About 8 years ago, Phonte, one of the MCs from Durham, N.C.’s promising rap trio Little Brother, heard something that caught his ear on Okayplayer.com. A Dutch producer named Nicolay had an instrumental beat up on the site and Phonte, who wanted to expand his creative palette, got in touch, asking if he could lay some vocals down on it. That small spark expanded into 2004’s Connected, an album that the two made completely via instant messaging and file exchanging under the name the Foreign Exchange.
With some of the same stiff snare work that 9th Wonder, Little Brother’s production guru, was known for the end result was overall a lot smoother, full of silky synths and clever production flourishes. Their second release, 2008’s Leave It All Behind, was nominated for a Grammy, and last year’s Authenticity, moved closer to an epic singer-songwriter vibe — kind of a 21st-century Sign O’ the Times, but with Seal on vocals. And without the Batman Forever soundtrack associations.—Finn Cohen
The Foreign Exchange
Sunday, May 8
The Magic Stick
4120-4140 Woodward Ave, Detroit