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Nicolay (Foreign Exchange) - conducted by Dale Coachman  

Donít think itís Hip-HopÖ It's Rap-Pop

June 2006

After his critically acclaimed album with Phonte of Little Brother, Foreign Exchange: Connected which was produced solely via the internet, Nicolay has decided to pick up and move his life and career from the Netherlands to the states. Residing in North Carolina and being in the U.S. less than two months Nicolay has just completed his two week promotional tour which just ended in Washington D.C. two days agoÖ Nicolay is ready to let hip-hop know, heís Here.

MVRemix: When did you first get introduced to hip-hop?

Nicolay: My first introduction to rap was fight for your right to party with the Beastie Boys, but I donít really count that as hip-hop but I liked it because it was rocky we had Yo MTV Raps from ď91Ē on and we had it on everyday from at 6:30pm and on the weekends we had the Fab 5 Freddy Show so whenever I first discovered that I had my little television in my room and Iíd be eatin my food makin sure that was on my television and I saw all the videos and at that time they had the first Cypress Hill joint and thatís when I first got interested in it.

MVRemix: How do you feel about the current state of Hip-hop on a global level because you would be a prime example of its impact globally what does it feel like to see that and you be a part of that?

Nicolay: Well its cool but I talked to a lot of cats that are in that age frame and every cat I talk to is fed up with that radio stuff they are not feelin all of the dirty south stuff right and for me I donít recognize myself in the Franchise Boyz and I donít mean that culturally but I could recognize myself in A Tribe Called Quest even though Iím middle class White European I still can identify with that and lately like the riff between commercial and underground gets bigger and bigger and that worries me because commercial hip-hop right now equals pop and I donít think its really hip-hop as KRS-One defined it or Afrika Bambaata I think its rap pop

MVRemix: Do think that shift is because of money?

Nicolay: Definitely, I would say the last stuff I was really feelin but that was on the verge of this is when it gets corny was Bad Boy and Mase and thatís where they did all the samples and thatís when it became about radio play I think Puff Daddy started Bling but they still did some cool shit but after that Eminem and Dr. Dre those label mergers Interscope/Def jam Shady/AftermathÖlike yesterday we picked up the Busta Rhymes album and dude is on the cover with crazy bling on thatís what Iím supposed to respect the fact that you have a lot of chains on your neck but itís a chain regardless, youíre a prisoner toÖ I donít but I donít dig it its difficult for me.

MVRemix: Who are the producers who inspired you?

Nicolay: Dilla, I mean every other producer I respect but Dilla is the one that made me try it myself like I would listen to A Tribe Called Quest but I was a listener and a spectator but like Premo, Pete Rock or even Organized Confusion DJ Muggs I was a listener but when Dilla came on the scene he made me think I could do my thing in hip-hop because I can be mellow and be smoothed out and do my keyboards but still have the beats bang but he single handedly made me try and make music in hip-hop?

MVRemix: And what do you feel about people that may try to categorize you and say you make beats but there on the mellow side?

Nicolay: Check my catalogue because I ironically started up being very "Premoesque" like Light it Up with Little Brother but I have both sides in me and Iím doin both on a given type of day bit still to me itís one single style. Foreign Exchange came out really mellow but I think Raw life is a banger Answer is a banger but the rest is mellow and a lot of that had to do with Phonte picking the type of beats that he picked to reflect the mind state that he was in and I think itís a really solid album it reflects a lot of my style but not the full picture.

MVRemix: I understand that there is another Foreign Exchange album in the works are you doing another one with Phonte or are you going to mix it up?

Nicolay: Yeah, Foreign Exchange is Phonte and Nicolay however you look at it, itís a group, like me and Jigga would not be Foreign exchange not that he would dream of ever doing that but we are working on another one but Iím not expecting anytime soon because itís a lot of work and cats are going to be expecting that heat.

MVRemix: How does Nicolay construct a beat for example how do you start out with nothing and end up with Raw life?

Nicolay: Well I think Raw life is a good example because it really showcases that I do a lot besides sampling because there is a little sample but everything on top of that is keyboards and I found that sample and then I add drums and then I start to put shit on top of it so its not just the sample.

MVRemix: So your upcoming album Here is coming out September í06, how did you come up with the album title?

Nicolay: My manager actually, I would be all over Europe and she would be in the states and she said you may be there and Iím here and the only difference really is the ďtĒ as well Iím saying goodbye to where I came from and embracing this whole new adventure that Iím getting ready for and a lot of ways this is a transitional album.

MVRemix: That was a huge move coming from the Netherlands to the states, what made you decide to make that move and what has been the biggest adjustment thus far since you have been here?

Nicolay: One thing is definitely I have found at a certain moment in time there is a limit to what you can do besides being the dude behind the internet that everyone talks about, there is a limit to what you can do without meeting people face to face and when I was in Miami in May for the music conference and I was meeting people and ran into Wordsworth and other people I realized that I need to be here to kick my gear into the next level.

MVRemix: You talked about Dilla inspiring where were you and what went through your mind when he passed?

Nicolay: I was home and Eddy from BBE was in LA wrapping up the Shining album and he told me and I was like out of it and it didnít really sink in and I saw the footage of him in the wheelchair and I was even getting angry at the people around him for allowing him to do that but then I found out that was his last shot and he was doing it until he couldnít do it anymore and that is like the most beautiful thing ever that he loved his art so much that he would die for it, he went on stage in a wheelchair being skinny as fuck and rhymed to his beat and had his man carry him of the stage in his wheel chair. So itís definitely. I think it shook up the hip-hop world and didnít go out by violence or bullshit or beef but simple because of something that could happen to anyone at any given time unlike Pac or Biggie, because when Proof got shot people were like what the fuck, like why does he need to get in a situation like that I mean heard Detroit is crazy like that but that is like a foreign concept to me.

MVRemix: Do you feel like artists kind of put that image out there and a lot feel like if they talk about that they have to be about it?

Nicolay: But why do you have to talk about robbing or shooting someone? Why is it perceived as cool when you talk about jackin somebody, I donít think thatís a cool thing but Iím guilty as well because I listen to a lot of that but I donít really question it and its not that Iím listening to Prodigy saying you are way out of line for saying that, itís a double standard that you and I have like were not cool with it but we allow for it to dominate the art form and thatís probably why it happens. I donít know who is going to be the goody two shoes to stand up and say this ainít cool, luckily when I work with people itís never been about violence, guns, drugs or hoes and I hope we can keep that up. Like Little Brother is never about that itís about life. Now donít get me wrong I listen to it but at least were not adding to the pile.

MVRemix: Back to the Here album what artists do you have on the album?

Nicolay: Black Spade on there and he on three cuts and heís crazy, Wiz Khalifa from Pittsburgh heís 18 and he is going to be major level soon but we got him on the underground we got Darien Brockington, Yah Zarah, Phonte makes a guest appearance, Kay from the foundation, and Sy Smith from Ali Shaheed Muhammedís camp.

MVRemix: Are there any artists in the states you want to work with?

Nicolay: There are lot Common I would love to work with be it something obvious and not so obvious and pretty much what were trying to do is let me know Iím here and ready to do the work talking to A&Rís and managers but Iím dyin to get in the studio.

MVRemix: If there was one thing you could change about hip-hop industry what would it be?

Nicolay: I would change the fact that money is involved and it would be barter rules only. It would be cool if everyone gets a monthly income and your rent is good, and itís like you be on my album Iíll be on yours. That would be dope, but money messes up a lot of shit and messes up a lot of good people and I hope I donít fall into that trap. Iím not going to say right now but I donít know how Iíll be if all this money starts to come in.

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"One thing is definitely I have found at a certain moment in time there is a limit to what you can do besides being the dude behind the internet that everyone talks about, there is a limit to what you can do without meeting people face to face..."