Nicolay: Diggin’ Gone Digital

Remember when A Tribe Called Quest helped usher in Jay Dee to Hip-Hop ears? Though he’s not 9th Wonder, Holland’s Nicolay has gained a lot of fans, respect, and work after last year’s Connected project with Phonte, as Foreign Exchange. Although Little Brother may be skeptical of the internet reaction to certain things in Hip-Hop, it’s brought them Nicolay.

Nicolay and AllHipHop.com discuss his brand new solo album, City Lights, as well as get some group perspective. American Hip-Hop and Heinekens have been brethren for years, it’s time we recognize one of the illest abroad…

AllHipHop.com: What does City Lights mean to you, as an idea or a title?

Nicolay: For me, it represents a feeling put to sound. The idea of what a city sounds like at night… the traffic, the people, the lights, all of that.

AllHipHop.com: Is this at all referencing the Charlie Chaplin film?

Nicolay: No, it’s not. I have heard of that movie, but I don’t think I have ever seen it.

AllHipHop.com: Personally, I’m interested that you have Wale Oyejide giving you a shout-out in there. Your album, using your own style, tells a story [to me anyway]… which reminds me of Walls Don’t Exist.. What albums influenced this project, and what would you say your story is? I know there’s something at play with the seasonal references…

Nicolay: I don’t really recall having any specific influences in mind while doing this album. The story itself is rather simple and has several plots, if you will. The album follows someone’s walk through the city. He starts out in a club, with the main theme playing, and then proceeds to walk and comes across various places and situations. Each track to whatever degree describes a part of that walk. The storyline put against that is of the host, Lunchbox Tha Narcoleptic, as he gets increasingly frustrated with the fact that he doesn’t seem to be able to reach me.

AllHipHop.com: Looking back at Foreign Exchange, what did that opportunity do for your

career? I really liked the remixes on The Chapter’s album… what else came to fruition?

Nicolay: It basically jump-started my career in a big way. What it ultimately did was put my name on the map, and get me in touch with a lot of people I otherwise would have never gotten in touch with. As a result, I have been privileged enough to have worked for and with a lot of people, like Little Brother, Supastition, Sy Smith, Roy Ayers, Last Poets and many others.

AllHipHop.com: Between you and Soul Supreme, producers from northern Europe are reaching some of the top MC’s in America. Culturally, what does this say? How about Technologically? Nowadays, Public Enemy even makes albums through email…

Nicolay: Culturally, maybe it says that the world really is a smaller place than it ever has been. Technologically, it says that everything is possible if you allow yourself to be creative… and keep in mind that the sky really is the limit.

AllHipHop.com: How would you describe your specific sound? Moodwise, what does it take to get you working at your best?

Nicolay: I always like to think that my music sounds like it celebrates life in all it’s glory. Moodwise, if I feel good… and I have been feeling really good lately, I’m going for the kill.

AllHipHop.com: If The Minstrel Show truly is the breakout album of ’05, how do you see that affecting your career?

Nicolay: I don’t necessarily see it affecting my career all that much. It does

mark my first major label production, but then again, it’s a two minute interlude [“Fifth and Fashion”]. Hopefully, it will help put the name out more.

AllHipHop.com: Back to your album, why did you name a song, The Sopranos it certainly sounds/feels out of conjunction with the music we’re used to experiencing on the show…

Nicolay: It was some wordplay on the main sound of the song, a patch of some female singing voices. I just thought it was cute to refer to that sound as “The Sopranos”, and in that it doesn’t really have to do a whole lot with the series, other than borrowing the title.

AllHipHop.com: “All That You Are” was your breakthrough moment. Tell me about the communication you and Phonte had concerning that moment?

Nicolay: I don’t know if I would put “All That You Are” as my breakthrough

moment. I would have to say either “Light It Up”, or the Connected album as a whole. The communication between me and Phonte was very fruitful. Very efficient. We kinda were working on the album on and off, between day-jobs and whatever other obligations that we had going on at that time.

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