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12 September, 2006@12:00 am

   When overseas import, Nicolay, exploded onto the scene with Phonte of Little Brother on the Foreign Exchange Connected album, the landscape of production was changed once again. With Nic’s soul sonic force intact, Connected turned many critics on their collective ear. Implementing a vibe that has yet to be heard, Nic immediately provided an impact on a stagnant hip hop scene. Now the Netherlands born and North Carolina based producer is back at it again. But without the element of surprise by his side can Nicolay rise to the expectations with Here?
    After a beautiful flute laden intro, Darien Brockington bursts with passionate soul on “I Love The Way You Love.” D Brock masters the sonic grooves that Nic lays down, giving great promise to an album that, early on, sounds like Connected Part Two. Yahzarah also lends her impressive vocals to the moving “Adore”. But before the listener gets too comfortable with the concept of another Foreign Exchange album, Nicolay smacks you over the head with “I Am The Man”, featuring newcomer Black Spade. Spade’s rhymes are potent, as is the bang in Nicolay’s beats. This turn leads you into an album which becomes much more focused with production moving more into a boom bap method instead of soul.

   What also differentiates Here from the Foreign Exchange outing is the list of guests. Gone is the introspective and witty Phonte (but don’t fret, another FE album is indeed in the works) and in to replace him are the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Kay and the aforementioned Black Spade. Although this list of emcees doesn’t slouch on the mic, they don’t have the impact as Phonte, Von Pea, Big Pooh and the rest did on the FE album. While “The End is Near” flounders about, the Kay and Sy Smith assisted “My Story” grooves on wonderfully to close out the album. Meanwhile, Nic also tosses in a few instrumental treats in the form of “Let It Shine For Me” and “Give Her Everything”, bith of which give the album an incredible personality. The beats don’t beg for an emcee, and instead breeze through the album effortlessly, assisting in the creation of Here.

   Here may not be as impressive as Connected, but that is simply because of the surprise element that allowed it to come virtually out of nowhere. Here allows Nic to diversify his craft, not pigeonholing him to the one style that he mastered on the FE album. Here should elevate his portfolio and hopefully help him expand his production to other emcees who desperately need it.

  Mixtape D.L.
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