Monday, October 14, 2013
The Foreign Exchange- Love In Flying Colors
If you haven't heard of The Foreign Exchange, don't trip. I only heard about them a while back so it's not like i've been a fan for years considering their first album dropped in 2004. I have made a mention of them in the blog before as a dynamic MC-Producer combination but they are not a hip hop tandem, but rather an r&b pairing. The duo consists of Phonte and Nicolay. Nicolay hails from Europe and is the producer who i have no idea about his other work. The first and only time i heard Nicolay's work is from The Foreign Exchange catalog. Phonte on the other hand is definitely more well known in the states than his partner but still is not too popular. He got his beginnings as part of the North Carolina trio called Little Brother with Big Pooh also rapping and 9th Wonder handling the boards. The group made great underground music and have arguable classics in their first two albums, The Listening and The Minstrel Show. They broke up eventually due to creative differences of course and decided to do their own things. 9th if you haven't heard has gone on to become one of the best hip hop producers of the last decade while Big Pooh and Phonte are always applauded for their work but have not received the type of recognition that 9th has. The first two Little Brother albums saw Phonte not only show off his skills as a damn good MC but he showed that he has bars as a singer too. And not the sounds good on a hook or with autotune kind of singing but he can sing his ass off. Peep this and ask yourself how many rappers can hit those notes. Not to sound like i'm jocking him but idk of many rappers who can sing and rap as well as Phonte. Lauryn Hill hasn't dropped anything in forever but she may be recording new music out of prison. Hate Nicki Minaj all you want but we all know she can rap and sing well. She just has yet put together something good. Your Love i guess was the closest thing to it but that sucked. If you try and convince me Future can sing well i'm going to punch you in the face. After that digression i'm going to get into the 4th album from The Foreign Exchange. The only expectation that i have for this is that it's going to be good so the bar is set high on my expectation meter. Let's get into it.
The Foreign Exchange's sound to me has always been classic r&b with underground hip hop influences. You're not going to hear anyone call them this new age r&b and lump them together with Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and Miguel. Phonte isn't going to tell you stories about how drugs has permanently damaged his love life as a teenager or whatever it is that the Weeknd talks about. This album, if you couldn't tell by the title and by their previous projects, is about love. Finding love, falling in love, maintaining love, etc. It's weird how one subject could be so repetitive yet we always want to hear more love songs. I mean shit, everyone is tired of gangsta rap but Taylor Swift can keep singing about her exes all she wants, i don't get it. Well this is how this album goes. Every single track has something about love but i'm not mad because 1) it is what i was expecting. 2) it is an r&b album. 3) it's Phonte writing the songs. And 4) being mad about this album being all about love is like saying McDonalds gave you too many fries. It's what they do.
That being said the production by Nicolay was damn good. Some of the best production work track to track over the course of a whole album that i have heard all year. I mean there have been other projects where there has been great production on all tracks, but Nicolay's work on here all flowed together and never seemed out of place with the exception of Listen To The Rain which i thought was just too damn sad. But then again that was the 5fth track in a 10 track album so i'm assuming they inserted that one there just to break it up. All the beats added to the overall message of the album which i took as finding the love of your life is more than likely right in front of your face and to not let go of that love so easily. And normally i am not a fan of the "euro pop" sounds which Nicolay featured on every track. I don't even know if it is called euro pop but every track i was expecting to hear this. But i did like how he incorporated that euro sound with a little of what i think was live instrumentation and maybe some mpc work. Anyways props to Nicolay for holding his end of the deal.
Now on to Phonte. Saying the album is about love and all thought is true but also is the generic cop out answer. Or maybe that is what Phonte is trying to get at. That love isn't all that hard and we just make it that much harder on ourselves who knows *kanye shrug.* I like the second track, Right After Midnight, because Tigallo is speaking for all males. Ladies...it is okay for the woman to make the first move every once in a while. I know "tradition" has it that guys make the first move and go to the ladies but shit you can't cherry pick on what things you want to stay traditional and what you want to modernize. Shout out to Bill Burr. That one was my favorite track off the album if anyone is interested. That's saying something too because 9 out of the 10 songs i really do like and have it on repeat. He touches on a lot of subjects with regards to relationships over the course of the album. The main thing i got from it was that once we find the person that we love, we need to cherish that person because no one is going to have the perfect relationship. The best we can do is try our best. It sounds simple and a lot of people have made songs regarding this but it's weird that Phonte does it as well as anyone. I know Drake touches on these types of subjects (and if you didn't know Phonte is Drake's favorite rapper) but Phonte just has this certain something that makes him more enjoyable to me. I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it has to do when does r&b he sticks to r&b and when he does rap he sticks to rap. Maybe he showed his skills as an MC with his Little Brother projects. Maybe he just does his music without caring what people on the internet have to say. I don't know but i digress. The only one that i didn't like was the 5th track, Listen To The Rain. It just seemed sad to me especially when compared to the rest of the album. The other nine tracks seemed to be full of optimism and this one just brought my spirits down and Nicolay's production definitely conveyed that. Maybe they were trying to say in the course of a happy and successful relationship there are going to be bumps in the road but there is always a brighter side when coming out of it. But that is just one half ass critique of a damn near flawless album. And that critique is on some personal hating so it's not even a legit one.
In conclusion, if this is your first introduction to The Foreign Exchange i hope you are pleased with the album and that it will encourage you to check out their other stuff. Their second album, Leave It All Behind is still my favorite but i also have listened to that waaaaay more than i have this one. But LIFC right now is my second favorite release of the duo. If you want to hear Phonte actually spitting over Nicolay beats then check out their first album, Connected. That one is definitely has the heaviest hip hop influence in their discography. And the r&b tracks on that album have a poor man's D'Angelo feel to them if you want a lazy comparison. So check it out, if you like it buy it and be sure to tell your friends about it. If you just listen to hip hop then mix it up with The Foreign Exchange. If your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't like hip hop meet them in the middle with this. Peace and let me know if there is anything you want me to review/speak on.
The album gets an A- btw
FYI, great month for new music. Deltron 3030 just released their second highly anticipated album. I haven't listened to it yet but i've heard it's great. Black Milk just released his album today i believe so check that out. Nipsey Hussle's Crenshaw dropped last week. The one he was selling for $100 whch i still don't believe he actually sold all 1000 copies. Although shout out to Jay-Z for copping 100 of them. Plenty of good music out there. You just gotta keep your ears and eyes open.
Random Axe (Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Sean P)