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Little Brother’s Phonte Coleman and Netherlands based producer Nicolay reunite as The Foreign Exchange, following up their critically acclaimed 2004 debut, Connected, with Leave It All Behind. As legend has it, the duo had met on OkayPlayer.Com, and began recording music, sending it back and forth via instant messenger, completing and releasing the album without ever meeting face to face. The album featured a series of vibed-out, mellow beats from Nicolay, with rhymes about everyday life from Phonte. With Leave It All Behind however, the concept is the same, but this time Phonte has traded in his raps for sung vocals.

Leave It All Behind is essentially an album one (or two) should listen to in bed, rather than in traffic. It never leaves the from under the covers, with sleepy, melodic grooves, as Phonte takes center stage with breezy vocals, teaming with other vocalists of the same mind set. It opens with “Daykeeper”, with Nicolay providing a track that sounds a bit like an outtake from Radiohead’s Kid A, yet with a bit more soul. “Take Off The Blues” lends the mic to Darien Brockington, offering the same brand of late night soul found on Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “Lots of Lovin”, sans raps.
Hypnotic grooves like “House of Cards” (Feat. Muhsinah) and “If She Breaks Your Heart” (feat. Yahzarah) – both duets with female vocalists – are helped out by their respective guests, which breaks the monotony of the two main artists that dominate the record. “If This Is Love” is also a nice change up, with a track that evokes sounds of late 90’s acid jazz, as Yahzarah again takes center stage.

Musically this LP is strong, but is a heavy plate to digest. Those fans looking for a sequel done in the same formula as Connected will be sorely disappointed. Last time around, Nic’s lush production custom fit Phonte’s personalized lyrics, crafting a sound rarely heard in hip-hop these days. However with this album, the production is still there, but Phonte’s choice to sing rather than spit, is debatable. He’s definitely got the vocal chops to pull it off, however his style is an acquired taste, which to this critic is better off in small doses, coupled with his stronger suit – rhyming. Ultimately, whom this album won’t disappoint are the lovers; the people who prefer the upstairs lounge to the downstairs dancefloor, or those who weren’t looking for a hip-hop album in the first place. Others may find themselves leaving it behind altogether.  – D.T. Swinga

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