It would be dishonest of me to say that I’m a huge Neo-Soul kinda guy, but I’ve always been a big fan of the production from Nicolay, one half of The Foreign Exchange (with NC rapper-now-singer Phonte, from Little Brother). Their first collaboration, Connected, was one of the best hip-hop/soul records of 2004, and the follow-up, over 4 years later, will not disappoint fans of that record. Nicolay, as usual, does a stellar, refined job on the production, with organic keys, sharp breaks and a number of genre-inspired touches (rock, electronica) that show up and both enhance and differentiate the record from similar offering within the neo-soul world. He’s as consistent and reliable a producer you will find working today, but the real surprise here is Phonte on the microphone, not just rhyming, but actually singing for the majority of his vocal parts. While I’m not American Idol judge or anything, his voice sounds does sound fantastic, and his lyrics, while sometimes a little simplistic, are catchy as all hell.

Today’s post, “Something to Behold” is a perfect example of what these two do best. Enjoy. Highly recommended.

RIYL: Nicolay, Little Brother, Raphael Saadiq, Robin Thicke, Bilal, Stevie Wonder