The Foreign Exchange – Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey

It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since The Foreign Exchange released their debut album Connected – an album that was loved by so many simply because it was just so fresh. Nicolay’s beats were like no other producer’s and Phonte was one of the best MC’s around.

If you’ve followed the group over the years, you’d know that their sound has changed quite a bit since their first album and it has continued to change with their latest release Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey. This may be partly due to the fact that the make up of the group has also changed with the addition of Zo!, Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden. The change is nothing too dramatic though, the Foreign Exchange electro-soul sound is still there with a little funk thrown in to give the album a fun vibe throughout.

For me, the album is nothing mind blowing but perhaps that has something to do with the curse that comes with releasing good music – expectations get a little high. I’m sure fans will enjoy the release. It’s available now from the FE store or on iTunes if you prefer.

The Foreign Exchange – Milk And Honey

Nicolay – The Brightest Star/Afterglow

It’s always a good thing when Nicolay releases new music and he’s about to release a whole new album of it. City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto is an ode to the South African township and it’s neighbouring city of Johannesburg and is dropping on June 9.

The first single The Brightest Star which features vocals from Carmen Rodgers and Phonte, is an energetic jam that will have you immediately reaching for your dancing shoes. The B-Side, Afterglow is a non-album bonus single and is a more mellow affair but also well worth a listen. This one also features Phonte as well as vocals from Tamisha Waden and Tim Smith on flute. Both songs are available on iTunes now.

Nicolay – The Brightest Star

The Foreign Exchange – Love In Flying Colors

Earlier in the week The Foreign Exchange dropped their fourth album, Love in Flying Colors. The album has a slightly different sound to any of their previous releases but there’s nothing too surprising either. We liked a few songs on here, and others not so much but overall it’s a well produced album and worth a listen. It’s available now on iTunes.

The Foreign Exchange – Better feat. Shana Tucker & Eric Roberson
The Foreign Exchange – Better

Zo! – ManMade

I first heard Zo! way back when he released Passion and Definition – a very chilled out instrumental album. Fast forward about eight years to now and the release of his new album ManMade and Zo!’s growth as an artist over the years becomes very apparent. This is his most accomplished release yet – a polished modern soul album boosted by vocal contributions from the likes of Phonte, Carlitta Durand, Sy Smith, Eric Roberson, Jeanne Jolly, Anthony David and Choklate. Get the album now through The Foreign Exchange Music.

Zo! – Making Time feat. Phonte & Choklate
Zo! – Making Time feat. Phonte & Choklate

Phonte – The Life Of Kings [Video]

Phonte‘s Charity Starts at Home was one of our picks for the best albums of 2011. The Life of Kings is the fourth track from the album to be given some visual treatment. The song features Big K.R.I.T. and Evidence although a special guest drops by to do Ev’s verse in this video.

Slum Village – Dirty Slums

Slum Village‘s mixtape with the king of mixtapes Mick Boogie dropped yesterday. Dirty Slums is almost entirely produced by Young RJ except for a few tracks from Focus… and nVMe. Check the tracklist below to see the extensive list of features and get it for free here.

Slum Village – Special feat. Phonte
[audio:|titles=Slum Village – Special feat. Phonte]

Track listing:
1. Mick Boogie & nVMe Intro *
2. God Sent (f/ Rapper Big Pooh & Vice)
3. Just The Past (f/ Big Sean & Black Milk) *
4. Music (f/ Focus…)
5. Slum Talks About The Evolution
6. Hunger (f/ Vice & Focus…)
7. Church (f/ Focus…)
8. Fresh (f/ Rapper Big Pooh & Vice)
9. Turnin’ Me Off (f/ De La Soul)
10. Slum Talks About Native Tongues
11. Beats and Breaks
12. Special (f/ Phonte)
13. They Say Remix (f/ Rapper Big Pooh & Phife) #
14. The Hard Way (f/ Focus… & Joe Scudda) #
15. Slum Talks About The Legacy
16. They Don’t Know (f/ Vice & J Ivy)
17. Mortal Kombat (f/ Vice & DJ Bonics)
18. Slum Talks About The Future
19. Da Essence (f/ Vice)
20. Reppin’
All Songs Produced by Young RJ
Except # Produced by Focus… and * Produced by nVMe

Brother Ali – The Bite Marked Heart

The Bite Marked Heart, Brother Ali‘s latest offering is a seven track EP and is available for free. Features on the album include Phonte, Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, Nikki Jean and Aby Wolf. Production is handled by regular collaborators Ant and Jake One. Get it here.

Brother Ali – The Bite Marked Heart
[audio:|titles=Brother Ali – The Bite Marked Heart]

2011’s Finest

To be honest, we’re not really fans of the “Top Ten Albums of 2011” type posts that you see everywhere at the moment. Everybody has a different taste in music so who are we to say that certain albums are better than others? A lot of good albums and EP’s came out in 2011 and they were all good for different reasons. Having said that, we’ve come up with a list of releases from this year that we really enjoyed and we want to share it with you so you can check out anything that you may have missed during the year. They are in no particular order and I’m sure we’ve left some other good releases out so feel free to add to the list in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Elzhi – Elmatic

Remaking one of the most classic hip hop albums of all time is a big task but if anyone was up for the challenge it was Elzhi and he definitely didn’t disappoint. I never doubted that he would do it well but I could never have imagined that it would be as good as it is. I already thought of Elzhi as one of the best emcees around but he took it to another level with this, delivering some of the best verses he’s ever delivered. And having a live band in the form of Will Sessions produce the album really made Elmatic something special.


Apollo Brown – Clouds

After a busy 2010 producing the likes of The Left’s Gas Mask and Brown Study (a collaboration with Boog Brown) Apollo Brown started 2011 with something different; a 28 track instrumental album. The overall vibe of Clouds is definitely a laid-back and ambient one but it will still have your head nodding and fingers snapping throughout. This one has been on steady rotation all year.

[audio:|titles=Shoot the Heart]

Fatima & Floating Points – Follow You

With only four tracks, this release was short but sweet. What made this release for me though was the standout song Mind. I’m looking forward to hearing more from both of these artists in 2012.


Benny Tones – Chrysalis

Although it was released last year in New Zealand, the rest of the world wasn’t blessed with this little gem from Benny Tones until this year so I’ve included it on the list. Until Chrysalis was released Benny Tones was best known as the sound engineer for fellow New Zealand band Electric Wire Hustle but this release showed that he is a talented producer in his own right.

[audio:|titles=On My Way feat. Mara TK]

Money Making Jam Boys – The Prestige: Jam Boy Magic

This mixtape was all about lyricism with Black Thought, Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Truck North and STS launching a lyrical assault over a collection of raw beats including some oldies from the likes of Public Enemy and Nice ‘N Smooth. I haven’t heard five emcees this good going this hard for a long time.

[audio:|titles=Contract The World]

Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R.

His 2007 release Desire was a hard act to follow (as was Internal Affairs) but this album definitely lived up to expectations. Some songs stood out more than others but good production combined with Pharoahe’s distinctive rhyming style and some good guest features throughout made this another solid album from Pharoahe Monch.

[audio:|titles=Black Hand Side feat. Styles P & Phonte]

Random Axe – Random Axe

We waited a while for this one but it was worth the wait. It was pretty much what we expected would happen when Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price came together; banging beats and clever wordplay making for a dope hip hop album.

[audio:|titles=Random Call]

iSHE & Hezekiah Project

Singer iSHE teamed up with producer/emcee Hezekiah for this project and the result was a truly soulful and refreshing album. Hezekiah’s hypnotic production was perfect for iSHE’s mellifluous voice and it was clear that the pair had really worked together to produce something special. Hopefully it was the first of many projects from the two.

[audio:|titles=Hold On]

MED – Classic

This album was a mixture of some instantly likable songs and some that took a while to grow on me. And while I didn’t like it quite as much as his 2005 release Push Comes To Shove, an MED album with the bulk of the production handled by Madlib and one track each from Georgia Anne Muldrow, Oh No, The Alchemist and Karriem Riggins, is always going to be worth listening to.

[audio:|titles=Classic Feat. Talib Kweli]

Phonte – Charity Starts At Home

On this first solo offering from Phonte he reminded us that he’s still one of the most talented emcees around. A lot of fans have been wanting him to release more hip hop after the last two R&B influenced albums from The Foreign Exchange and I’m sure that they got what they wanted here. The singing Phonte took a back seat to the rapping Phonte on most songs with him spitting effortlessly over production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis, E. Jones and others.

[audio:|titles=Not Here Anymore feat. Elzhi]

I, Ced – All in My Mind

Producer I Ced, put together an impressive modern soul album in All in My Mind. A good mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals with dope beats and melodies the whole way through.

[audio:|titles=Flyin Under Water]

Miles Bonny – Lumberjack Soul

I think I’ve listened to this album more than any other album that came out this year, probably because it’s perfect for just about any situation. It’s undeniably soul music but there are definitely elements of hip hop and jazz in the chilled yet funky beats which go together perfectly with Miles’ soulful voice.

[audio:|titles=Late Night Suff]

DTMD – Makin’ Dollas

This young duo obviously had a simple plan to just make a good hip hop album here. Dunc proved that you don’t have to do too much to make dope beats and Toine did his part on the mic making for a good album from start to finish with a sound reminiscent of those smooth laid-back hip hop albums of the ’90’s that we love so much.


Oddisee – Rock Creek Park

Once again Oddisee came up with something special here. Rock Creek Park saw Oddisee take a slight detour from his past work, experimenting with live instrumentation to create an exceptionally good instrumental album (except for one track featuring yU) full of jazzy, soulful grooves perfect for listening to on a carefree summer’s day.

[audio:|titles=The Carter Barron]

Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse

This one definitely gets the Super Superb award for the best jazz fusion release of 2011. With a little help from Flying Lotus, bassist Thundercat crafted a charming album that should be listened to, uninterrupted from beginning to end to be fully appreciated.


Median – The Sender

Median was assisted on this one by some tight production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis and Kev Brown. The talented emcee definitely did his part too and came up with a refreshing hip hop album that’s solid from start to finish.

[audio:|titles=Bright Individual]

Black Spade – The Sweetest Revenge

I really like Black Spade and while I didn’t enjoy this album as much as his debut To Serve With Love, I think the main reason for that is that it had less Black Spade on it with Crucial handling most of the production and a host of guests throughout the album. Don’t get me wrong though, it was still a good release and well worth checking out.

[audio:|titles=Humble Yourself feat. Tef Poe and S.K.]

Mecca:83 – Life Sketches Vols. 1&2

This album is simply a good collection of chilled hip hop beats with a bit of an electronic vibe. It plays well from start to finish and has me eager to hear what he’s going to release next.

[audio:|titles=Love Story]

Moka Only & Chief – Crickets

With the amount of music that Moka Only puts out, it’s hard to keep up. This is one that you should definitely check for though. He was at his best on this release over some of the best production I’ve heard from talented Swiss producer Chief.


Georgia Anne Muldrow – Owed To Mama Rickie

All of Georgia’s talents are on display on this album. Great production and song writing along with her unique vocals make this another beautiful project from Ms Muldrow.

[audio:|titles=Ez Duz It]

14KT – A Friendly Game of KT

This is another great instrumental release from one of the best producers around right now. 14KT picked up from where he left off with The Golden Hour and put together another collection of head-nod-inducing beats.


yU – The Earn

yU obviously worked hard on this one and crafted a truly good hip hop album. The production is solid throughout the album and yU’s poignant rhymes come from the heart and offer a perfect alternative to the bullshit coming out of a lot of emcee’s mouths these days.


The Roots – Undun

The Roots never release anything that isn’t good and I doubt they ever will. Every album they release offers something different to the last and is usually just as good. Undun is yet another great album from this legendary band and is a must-hear.

[audio:|titles=Kool On (featuring Greg Porn & Truck North)]

Gas Lab – Teoría Instrumental Vol.2

I had never even heard of Gas Lab until a couple of weeks ago but I’ll definitely be checking for any future releases from this Argintinean musician. Teoría Instrumental Vol.2 is a melting pot of hip hop, jazz and soul with a mix of sampling and live instrumentation making for a stunning instrumental album.

[audio:|titles=Kind of Girl]

So there it is. Hopefully you found something in there that you haven’t heard. Again, feel free to add some extra releases in the comments section and let us know what you think about the list. Let’s hope that 2012 brings us a lot more quality music!

Phonte – The Good Fight

Here’s another 9th Wonder produced joint from Phonte‘s upcoming album Charity Starts at Home. If you didn’t hear the first single which featured Elzhi, you can check it out here. The album drops on September 27.

[audio:|titles=Phonte – The Good Fight]