The title of the fourth Foreign Exchange album is so corny that the back cover might as well show Nicolay and Phonte, together with their dozen-plus associates, leaping over an airstrip with ear-to-ear grins. Once the serene strings on the closing "When I Feel Love" fade out, it's clear the title is absolutely descriptive, as the prevailing mood deeply contrasts with that of the racked Authenticity. If there is a bridge between the two albums, it's third track "Better," in which Phonte rhymes matrimony with acrimony and sings of being healed.
Not to rehash old stuff, but your thoughts on Love in Flying Colors will likely be based on when you first became aware of R&B/hip-hop duo of "rapper-turnt-singer"/artist Phonte Coleman and "North Carolina by way of the Netherlands" producer/instrumentalist Nicolay. Their solid 2004 debut, Connected, is still largely slotted into the "alternative hip-hop" category, while follow-ups Leave It All Behind and Authenticity arguably lean heavily on the R&B side of the equation. This has created a dedicated yet outspoken fanbase with collective thoughts on, and expectations of, how the perfect Foreign Exchange album should sound.
Ever since a series of e-mail exchanges between North Carolina-based emcee Phonte of Little Brother and the eclectic, Dutch producer Nicolay introduced the world to The Foreign Exchange, fans have grown accustomed to a brand of Hip Hop where lyrical prowess meets digital masterpiece. But as any Hip Hop head will tell you, the genre is in a constant state of evolution. The Foreign Exchange’s success is largely built on this principle, taking underground Hip Hop and blending it with the soothing sounds of piano chords and keyboard solos that drift in and out in-between the familiar snare hits and high hat clicks.
The Foreign Exchange introduced their latest album, Love in Flying Colors, with a pair of trailer videos called “Her” and “Him,” which showed the title characters listening to each Foreign Exchange album in succession at different stages in their lives. Accompanied by the slogan “life is all about keeping a beat” the message that this is music to grow with may have been a little too on-the-nose, but this process of changing and maturing has been the underlying theme for the duo’s music since 2008’s Leave It All Behind. Coming out after the dissolution of singer Phonte’s rap group Little Brother, that album’s embrace of R&B felt like as much of a fulfillment of the title as its narratives of relationships in turmoil did.