Phonte and Nicolay met over a decade ago on the message board of Okayplayer, a site that has developed themselves as a staple of African American focused music journalism. It’s no surprise that two guys of such talent found themselves perusing the message board and eventually connecting. Little did they know, this connection would lead to the development of The Foreign Exchange. Relying mostly on instant messaging and emails, Nicolay stayed connected with Phonte all the way from the Netherlands, while Phonte at the time was based in North Carolina. The two would go on to form a musical bond inseparable and one of my favorite bands out right now.
Since their debut project Connected released in 2004, the duo has followed up with four additional projects, including their most recent release Tales of The Land of Milk & Honey. In 2010 they saw a Grammy nomination for the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance (and lost to India.Arie’s “Pearls”). This early Grammy nomination would make Nicolay at the time only the fourth person from The Netherlands to ever be nominated. During his acceptance award for Best Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 BMI Awards, Drake would mention Phonte amongst the likes of Kanye and 3000 for inspiring him. He would also mention Phonte as one of the biggest inspirations of his career after a failed collaboration between him, Drizzy and 9th Wonder. “I really wanted to do a record with him… That was my fault, and I do apologize to Phonte for that. But I still want to make it happen; I talked to 9th Wonder about trying to make it happen, we’ll get it eventually. He knows he’s one of the biggest influences on my career.” A 2007 feature on Drake’s Comeback Season would later go on to leave fans wondering if Drake’s earlier sound was inspired by Phonte.