Nicolay & Kay Time:Line

Nicolay & Kay Time:Line
Making entire albums through file-trading is an approach that’s obviously worked in the past for Dutch producer Nicolay, and he’s employed it again to successful effect on this latest project. Along with Little Brother’s Phonte, Nicolay crafted Foreign Exchange’s critically acclaimed Connected without ever meeting the MC, and this time around, his collaborator is Houston rapper Kay (of the Foundation). For Time:Line, Kay’s lyrics chart a cautionary life to death cycle over Nicolay’s distinctively lush, era-hopping production, recruiting a slew of talented underground artists to complement his thought-provoking prose. The hypnotic "Tight Eyes,” featuring Madlib’s little brother Oh No and ethereal vocals from the Luv Bugz, perfectly captures a smoky nightclub lounge vibe, while standout "The Lights” warns against getting caught up in materialism. Despite the fact that Time:Line represents the first full-length on his own label, Nicolay proves he’s more than adept at balancing art and commerce, as refreshingly soulful productions like "Gunshot” blend dancehall flavour with psychedelia, while "Blizzard” recalls blaxploitation soundtracks. When it all dovetails into celestial afterlife on "Dance With The Stars,” it’s a journey you’ll want to take again.

You both met on the Okayplayer.com message board, but what made you want to work on an album?
Nicolay: From an MC standpoint, he has a very musical vision. He’s not only worried how his verse sounds or if he’s got the right flow or cadence or whatever, he’s also thinking about the chords and the arrangements and stuff like that. It’s easier, and more appealing, to work with somebody who understands where you’re trying to go as a producer, instead of an MC who is feeling it but not sure why.

How has it been running your own label?
Nicolay: It’s an interesting situation because with a label out of the equation you may make a mistake that a label may make but when you make it yourself, you answer to yourself at the end of the day. And you don’t lose that label cut.

Why did you come up with the life and death cycle concept for the album?
Kay: Just as life evolves, the music also really evolves through analog to digital to just futuristic, and the topics kind of went that way as well.

When people think of Houston hip-hop, artists like UGK, Paul Wall and Slim Thug come to mind. What may not be apparent to casual observers of that city’s scene?
Kay: I recorded with Bun B before; I know Chamillionaire; those are good dudes. It’s kind of weird because people look at rappers that do conscious music and you would think that it would be, like, the spirit of teamwork and brotherhood a lot of the time. But really, to be honest, all those dudes that you named, all those groups in Houston, they just got kind of behind each other and supported each other and we always talk about following their example. Like, if you really think about it, we probably should have been the ones that were doing that but it was, like, we didn’t operate like that. (Nicolay Music / Groove Attack)