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“R&B” is a term that most hip-hop heads view negatively, as our favorite 90′s rappers re-branded it as “Rap & Bullshit”. And with good reason, since that era, we’ve seen countless crooners take classic beats and polish them up for the knownots. Such as is the case of Trey Songz’s latest, “Na Na”, for example, which rips off The Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La”. It’s a practice that’s been going on for years, robbing the genre of originality and leaving a foul taste in the mouth of many. Who stole the soul?

We saw a brief revival of respectable R&B music in the early 2000′s with the “neo-soul” movement, populated by artists like Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and MusiqSoulchild, but with the rampant commercialization in both hip-hop and R&B these days, acts like this are few and far in between.

For a decade now, Little Brother’s Phonte Coleman has been teaming with Dutch producer Nicolay for a series of albums under the moniker The Foreign Exchange. It started with over-the-innanet file trading, as the two were internationally separated, having never met in person. The end result was some of Tay’s best material, showing not only does he have skills on the mic, but some killer vocal chops as well.

On their fifth album together, Love In Flying Colors, Phonte and Nicolay show that their chance meeting was more than just a fluke, as they have gotten this thing down to a science. It’s hard to place this in either category of “R&B” or “neo-soul”, as this is its own thing entirely. Perhaps the most accurate description is simply “classic soul”.

Nicolay’s production pulls heavily from greats like Stevie Wonder, or more recently, Jamiroquai, giving the album a lush, fully instrumented sound, showing just how far he’s come as a producer in the last ten years. Songs like “If I Knew Then” and “Right After Midnight” draw heavily from 70′s and 80′s sounds, starting the album off on the right note. This continues at length, before dipping into the more hip-hop driven “Better”, one of the few tracks that finds Phonte busting out his rap mic.

“Listen To The Rain” is also very impressive, meshing acoustic guitars and sweeping strings, while “Call It Home” blends drum-and-bass rhythms with perfectly mixed pianos and a sticky bassline. The four-on-the-floor driven “The Moment” is hardly an “EDM” crossover attempt, but more of a classic, soulful house entry one might find in a late night DJ Spinna set.

While The Foreign Exchange might be a stretch for some hip-hop heads to handle, there’s no denying the quality of the music presented here. Phonte and Nicolay have developed amazing chemistry together, as both artists have really come into their own. The final song, “When I Feel Love”, sings of “two hearts that beat in perfect time”. While obviously referring to a romantic couple, it’s also a fitting description for the in-sync creativity of The Foreign Exchange.

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4 Responses to "The Foreign Exchange – “Love In Flying Colors” – @@@@ (Review)"
  • pastido says:

    Foreign Exchange is great. I think it’s great that they’re super independent, really focus on the quality of their music and put on a great live show.

  • pastido says:

    In fact, I have to think HHS for putting me on to LIttle Brother wwwwwaaayyyy the fuck back when you guys had the store in Vegas. I went in there and bought a bunch of stuff and got the Chitlin Circuit on your recommendation and have been a huge fan ever since….thank you!

  • Chad says:

    ya know, sometimes i wish this site had the same traffic as, but i’ll trade that for the quality of people. dx has some real shithead regulars who are incapable of having an intellectual conversation

  • Chad says:

    and this album is dope too :-)

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