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Music Review: Foreign Exchange – Authenticity

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Continuing their R&B experiment, Phonte and Nicolay take their Grammy nominated project The Foreign Exchange to another level with their third release entitled Authenticity. Settling on an amazing sound they crafted on their sophomore album, FE is comfortable continuing their soul journey together.

 With Phonte, an accomplished emcee formerly of the group Little Brother and Nicolay, a producer comfortable in the soul or hip hop production circle, FE (Foreign Exchange) has the potential to take a number of directions when they get together. Their debut album Connected exists as a genre smashing blend of hip hop and R&B which to date has kept their fans on their toes in anticipation of what direction new music will take. Filled with features as well as danceable numbers, it remains as a timeless classic that has a fresh take on the blend of hip hop and R&B with Nicolay’s signature sound.

On their second album, Leave It All Behind, FE chose to shock their fans with an all soul offering that featured a heavy dose of features including a Grammy nominated feature with fellow soul innovator Muhsinah. There, Nicolay and Phonte crafted yet another classic that exists as a sound a bit distant from their first offering.

In steps Authenticity with a less shocking sound than their previous directions. This album has more of a theme or mood shift than a genre change. Where Connected and Leave It All Behind were celebrations of life and love, Authenticity attacks your heart with the vulnerable side of love.

Each song will cause a bit less of the wonder and a bit more of the step back to think moments. Attempting to assist smoothing those difficult trips in love through song, FE stresses how rare love is and how once it is found the rest should be seen for what it is…distraction. Even though the lyrical content approaches the theme in that way, Nicolay still manages to not allow the mood to dampen your spirit. Nic’s signature modern day synth sound still soothes.

Jumping into the album, “The Last Fall” began as if it was Nicolay’s recreation of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” for a time before Phonte launches the track in a bit more of an energetic direction.

The album’s title track is the flagship for this mood as Phonte again takes the soul reigns and belts out a heart felt offering of one sided love. Speaking towards the theme of the album, here Phonte shows how selfish some of us can be when we get what we want from our partner yet choose to not give them the same. Set to an ominous beat, they we’ve their best featureless offering that picks up where “Leave It All Behind” left off.

With a heavy offering of just Phonte and Nicolay for a majority of the album, the two are trying a bit more to not rely on features as much as the previous album. Still, they bring FE Music regulars D. Brock and Yahzarah into the mix for a couple of songs. While Yahzarah’s delivery in “This City Ain’t The Same Without You” is sweet and soft, D. Brock’s entry “Don’t Wait” is a danceable warning to seize the day when love is returned.

On another standout track, Phonte and Nic bring in soul standout Jesse Boykins III and Justus League emcee Median to weave a coolout dance track that only Foreign Exchange could execute.

When this 40 minute offering is done you can’t help but wish FE’s authentic soul could have lasted a bit longer. With their third album and second full soul offering continues to show Phonte’s harmonic prowess and Nicolay’s versatility.

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