January 16, 2008

Lee Tillman's Interview w/ Nicolay

Nicolay is best known as the producing half of The Foreign Exchange (the other half being Phonte Coleman of Little Brother), whose debut album Connected made a huge impact on the underground hip-hop and soul scene. Since then, he has produced for Little Brother, Supastition, Masta Ace, Strange Fruit Project and Zion I and remixed tracks for Roy Ayers, Bob James, Candy Dulfer and many others. This time around Nicolay has teamed up with Houston emcee Kay to release the concept album Time:Line, which is the loose story of one person's history, taking the listener from birth through the ups and downs of life, death, and even the afterlife. In 2007 Nicolay launched his own label, Nicolay Music and Time:Line will the label's first full length release. Over the course of twelve tracks, Nicolay & Kay present their case for what the future of hip-hop sounds like. I recently got in touch with Nicolay and Kay to get a little more insight into their new project.

: Last time I talked to you, you were about to release "Here" and were about to move to North Carolina. A lot has changed. How's NC treating you?
Nicolay: It's treating me good, I can't complain. At first it seemed like a little bit of a random place for me to end up in but it's making a lot more sense to me now.
L: How so?
N: Well, if you look at it on the surface you'd say that New York or Los Angeles would maybe make more sense but from a standpoint of productivity, I get much more work done being over here in more "quiet" surroundings.
L: I can't lie. When I saw the album cover I thought it was going to be an R&B album and that Kay was a girl. Obviously I was wrong. Kay can you tell us about yourself? How you got started.
Kay: Well, first of all I'm a dude.
L: Yeah I got that part now.
N: Some people thought the same of me, at first. (laughs)
K: I met Nicolay around 2003. I met him on the OKPLayer.com boards. At this time I was on Ali Shaheed's Garden Seeker Imprint. Nicolay blessed me with a couple of tracks and was a good person to get an opinion about music. Very honest.
L: I'm from Texas myself and I went to P. V. [that's Prairie View A & M for those of you that don't know] for a couple years and I know when people think of Houston they think of grills, pouring up, and tippin on 44's. Obviously there's a side of Houston that the mainstream is missing.
K: Wow. PV!
L: Yep yep. So, what's the underground scene in Houston these days.
K: Yeah, Nicolay is gonna help expose the underground of Houston which I'm really grateful for. It's kinda stagnant now but we are gonna fix that.
L: Who else should we know about?
K: The 12" features Mic of the K-otix. The Luv Bugz are featured on the Tight eyes song.
L: How did you guys go into this album? Did it start off being a concept album or did it just become that after you started working on it?
N: We kinda rolled into it. We started working on tracks left and right and then kind of along the way, Kay came up with the context after that, we kinda made everything fit into the "Time:Line."
L: What made you decide to create your own record label?
N: Well, basically my experiences with record labels. (Laughs) Over the years I have kind of come to see that you depend on a record label for things you can do yourself, as well. You cut the middleman out, so to
speak and so it seemed interesting for me to just be able to release my albums through my own channels from now on.
L: How is this album different from putting together "Here?"
N: Its totally different because "Here" was a solo album in the sense that, I put it together and had the overall concept behind it. This time, its me 50% and Kay 50% and so every decision is a decision we made
L: Did you try anything new production-wise?
N: Most definitely, I always try to keep improving.
L: Without revealing any trade secrets can you tell us how you grew as a producer?
N: Well, I think the main thing is that I kinda no longer censor myself when it comes to music where in the past sometimes I'd get ideas and I think "Nah that's not what people know or expect from me." Nowadays, I'm
doing everything and anything that comes up.
L: Is "Time:Line" autobiographical?
K: Vaguely. I speak on things that I've seen at times. However, the "Time:Line" concept really speaks to capturing different moments in time even if they are not my experiences.
L: So, when does the tour start for this album?
N: The experience starts on the 12th. We're still looking into doing shows at this point but we're both looking forward to doing some.
L: You'll have to let me know when you guy'll be in LA.
N: Mos def.
L: The album comes out Feb. 1st?
N: Feb. 1st in Europe, Feb. 12th in the states.
L: Well, I appreciate everybody's time. Good luck with everything.
N: thanks man, our pleasure
K: peace

download the "Time:Line" album sampler now 'here'

Previous Interview On FreeHiphopnow.com The Better Man From the Netherlands

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