Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Foreign Exchange - Leave It All Behind

The Foreign Exchange is the perfect name for the R&B/hip-hop duo of rapper Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay. Their story is one made for the Internet Age. As a member of Little Brother, Phonte heard a beat by Nicolay on okayplayer.com and contacted him to ask if he could lay a rap over it. Nicolay agreed and soon the track ("Light It Up") was a b-side to "Whatever You Say" off Little Brother's 2003 album, The Listening. An intercontinental relationship was born. They began emailing and instant messaging back and forth. Nicolay would send finished beats and Phonte would then record the vocal tracks and send back the finished track. They did this enough to complete a full-length debut title Connected (2004). I heard that album way back when, and really really enjoyed it. It's a pretty mellow R&B/hip-hop album that doesn't just sound like two guys collaborating because it would be cool. Connected had a few tracks that had great production, with equally impressive lyrical content.

Today (10/14) The Foreign Exchange release their follow-up titled Leave It All Behind. Be warned that this album has a very different feel than its predecessor. The debut album had a few R&B (singing) tracks sprinkled throughout whereas this new album really focuses on Phonte's singing. This is distincly a R&B album. With that being said, it's probably one of the best R&B albums I've heard in a long time. Much of the R&B I hear is really fake and kinda schmaltzy (excuse the Yiddish). It just sounds fake, forced, and something out of a cliche bedroom scene from a movie. Leave It All Behind is different. It has at least an undercurrent of hip-hop production which makes the tracks more interesting and distinguishable. It's a production style that mixes influences from traditional hip-hop, to some elements of break beat, and even some things that are hard to categorize. Upon my first listen to the the album I was confused and kinda upset because I was expecting the album to be more of the same and a step forward. This album is a step forward, but maybe diagonally. Meaning, in a slightly different direction but still a progression. If you know that the album is - at its core - an R&B effort you will probably really really enjoy this album. If you think this is more like Connected you are going to be a bit disappointed, but if you have the patience to listen through you'll still hear great production and Phonte sing the best way he knows how.


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