SoulBounce Honors 2008’s Producer of the Year: Nicolay

He's good.

I've been banging the drum for Nicolay since this site's inception, and being able to feature and write about him so thoroughly here has been as much a blessing as listening to his music. In 2008, Nicolay earned the distinction of being the only artist to have two album reviews published here as well as an audio interview. I even had the pleasure of seeing him live when he came to DC with Kay Jackson to perform tracks from Time:Line. Not a single album in his catalogue has skippable material, not even the straight instrumental joints. There are reasons.

As I said in my review of Time:Line, "Nic mostly lulls the listener into a groove with tracks that are stripped-down yet far from simplistic. Not a single instrument or sample feels out of place or wasted. He gives you exactly what you need, no more no less." This still holds true, but it needs to expanded when accounting for the release of Leave It All Behind. You have to imagine that when he's composing his material, a scene is unfolding before him. It could be the sun gently breaking through the clouds after a stormy night, a celebration in the streets or an ascension to Heaven. His repertoire has a little something for everyone, every mood and every possibility. To solely label him a Hip Hop producer would be doing this cat a tremendous disservice.

The mark of true musicianship is the ability to evoke feelings, even when no lyrics or vocals are present. The music of Leave It All Behind is ethereal, like the Northern Lights decorating the sky in a quiet blaze of color. Throughout the course of the album, you feel things like hope, pride, joy and, above all else, love. You feel these things without shame, even as a lover of Hip Hop that grew to respect Nicolay based on his work with rappers. These aren't your basic time-killing drum loops with some keys thrown in for good measure; these moves are calculated and handled with extreme care. There is no questioning the respect he has for music and how that is channeled into his own contributions.

I've said many times in conversations with my familiars that Nicolay can make the simplest melodies sound epic. Even his small records are overwhelmingly big. All of these reasons are why we call him "The Dutch Master."

[Photo: Tom Sapp]

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  • That's what I'm talking about! Thank you so much, Soulbounce, for honoring a producer who is as sincere (no pun intended) and as naturally gifted as Nicolay.

  • Manamomgst

    I remember hearing his name bandied about by some Dutch friends years ago. When I was there in 98, dutch hip-hop always had beats, and I'm sure that were he to thank you for your kind words he would give big ups to the many crews in Holland. Take it from a brother that was there playin basketball, They've ceased to surprise me how talented they are.

  • I guess I have to be the one to say it.
    What's the world coming to when a white guy wins Producer of the Year from a "soul music" site?
    I concede that he is good. But he surely wasn't the best the year had to offer. No way. No how. And surely not the most "soulful" nor the "bounciest" . lol

  • nOvaMatic

    @ The Sponsor: LMAO! You wouldn't have known he was white without seeing the pics! This is tres hilarious! If you got a problem reconciling race with musical style then go criticize some of these popular black stars that have forsaken hiphop and R&B in pursuit of a white audience with all of their Pop-sounding happy-go-lucky electro ditties. FOH with that nonsense!

  • "Although there are moments when Esthero sounds way too much like a white girl that wants to be a black one, it's easy to forgive. Her vocal ability should not be doubted. She has a strong voice. The production on this album is fantastic. When live instruments are used you get a real treat. This is pop with (Neosoul/Electronic) edge. Walk it. You won't get cut. "
    ---courtesy of "the sponsor"
    try again....nicolay produced one of the illest records of this year...hands down...his skin color is irrelevant....just like esthero isn't doing anything, but singing like she does...because if she was 'a while girl trying to hard to sound like a black girl' it sure isn't helping her career....nicolay is one of the most slept on producers period...and if you can give me another producer that deserves these honors i would LOVE to know....but until then...
    i say thanks, but no thanks, for you fail for your tom-foolery of a review of what 'soul' is.

  • Soul UK

    This sure is a LIAB love-fest round these parts!!! .... not that that is a problem in any way.
    Nicolay & Phonte released THE album of the year with help from Musinah, Yahzarah & Darien (all talented in their own right). I just pray that we don't have to wait another 4 years for a follow up.
    As we approach year end I need to say massive thanks to the SB crew .... without you my iPod would be looking pretty sorry for itself.

  • Jason

    Definitely agree!
    Ye made a late push with 808s...
    but Nic has two of the beats of the year (What We Live and Something to Behold)
    ahhh lets bring on City Lights vol. 2 already!!!

  • Dana

    Much conrats Nicolay!! Well deserved!! Nicolay is one of the most underrated producers in the biz, his music is saturated with soul, him being white has nothing to do with how talented he his.....please give props when they are due!!

  • It's easier to get Black people upset when you talk about White people than when you talk about their own... tom foolery indeed. Uncle Tom Foolery.

  • Really, The Sponsor? REALLY? Nicolay is that dude. Black, white, purple, or plaid. The fact that you even chose to go there is more a reflection on you than it is on us. To hell with that Uncle Tom BS.

  • Jade

    Thank you, SOULBOUNCE for featuring my favorite producer of all time! I've been listening to his music for about four years now. He is consistent with his work (See both Foreign Exchange's albums), and his music is just magical. I cannot wait to see what else this guy can do! I'm thoroughly impressed thus far.

  • Nicolay

    Thanks to my man nOva and my other SoulBounce fam members (I see you, Butta!) for supporting artists that most media outlets continue to ignore. It definitely makes a difference!
    You all motivate and encourage us to keep 'em coming. And it won't take another four years until the third one, trust 🙂
    Truly yours,

  • Kristi

    Excellent choice! I've been giving Nicolay much airplay on my L.A. radio show since Connected. LIAB is another classic and made my year end top 10 easy.

  • Dear The Sponsor,
    Uncle Toms sure love to accuse others to join their gang of foolishness. I would say you're more like Uncle Ruckus myself. And I'm still chuckling about how joshua washington pulled your card. I wish we could give awards to the most ignorant comment of the year. Yours would win, hands-down.
    Much congrats, Nicolay. You so deserve it.
    Music and Soul knows no color. I'm sure Esthero knows that very well, huh, The Sponsor?

  • Nicolay is on point, no shade. He really complements the fullest extent of Phonte's abilities and they melt like butter together. Good **** and good review.