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Netherlands-born, North Carolina-based producer Nicolay first emerged via the Foreign Exchange, a collaborative project with Phonte Coleman of Little Brother. The duo's Connected LP established Nicolay's formula for making hip-hop with the plush, spaced-out aura of contemporary jazz. On Nicolay's follow-up album Here, he adds a solid bass drum to his soulful beats, yielding songs that sound harder and more focused. When MC Black Spade raps "I'll take you there" on "I Am the Man," he could be speaking for his host. When singer Darien Brockington lilts "I Love the Way You Love" over organs and a 2/4 drum track, the song seemingly leans against his voice. Unfortunately, Here doesn't feature Phonte, and his insightful rhymes are sorely missed. The album is just an assortment of talented guests without a consistent voice to complement Nicolay's productions. Also, the album lacks the element of surprise that made Connected so nice. 4 stars

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