The Foreign Exchange
The Foreign Exchange are where today's neo-soul and hip-hop sounds meet the silky quiet storm and jazz fusion of the early '80s, resulting in lovely and elegant soul music. The group's name is a literal reference to its origins: rapper/vocalist Phonte Coleman, then a member of acclaimed underground group Little Brother, began a long-distance correspondence with Netherlands musician Matthijs "Nicolay" Rook. Though the resulting Connected centered around them, it also included contributions from Phonte's Durham, N.C.-based circle of friends (including Big Pooh, Darien Brockington, Yahzarah and Joe Scudda). The 2004 album was so successful that Nicolay relocated to Durham, eventually setting up an independent label, Foreign Exchange Music, for future releases. On their next album together, 2008's Leave It All Behind, Phonte and Nicolay eschewed hip-hop for contemporary soul. It was also an underground hit, and its lead single, "Daykeeper," earned a surprise Grammy nomination, significantly raising The Foreign Exchange's profile. In 2010, they released their third album, Authenticity.