The Underrated: Foreign Exchange- Connected

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Foreign Exchange Title Theme 
2. Von Sees 
3. Raw Life 
4. Hustle Hustle 
5. Let's Move 
6. Nic's Groove 
7. Be Alright 
8. Sincere 
9. Brave New World 
10. The Answer 
11. Come Around 
12. Happiness 
13. Foreign Exchange End Theme 
14. All That You Are 
15. Be Alright(Remix)
16. Call 
17. Downtime 

There are few MCs and artists more profilic than Phonte Coleman. Though he isn't regarded via the mainstream like many of his peers, the genius displayed in his music and talent is unmatched honestly. When he connected with Dutch producer Nicolay to create a project, many speculated on how this would turn out. Up until this point, we had only seen Phonte in a capacity with Little Brother and Nicolay wasn't necessarily a top tier producer or the most known. With no true pressure to have the album perform extremely well, as well as the freedom to make the music they wanted, the two embarked on a journey as The Foreign Exchange and titled it "Connected"(a fitting title I would say). From the beginning of the album, it would be obvious that this is not your average album in the Hip Hop genre, but more of a listening experience with infusion of electrojazz, funk, and R&B soul.

The knocking sound of "Von Sees" kicks us off as Tanya Morgan's Von Pea drops a quick verse to almost welcome us to the album and it works well. Von doesn't give us too many quotes in his mini verse, but he leads us into the smooth yet boom bap heavy "Raw Life", as Phonte kicks the song off with a dope set of bars here:

"Rock to the rhythm, back and forth like a pendulum/
Swingin' to the beat, competition don't mention 'em/
A full course emcee, y'all just continental 'em/
Posted at the bar, but you only copped the minimum/
While lookin' at me like what the fuck's gotten into him/"

Joe Scudda takes over in the 2nd verse and does his thing, but the final verse from Phonte is one of his best. The flow is flawless and the lyrics hit hard:

"Don't try to make me feel like I need you/
I saw you later signin' ??
The whole shit was see through/
He couldn't draw a crowd with a paintbrush and a easel/
Stay tuned for the sequel/
And if we meet in public, won't be none of that PC shit like nice to meet you/
I spit with no prejudice/
Thought kissin' ass was in my bloodtype, Oh (O) negative/
You can bet, it's a style that's embedded in the streets
It's a prime factor/
puttin' the smash on y'all like middle linebackers/
Nigga, save your back talk for the chiropractor/
You fuckers know just what I'm after/"

The melodic sounds of "Hustle, Hustle" follow and while the song is dope, it's just a precursor to the two Little Brother tracks in succession "Let's Move", and "Nic's Groove", as Phonte and Big Pooh bring that LB flavor over the bouncy Nicolay production. Essentially, what you get here is a nice departure from the usual boom bap soulful sound of LB into a much more upbeat and melodic feel, with the essence still well in tact with lyricism. Phonte has a moment of fun in his verse, with playful yet on point lyrics:

"Local spots where the chicken heads babble at/
Claiming they independent like Landspeed or Miramax/
Pause if you feeling that/
Cause I am still in fact/
On some Purple Rain shit, Jerome where my mirror at?/
I want some hips and some asses wiggling/
In every latitude, longitude and meridian/
Female citizens looking, laughing and giggling/
Tired of bullshit so they come to us for deliverance/"

The beauty of "Nic's Groove" comes in the form of the ending, with the adlibs and harmony leading into the final atmospheric production piece. What follows next is the uplifting yet somehow realistic "Be Alright", which sees a very solemn verse about his struggles from Phonte and features Median as well. Phonte's verse really sticks out here, as they do most of the time:

"Ayo, as time passes I'm just keeping the faith/
Composing my thoughts and rearranging my place/
People ask, I just tell 'em I'm straight/
My girl was throwing up this morning
I'm praying it was something she ate/
Feeling pains in my torso now/
I scream fuck the world but mother-nature's taking autho' now/
Tryna regulate her stress and pain also now/
This life hurts a little more so now/"

Following this is the smooth Yahzarah featured "Sincere", which is a bevy of melodies and a true feel good song, backed by the vocals of Yahzarah telling Phonte that her love is nothing but sincere. The lyrical sound "Brave New World" follows and is a look into the complex state the world seemed to be in 2004, along with the usual struggle a lot of us faced. The first verse from Phonte tells it:

"We got, single moms that can't afford to feed children/
World War 3 got planes flying into buildings/
Corrupt cops and robbers, thieves and politicians/
They just keeping taking as the world keeps spinning/
Just take a look around now/
A long way from your MTV cribs with your full speaker surround sound/
Get ready for countdown/
Just to get some benefits, my girl lied to them people downtown/
It's funny how we start out cool, but get corroded/
By our quest for power and the people that behold it/
We up one minute then down before you know it/
With no preliminary warning or advanced notice/
I guess that's the reason why our eyes can't focus/
Can't afford to raise kids cos we gotta raise soldiers/
And satellites looking at my pad when I wrote this/
A Brave New World, y'all better know it/"

Phonte kills it on this song and I think this would have to be my favorite song on the entire album from a lyrical standpoint. After the Oddisee, Sean Boog, and Kenn Starr featured "The Answer", we roll right into the amazing Darien Brockington solo song "Come Around", equipped with a smooth R&B tinge that makes it one of the best listens on the entire project as well. The infectious hook of "baby have no fear, I'm right here, won't you come around", allows Darien to talk directly to the lady of his choice. Big Pooh makes another appearance on the laid back "Happiness", before we make our way to the End Theme on the album, which is honestly quite relaxing to me. The lovely vocals of Yahzarah carries it, but Phonte has a funny moment when he starts it off with the "H-A-R-M-O-N-I-E-S, the harmonies!!!!!", before she takes over. There is the smooth infectious bridge/hook in the end theme that truly make it a great listen and inspires you to sing along to it.

The Darien Brockington and Median assisted banger "All That You Are" follows, and features some honest lyrics from Phonte, as he expresses a need to stay focused on the goals at hand:

"Everybody gotta way to try to be the man/
Some write rhymes, others move kilograms/
You ain't tryna play yourself with me neither man/
Because I was dealt, I can play 'em with either hand/
I gotta be the plan, put it in motion/
A nigga on the grind I'm proceeding with focus/"

The final song I would have to touch on is the amazing "Call" featuring Darien Brockington,  which is another personal favorite of mine. I think the song is short and sweet, with a very small verse from Phonte that hits home and closes out the album perfectly. This album is a nice trip to a relaxed place, much different from the usual LB albums and honestly different from the usual Foreign Exchange albums we hear today, as this one was more hip hop influenced than the later ones. I think that's definitely a good thing and that's what makes Foreign Exchange's first project so special. It is the perfect fusion of styles, all while remaining authentically artistic. Give it a listen if you haven't or revisit it if you're familiar. Stay Connected.



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