP Leave it all behind received rave reviews from both fans and critics (including 4DaSoul), making it one of the best album releases of 2008. The band recently performed a sold out show in Washington DC and 4DaSoul had the privilege of returning to the Highline Ballroom NYC to cover their follow-up performance. Our previous coverage at the venue was for a Little Brother performance around the time their Get Back album was released.

The Foreign Exchange live experience is nothing like that of Little Brother's. While they share 1 obvious similarity and the same revolving door of guest collaborators, the 2 bands exist as completely separate entities.  A Little Brother show can be described as a high energy, throw your backpack in the air hip-hop celebration. Foreign Exchange shows on the other hand, aim toward the grown and sexy crowd. One could call Foreign Exchange the mature older brother who maintains some hip-hop sensibilities.

Continue reading 4DaSoul reviews The Foreign Exchange at Highline Ballroom, New York

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Inside Pulse reviews The Foreign Exchange at Double Door, Chicago IL

by +FE on February 5, 2009 at 8:48 AM · Comments
Yes, I was privileged enough to be on the media team that was backstage during Foreign Exchange's performance at the Double Door in Chicago on Friday night. It was amazing, people. And, it was an honor. There were so many more FE followers than I expected when I first arrived just a bit after 9pm. I know they are an amazing ensemble all together (YahZarah, Zo!, ELS, Darien Brockington were featured, Nicolay and Phonte as Foreign Exchange proper), but I think I just expected a more concentrated group of fans. I greatly underestimated the Chicago fanbase... and it felt SO refreshing to have done so. I love when a group as musically inclined as this gets the credit and support that they deserve.

I also learned that it really is about who you know. I originally just wanted to attend the concert as a spectator but after speaking with my good friend Raphael Nash, President of Endangered Peace, somehow he cooked up a situation that allowed me free entry into the concert, a VIP pass backstage, and a chance to meet with all of the artists. It was awesome in the literal sense of the word, not in that Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey kind of way.

Continue reading Inside Pulse reviews The Foreign Exchange at Double Door, Chicago IL

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Pitchfork reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on February 5, 2009 at 7:53 AM · Comments
The 2004 album Connected by the Foreign Exchange (North Carolina rapper Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay) was a record of unusual warmth and vibrancy. And yet, one bum line from Phonte still threatens to derail it with every listen-- "Applied for the job of rap nigga/ But I was overqualified." For better or (mostly) worse, this sort of mindset has boxed in just about everything he's done since with Little Brother, his project with rapper Big Pooh. Though obviously in pursuit of commercial adulation and positioning himself as a vanguard of thinking man's hip-hop, Phonte too often casts those who are more successful in simple and condescending terms while offering a one-step solution to all hip-hop's ills-- increased sales of Little Brother records. A slew of missed opportunities and disillusion with the game have resulted in a whole lot of disappointing Phonte projects. But knowing this can't prepare you for just how closely Leave It All Behind hews to its title, as Phonte opts out of hip-hop with a nearly full-on R&B record with exactly two rapped verses. And there's really no way of preparing for how good it actually turned out.

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews Leave It All Behind

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Gapers Block reviews The Foreign Exchange at Double Door, Chicago IL

by +FE on February 4, 2009 at 7:46 AM · Comments
Forget AutoTune. Forget singing over rap beats (with apologies to Mary J. and Nate Dogg). Forget where modern day pop R&B is going, and we can talk about The Foreign Exchange.

Long story short, rapper/sanger Phonte of the then-group Little Brother collaborated with Nicolay, a producer located in the Netherlands, in 2002 over IM and email and created an album. Connected was a testament to not only the universality of music, but also how the digital world is letting people meet and collaborate, even when separated by an ocean. The album introduced Phonte singing in long form, something that he'd only hinted at in the Little Brother recordings.

Continue reading Gapers Block reviews The Foreign Exchange at Double Door, Chicago IL

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Textura reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on December 1, 2008 at 7:40 AM · Comments
The words "old school" come to mind when listening to The Foreign Exchange's sophomore effort Leave It All Behind but, in truth, there's nothing old about it. If it at all seems that way, it's because there's such a regrettable dearth of its blissfully soulful sound being produced these days. In short, there's nothing retrograde about the material--how could there be when the music's so fresh? For those unfamiliar with the project, The Foreign Exchange is a collaboration involving producer Nicolay (who already issued one of the year's better albums in the splendid Timeline) and singer-songwriter and vocalist Phonte. The two hooked up in 2002 via the hip-hop community site Okayplayer.com and thereafter traded files for a year (Nicolay residing in his native Holland at the time and Phonte in Raleigh, North Carolina), leading up to 2004's Connected release. Though Nicolay (now ensconced in Wilmington, North Carolina ) has bridged the geographical gap, the new release distances itself from the debut's hip-hop focus for a more pronounced "lover's rock" brand of soul. Don't get the wrong idea: traces of hip-hop are clearly evident, and so too are elements of funk (even echoes of drum'n'bass in "If This Is Love"), but the new music's rooted in soul of a thoroughly warm and emotive vintage.

Continue reading Textura reviews Leave It All Behind

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PopMatters reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on November 25, 2008 at 5:55 AM · Comments
Phonte and Nicolay, the respective emcee and producer behind the Foreign Exchange, have done just what their sophomore album, Leave It All Behind, alludes to. They have left it all behind, and by "it", I mean their debut, Connected, which was fresh, stylish, and absolutely fantastic. Although there are musical similarities to that album, the duo has jumped head first into more mature territory on Leave It All Behind. The playfulness that has characterized Phonte throughout his career is mostly gone in this more focused, grown-up songwriter. And yes, he does sing on every song. But don't think he decided to randomly up and try his hand at some Love Below-esque joints. Anyone who knows Phonte is well aware that he has sung plenty of hooks, and even some full tracks, both as part of Little Brother and the Foreign Exchange.

Even though Phonte isn't going to win any awards for his vocal performances here, not recognizing his talents as a singer would be a sin. Few rappers can match his chops, both as an emcee and a singer. It's for that reason that Phonte gets a slight pass for not having the range of his vocalist contemporaries, like John Legend and others. But Phonte knows that. He doesn't try to hit any notes outside of his range or overextend himself. Instead, he uses his charming, sometimes smooth voice to lure you in. And some of his duets are absolutely breathtaking, particularly those with Muhsinah. Her breathy voice meshes with his so well that it's impossible to not get sucked into tracks like "Daykeeper" and "House of Cards", which are a one-two punch that R&B has not seen yet this year.

Continue reading PopMatters reviews Leave It All Behind

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The Couch Sessions reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on November 12, 2008 at 6:14 AM · Comments
Netherlands producer Nicolay, and MC, Phonte one half of Little Brother have come together for their second Foreign Exchange effort entitled Leave it All Behind. With Nicolay moving to North Carolina where Phonte is from and still resides, one would think studio sessions as opposed to the Internet and file sharing that occurred while Nicolay was stationed in the Netherlands would be more frequent. Wrong, the combo figured if it worked, why fix it? As well, with our current economic state where gas is $4.00 per/gallon even though they're in the same state, money is money.

Continue reading The Couch Sessions reviews Leave It All Behind

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Prefix reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on October 30, 2008 at 1:10 PM · Comments

Continue reading Prefix reviews Leave It All Behind

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Okayplayer reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on October 29, 2008 at 1:41 PM · Comments
Chemistry is an elusive phenomenon. It's what ignites white hot romantic sparks between two otherwise nondescript individuals. It's also what marks certain rarified creative collaborations as truly magical. In both cases, chemistry elevates the whole above the sum of the parts. Fittingly enough, it is chemistry that propels the sophomore release from The Foreign Exchange, both conceptually and sonically, culminating in one of the more rewarding listening experiences of the year.

Leave It All Behind is the rare concept album that doesn't feel forced. Like the relationship that is chronicled throughout, the album ebbs and flows in the key of life. "Daykeeper" is an understated opener, a quiet celebration of mutual love and dependancy driven by atmospheric keys and ethereal background vocals. As Phonte and Muhsinah trade plaintive vocals of laying together, watching over one another, the song takes on an almost voyeuristic quality, like we shouldn't be sharing such an intimate moment with the two lovers. The song sets the tone perfectly, establishing not only the chemistry between lyrics, vocals and production, but also within the romantic narrative that drives the album. The perfect counterpoint to "Day Keeper" is "House of Cards". Over a drum and bass groove and urgent keys, 'Te and Muhsinah again trade mirroring verses, but this time the words are filled with distrust and deception. It is precisely such nuances in which the beauty of LIAB lies. This isn't an album about falling in love, nor it's demise. It's about all of the ups and downs and detours along the way. The fickle way of the romantic pendulum is best exemplified at the project's mid point, when he jazzy jubilance of "Sweeter Than You" transitions into the remorseful melancholy of "Valediction" so seamlessly that before the listener even realizes the former has given way to the latter, sweet has apparently gone sour.

Continue reading Okayplayer reviews Leave It All Behind

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allmusic reviews Leave It All Behind

by +FE on October 14, 2008 at 1:21 PM · Comments
The second Foreign Exchange album reverses the rapping/singing split of the first. Not only is Leave It All Behind much more an R&B album than 2004's Connected -- it's more an R&B album than a lot of modern releases filed in that section, given that Phonte slips into MC mode only twice while otherwise putting his sensitive singing voice to full use. Even more nuanced and textured, and therefore more musical than Connected, Leave It All Behind is a concise and complete set of songs that brings out the best of both producer Nicolay and Phonte. More than ever, Nicolay's mellow but moving productions have that lingering, memory-triggering effect mastered by the late J Dilla, and a multitude of shades is cast: dreamy folk-soul that ranks with the Beauty Room and latter-day 4hero, lean and contemporary constructions that would fit within any adult-oriented R&B station's playlist, deceptively frictional backdrops that bridge hip-hop to West London broken beat, and even the intermittent unclassifiable moment, with several styles thrown into swirls of crescendo-enhanced dramatics. Joined by Connected accomplices Darien Brockington and YahZarah (her lead turn on "If She Breaks Your Heart" sounds even more like a lost Stevie/Minnie collaboration than the Jungle Fever soundtrack original), as well as Muhsinah (an earthbound Georgia Anne Muldrow), Phonte does not deliver knockouts, yet he is not out of his depth and never reaches beyond his grasp, exuding warmth and sincerity as effectively as anyone praised for inhuman range. Even when his lyrics deal in the less complicated aspects of relationships, his voice provides a gently bittersweet tint, as a man with his guard down whose articulations are neither reactionary nor based on some false posture. And with love as its core rather than impulsive lust, as well as its unified feel, the album is not just a unique and exceptional R&B album but also a soundtrack or means of communication -- when heat-of-the-moment resentment, a lump in the throat, or anxious longing get in the way -- for a real-life adult relationship.
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PopMatters reviews Here

by +FE on October 5, 2006 at 12:00 AM ·
In 2004, The Foreign Exchange, consisting of North Carolina emcee Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay, delivered the highly sensual Connected, an album that matched introspective lyricism with beats that defied simplicity. Fashioned through an Internet medium, Connected was based on more than just a solid idea; the tracks represented a true chemistry, as the album moved with the sweeping emotions of a '70s soul record re-contextualized into a modern hip-hop sound. Phonte, then known for his work with Little Brother, was ideally categorized as the backpacking type: wholly expressive and witty, yet accessible and jaunty. His beatmaking counterpart possessed what was needed to smooth the record into a gorgeous plane: musical emotiveness and vulnerability. As a result, Connected was an injection of non-portentous hip-hop whose freshness emanated through the clouds of forgettable underground nothings.

Continue reading PopMatters reviews Here

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Popmatters reviews Connected

by +FE on January 6, 2005 at 12:00 AM ·
Where does the Foreign Exchange take place? In a fantasy cyberworld, where fantastical ideas are laid on an imaginary table and then agreed upon and carried out in perfect harmony. They don't let any negative energy in where the Foreign Exchange transacts its business, and anyone pushing bling emphasis or Napoleonic aggression gets a pink slip. Stability and job security o'er at the Foreign Exchange's zone are a bit undermined, however, by the many lingering miles between the collaborating members.

Continue reading Popmatters reviews Connected

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Pitchfork reviews Connected

by +FE on September 14, 2004 at 8:06 PM ·
Until early this year, North Carolina emcee Phonte (Little Brother) and Dutch beatmaking sensation Nicolay had never met, or even spoke on the phone. Making their acquaintance on the webboards at Okayplayer, the two took The Postal Service's album-by-correspondence technique to heart: Nicolay instant messaged beats to Phonte, who dropped verses, and then the Holland native mastered the product. The result, Connected, is a sweltering, improbable 14-track symphony teeming with potent lyricism and subtle, lustrous rhythmatics.

Continue reading Pitchfork reviews Connected

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XXL Connected review

by +FE on August 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM ·
[...] Engaged in a far more healthy relationship are Little Brother's Phonte and Netherlands-based producer/instrumentalist Nicolay. Together, the unlikely duo is The Foreign Exchange, a partnership initiated a few years back when Phonte heard Nic's instro tracks posted on okaplayer.com and passed the Dutch (beat)master an email asking if he could spit over them. Bubbling with soulful, mellow warmth, the resulting album, Connected (BBE), is both an exemplary program of neo-Soulquarian groovology (the Big Pooh-assisted "Nic's Groove"), and a rewarding conceptual piece about people getting along in the face of adversity ("Be Alright", "Brave New World"). The inspired "All That You Are" in particular typifies the latter steez, with Phonte candidly discussing stress with wifey (("Before we had a kid/We should have had a clue") before resolving to show and self-improve ("I'm trying to be a better man, please believe me/Ready and God willing if you're ready to teach me"). Given its organic sound, however, Connected earns ultimate props for how well these hip-hop pen pals transcended cultural gaps and technological limitations (they recorded the entire album via emailed and IM-ed sound files without ever meeting face to face). You ain't never heard computer love like this.

Continue reading XXL Connected review

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The Source reviews Connected

by +FE on August 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM · Comments
Image if Black Thought could sing like D'Angelo and did an album produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and DJ Spinna. That's the unlikely union that makes [The] Foreign Exchange's Connected so special. Little Brother's Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay connected via the Internet, and through a potent mix of battle-ready lyricism, falsetto crooning and European ambient grooves, they create Hip-Hop music from outside the box. Playing double duty as MC and singer, Phonte transcends flaccid R&B while reconnecting Hip-Hop with its exorcised soul. The poetic pendulum swings from the chest-thumping of "Raw Life" and "Let's Move" to the passionate confessions of "Sincere" and "Be Alright", where Phonte laments: "I scream, 'Fuck the world' but Mother Nature is taking Ortho now/Tryin' to regulate our stress and pain also now." Unfortunately though, you'll probably have to fly to Nicolay's home country to hear this inspired record on the radio.
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