Foreign Exchange Music; Mar. 29
“It’s about keeping your audience in the moment,” said Phonte Coleman, formerly half of the legendary North Carolina hip-hop duo Little Brother and currently the lead singer of soul outfit The Foreign Exchange, in a recent interview. “I’m trying to make it a little easier for my fans to follow the creative path I have in my mind.”
For Phonte fans, one such moment occurred at the end of last month, when he dropped the four-song Pacific Time EP. It’s a groove-stocked cruise across the brand of bedroom-appetite jams he’s fond of and the rangy, up-tempo rap ballads he’s enshrined. To follow Phonte’s creative path, you should relate to Pacific Time as an ad-hoc curveball, especially for folks who’ve been begging for a follow-up to last year’s brief but rap-heavy No News Is Good News LP.
Between regularly recording podcasts on Pandora with Questlove, doing voiceover work, and contributing to Comedy Central’s The New Negroes, one would think Phonte needs some time kick his feet up, but “Can We” plots him as the romantic laborer, pushing the night’s edge into sultry possibilities before getting in an Uber, instigated by guitarist Justin Hawkins. The LA-based singer/songwriter Devin Morrison lends his expertise and voice to “Beverly Hills.” Small and succinct but soothing, “Ego” brings Phonte back home, with Lalah Hathaway on the passenger side, sugaring the harmonies and teasing what could have been a larger song.
The whole project could have been larger. Phonte should probably be more popular. We should all live in California, hang out in Beverly Hills, and live on Pacific Time. We don’t, but at least we get vacation-size doses like this.