In 2011, when singer/rapper/songwriter Phonte of The Foreign Exchange (+FE) fame released the critically-acclaimed, Top 10 Rap/Hip Hop Album, Charity Starts at Home,it was an impactful reminder that Phonte was more than just the occasionally comical, often reflective crooner of +FE; much more. As a rapper, Phonte had been the lynchpin of North Carolina’s globally respected four album, six mixtapes run of the now defunct Little Brother trio, whose “Lovin’ It” single from the 9th Wonder produced The Minstrel Show is a bonafide cult classic. Audience members who came to know Phonte at the onset of The Foreign Exchange’s 2004 Connected or over the last 14 years of near annual releases (whether outfit, duo, solo, live or remix) through Phonte and Nicolay’s Foreign Exchange Music label might have thought Phonte’s occasional bars throughout the years were the lighthearted play of a singer, not an extension of a strong Southern hip hop legacy several projects and nearly two decades deep.
Announced almost two years ago, No News Is Good News was in the
incubator for some time, despite Phonte believing this project wouldn’t have the long, two-year creative and production process that birthed CSAH. Helping him cultivate his new baby is a bevy of talent in front of and behind the scenes, including but not limited to: featured artists Eric “Erro” Roberson and Midwest rapper Freddie Gibbs, long-time +FE collaborator Lorenzo “Zo!” Ferguson, Devonne Harris (who also worked on 2016’s Tigallerro duet album with Erro), progressive trumpeter Josef Leimberg of 2016’s Astral Progressions fame, Terrell Wallace (Gilles Peterson, Tall Black Guy), and a host of relative newcomers. With this solid creative team, the project joins veteran projects like Jay-Z’s 4:44 in confidently answering the prevailing pop culture question what does a rapper over age 40 write about and does it follow trends?
Like Jay-Z and producer No-I.D., Phonte partially answers by surrounding several songs with strong R&B and soul elements in-line with the classic hip hop of the ‘90s, if with the contemporary blueprint that made +FE an act that seemingly goes from strength to strength with every album. “Such Is Life” opens with a flutter of soulful lightness in keys and vocals before sliding into a deceptively silky, sophisticated soundscape of romantic elements that belies the harsh realism of every day street life Phonte depicts on the cut’s portraiture. With Eric Roberson on “Find That Love Again,” Phonte returns with his partner on a two-stepping smooth, light funk that personified the best of the mid-tempo grooves of the brilliant Tigallerro. The marital bliss of “Sweet You” throwback goes so far as to be a remixed, hip hop sequel of +FE’s “Sweeter Than You” from the Grammy-nominated Leave It All Behind.
1) To The Rescue
2) So Help Me God
3) Pastor Tigallo
4) Expensive Genes
5) Cry No More
6) Such Is Life
7) Change Of Mind feat. Freddie Gibbs
8) Sweet You
9) Find That Love Again feat. Eric Roberson
10) Euphorium (Back To The Light)