Photo by Helen Marie
Arriving at B.B. Kings Sunday, June 6th armed with camera, pen and pad, I was ready with high expectations for The Foreign Exchange. The multi-faceted identity of FE is represented by YahZarah, Phonte and Darien Brockington, together combining an ecclecic recipe of hip-hop, blues, funk, reggae with a complete “feel good” gospel experience.
STORY BY HELEN MARIE
Nicolay’s genius production sets the tone of the show with the witty lyricism of Phonte; smooth serenading of Darien Brockington, topped off with the sultry vocals of Yahzarah St. James. It only takes one live show to see that this union’s very existence, which can only produce the kind of music that is timeless. The Foreign Exchange show was very entertaining, but do not take that description loosely. The experience of being at a Foreign Exchange concert is nothing short of musical genius.
Phonte’s lyrics gave a healthy dose of humor, mixed with his North Carolina southern charm. He kept the crowd engaged and the stage moving. He really showed a very intimate side of himself while performing the love song "My Flame." It is no surprise that this artist, well known for his relation to Little Brother and The Justice League is mastering his craft and ready to share the goodness.
Yahzarah no doubt kept you so aware of the fact that, there are still vocalists who can SANG! She performed her lead single "Why Dontcha Call Me No More" which was a satisfying reflection of her newly released album The Ballad of Purple St. James in stores now! Dressed to the nine as usual and standing tall as she can be in stilettos, she was the queen of the night adding the fierce feminine energy needed to complement the mostly male-dominated stage.
Darian Brockington’s duet with Yahzarah "All of My Days" was refreshing to say the least. His soulful ad-libs, and impromptu running on/off the stage created an even greater amount of entertainment that I personally found quite satisfying. I anticipate his next solo project and love the chemistry he brought to the show when performing "Come Around." There was a brief intermission and then The Foreign Exchange was back at it again! As they performed "Written All over Your Face" the audience was transported in a "time machine” to some of my personal favorite times in R&B history! This was the part in the show where the '70s on up to the '90s soulful influence was celebrated and respected.
What do Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy and Foreign Exchange have in common? One of the highlights of the show occurred when FE hilariously performed "Turn My Swag On" and a remixed version of some Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy hits! Imagine “Swag Surfin” to a full piece band, in three-part harmony and with soulful undertones. There was even a point where they remixed "I Wanna Know" into a reggae version and that is when I was convinced, you need not ever put these artists in a box! Their B.B. King's performance gave more than enough evidence why they earned their Grammy nomination for "Daykeeper" in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category. Good news is, the combination of YahZarah, Darien Brockington and Phonte will have another chance to trump their last effort when their next album comes out this October.