Monday, January 28, 2008

Interview with Nicolay...

That's correct, your boy talked to Dutch hip-hop producer and record label owner Nicolay for an interview for the Inside Beat, Rutgers University's weekly entertainment magazine... Check it out here in a slightly edited form and this Thursday in print:

Kay & Nicolay courtesy of Nicolay Music Group

As the world goes global in the 21st century, gifted musician and producer Nicolay overlooks cultural borders and pushes sonic boundaries with his astute blend of live instrumentation and soul-hop drum patterns. Hailing from the Netherlands, this Dutch wunderkind is one half of the critically-acclaimed group Foreign Exchange with Phonte of Little Brother and his self-produced debut Here. [dom corleone] kicked it recently with Nicolay to discuss the overseas hip-hop environment, his upcoming work, his newly-founded record label and his diverse wish list for future collaborations.

[dom corleone]: What was it like growing up in the Netherlands?

Nicolay: Well I come from a real loving household and I think as far as growing up in the Netherlands, I feel like I have always been very international. I definitely have a European perspective of things when it comes to political things but, in the Netherlands, people look to the U.S. when it comes to most movies and music.

dc: And how did you originally get into hip-hop?

N: It was a series of events, kind of. It was either the first Beastie Boys record or the first De La [Soul]. And after that, I started watching Yo! MTV Raps pretty much everyday in the early nineties. It must have been ’92, I started getting into it at the most perfect moment.

dc: Got to love the mid-90s hip-hop scene. Since you live in the States now, can you compare the hip-hop scene in Europe to that of America?

N: They are totally different yet somehow still the same. For instance, on a major level you’ll pretty much find the same artists in Europe outside of the European big sellers. A lot of Kanye, a lot of 50 Cent; Even a little bit of [Lil’] Wayne here and there. But there’s a thriving underground scene too, where there’s a love for the art form. So a lot of American artists in the so-called “underground” have a reasonable amount of success in Europe.

dc: Unlike a lot of hip-hop producers, you come from a musical background and can play multiple instruments. How has this helped your beats?

N: I think it mainly helps my beats to not be just beats. For me starting out, hip-hop was just the perfect platform because I could do what I wanted to do without being in the concept of a group or having to share decisions. So, hip-hop was a natural outlet for me to created tracks that are a complete musical story even without the lyrics. I have always used instruments to be able to take the track somewhere else rather than be defined and limited by the sample.

dc: Well when you do let an MC get on a song, I notice you have a special talent for choosing original, fresh lyricists like Phonte, Black Spade, and Wiz Khalifa. Who else do you want to work with?

N: I have a wish list that’s very eclectic. It ranges from people like Imogen Heap to someone like Common, or Daft Punk to Zero 7. It almost varies daily.

dc: Now, there are rumors floating around about a Foreign Exchange reunion album with Phonte of Little Brother for next year, is that true?

N: Yes, we are hoping to release the second [Foreign Exchange] album by the spring. It’s called Leaving It All Behind and really, it’s really different from what’s out there including Connected. We felt like it didn’t make sense to try and repeat Connected so we really set to branch out.

dc: So tell me a little about the new album with Texas rapper Kay of the Federation. How did you meet him and what is the disc’s sound?

N: I met him on the Okayplayer online message boards way back in the same circle with Phonte and the first thing we did together was a track called “My Story” which came out on HERE. For the bonus disc for the Japanese market, I reached out to Kay to see about recording some extra tracks. We recorded two and kept it going, we started thinking about a concept. The concept of “time” is something that has always fascinated him as well as me. All the tracks deal with a specific timeframe or phase in someone’s life.

dc: That’s a pretty deep concept, I’m looking forward to hearing the finished product. How do you balance your artistic interests with your responsibility to run a profitable business in your new venture Nicolay Music Group?

N: I switch between the two without effort. Working in the music industry really is a learning curve and you learn along the way. Really, the reality is that your innocence and naivete get taken from you fast and you learn by toughening up.

dc: What else do fans get to expect from the new label and yourself in 2008?

N: I plan to release a lot of great projects and music that gives people more bang for their buck than the shit they’re hearing on the radio, music with a lot of dedication and attention to the craft.

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