Nicolay Here

Since splashing in big a few years ago with his breakout Little Brother link-up with lyrical arsonist Phonte for The Foreign Exchange project, Dutch producer extraordinaire Nicolay has gone a long way in building himself up as more than just a 9th Wonder fill-in for another LB side project. For his latest expo (ambiguously entitled Here), the multi-instrumentalist beatsmith calls on a cast of vocally adept virtual unknowns to help top off his soul-drenched creations. In hip-hop mode, Nicolay balances a healthy serving of meaty backbeats with a lush and layered mixture of sparkling piano touches and reflective vocal samples, constructing tracks that groove while standing up the toughness of some serious mic work by MCs Black Spade and Wiz Khalifa. When left to his own devices on the album’s two instrumental cuts, Nicolay continues to impress, getting emotive on keys under a set of urgent lyrical phrases. Official Justus League crooner Darien Brockington whets the appetite for an upcoming solo venture on set opener "I Love The Way You Love,” while a hidden 30-second musical nugget at the album’s end gives the impression that this is only the beginning of Nic’s foreign invasion. (BBE)