Twenty years ago, The Foreign Exchange could not have existed. The group, which is comprised of North Carolina native Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay, have never recorded in the same studio together because they live thousands of miles apart.
However, they have released four critically acclaimed albums and received a Grammy nomination in 2009. Phonte and Nicolay took a few moments to chat about how they live in different countries and remain connected through music. –amir shaw
You guys are from different areas of the world, so why did you decide to form a group?
Phonte: It was us having a general appreciation for music. We came together on the Okay Player message board. We realized that we had the same taste. Nicolay put up some of his music and I began to record over his tracks. We never created music in the studio. We do our tracks through email. Nicolay records the tracks in his studio. And I record the vocals in my studio. … We then trade files. In 10 years of working together, we haven’t recorded once in the studio together.
Are there any drawbacks of not recording together?
Nicolay: There aren’t really many drawbacks from not being in the studio together. The concept of the studio is almost outdated. The major artists go into the top-notch studios because they have an elaborate budget. But for independent artists, it’s hard to recoup that money.
Were you guys surprised by the Grammy nomination two years ago?
Nicolay: The Grammy nomination was an honor. It wasn’t something that we set out to accomplish, but we were humbled. It put a lot of shine on the album and we were able to push the record longer. The nomination brought us a lot of extra attention.
Phonte, how has the North Carolina hip-hop scene progressed?
Hip-hop in North Carolina is gaining momentum. The younger cats are going for it. J. Cole is taking charge and getting exposure for the area. A lot of the guys like 9th Wonder are also making noise. There is a lot of talent in the state. The new artists want to do it for themselves. Coming up, we wanted to have control of our creative destiny. We wanted to do it on our own. It’s really inspiring to me.