SoulBounce Review: Zo! & Tall Black Guy Give Us More ‘Abstractions’ With A Deluxe Edition Featuring New Songs With Phonte, Debórah Bond & More

By D-Money | SoulBounce
March 10, 2023

In the nearly two years since Zo! and Tall Black Guy’s collaborative effort Abstractions was released, it has never left our rotation. The set was chock-full of jams from front to back and included features from some of our faves. Most of all, though, it was a solid collaborative effort from two of the best producers in the game right now. Who could ask for anything more? Well, you don’t have to because the duo is giving it to you anyway with a surprise deluxe edition of the album.
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‘SkyBreak’ Review by (4.5/5)

Review by Andy Kellman

SkyBreak followed ManMade by almost exactly three years. During the intervening period, Lorenzo Ferguson assisted in the making of two Foreign Exchange albums, served as that group’s musical director, and contributed to releases from the 1978ers, Talib Kweli, Sy Smith, and fellow Detroit nativesJamall Bufford and Collective Peace. As on ManMade and the preceding SunStorm, the multi-instrumentalist works tightly with production and songwriting partner Phonte, who is among nine featured vocalists. Most of them are familiar to FE-related sessions and are also credited as composers, fitting into the album’s scheme — uplifted views of flings, falling in, out, and back in love — without lending it a muddled mixtape quality. Likewise, Ferguson and company continue to evangelize, with a modern perspective, late-’70s to early-’80s sophisticated funk and soul. Even with its pair of Phonte rap verses, including a slightly lewd smash-and-grab job pulled on “I Don’t Mind,” the album has much more in common with Rufus & Chaka‘s Masterjam or an Earth, Wind & Fire satellite project than it does with any given post-1983 commercial R&B recording. A couple voices previously unheard on a Zo!release arrive consecutively during the second, superior half. Undersung veteran Joi Gilliam lures on the frisky “Just Whatcha Like,” trailed by “Lifelines,” on which U.K. up-and-comer Dornik sings of romantic salvation with a DeBarge-like hushed sweetness. Another detail that separates this from previous Zo! output is the bounty of burbling synthesizers. As prominent as the thick bass guitar lines, they reinforce several songs. They’re deployed to most pleasurable effect on the Muhsinah-led “Packing for Chicago,” where Ferguson‘s keyboard makes Stevie Wonder-type low-end streaks that swim through steady percussion reminiscent of Herbie Hancock‘s similarly expectant “Come Running to Me.” Filled out with an instrumental dedication to Ferguson‘s father, who passed away during the album’s creation, SkyBreak is another step forward. Ferguson doesn’t allow his expanding knowledge and ability to overshadow his personal touch.

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‘ManMade’ Album Review in The COCO Magazine

ManMade by Zo!

Source: The COCO Magazine
Author: Ann Marie Collymore

The Foreign Exchange camp holds a great reputation for releasing nothing but goodness. They steady deliver quality mood music, party music, vibe out music – you name it, they have it. The latest project to come out from the FE camp is the stellar album ManMade by producer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist Zo!

From the first track all the way through to the last track, ManMade is a roller-coaster ride of trip beats (which is short for trip hop beats), house, soul, and hip hop – all produced and written by Zo! Not only is the album written and produced by Zo!, but he also manages to outdo himself and play pretty much all the instruments as well. The result is an album that not only holds your attention from the start, but also has you leaving the entire CD on repeat.

The skip along, feel good vibe of ‘This Train’ featuring Sy Smith as well as the simplicity and sing-a-long catchiness of ‘Count To Five’ featuring Gwen Bunn will turn the grouchiest of persons into a gold dust sprinkling fairy. All right, it’s not that altering, but it sure does come close. Chokolate and Phonte’s ‘Making Time’ is very sexy. Particularly, with Choklate cooing:

“flow it up just keep it nice and steady/yeah/I miss your kisses and for you I’m ready/Yeah/you don’t have to make the time it’s already here/so when you gonna come and get it? “

The delivery in her come-hither nuances, flow sweetly over the hard drumbeat. ‘We Are On The Move’ featuring Eric Roberson will bring the house fever out of you, even if you’re not a house head. Step, spin, soul clap and repeat. You dig?

Zo!’s project ends on the usual quiet storm accent, with Sy Smith laying it down slowly and provocatively  on ‘Body Rock’.

For a fair evaluation of the album, every track deserves a full out mention. Artistic growth is always anticipated, and Zo!’s growth surely is reflected on ManMade. Each song is touched with brilliance from each artist, while Zo!’s vision, ear, and production show no signs of letting up – giving you exactly what you need. The album is deservingly riding the Billboard charts and is already a favorite for many. Feel the groove.


‘ManMade’ in YRB Magazine

Source: YRB Magazine
Author: Ingrid Ellis

ManMade is an apt title for Zo!’s recently released album, which has already climbed to No.2 on the Itunes chart.

Nu-Soul Tuesday celebrated his new album, ManMade, with a listening party/meet & greet event on the day of its release. Hosted by Jodine Dorce, Zo! opened up to his long-time friend about the project, ForeignExchange and music.

While hanging out with fans at Frank’s Lounge in Brooklyn for his album release party, the laid back artist admitted that he played all of the instruments himself.

“In order to keep costs low,” he chuckled to host Jodine Dorce.

All modesty aside, however, Zo! (aka Lorenzo Ferguson) plays piano expertly and says that he taught himself bass, guitar and drums.  The sound of real instruments (and voices!) prevails on this album, yet is complexly woven with the synthesizer, creating an effect that takes us back to the days of 80’s funk and R&B.

Known to many from his work with the group, The Foreign Exchange, Zo!, a Detroit native, commented that he has great respect for legends such as producer and bassist Leon Sylvers III.  The influence on his work is evident.

It’s “grown-folks” music (you know you’re grown when you immediately recognize a Rick James riff), but speaks through the generations – simultaneously vintage and modern.  Post-generational.  Most tunes on the album are driven by a funky bass line, but textured through the melodies sung by talented guest artists.

Representative are the first and last tracks featuring the sweet voice of Sy Smith who starts the album off with a fast mover – The Train, but ends with the vibey “Body Rock.”  Anthony David’s baritone is featured on “Show Me The Way” and gets you to feelin’ all Barry White-ish (or maybe that’s just me…).

Fans of The Foreign Exchange will delight in hearing contributions from the varied likes of veterans like Choklate, new comers, 1-O.A.K and Gwen Bunn, Eric Robertson, Jeanne Jolly, Carlitta Durand, and, of course, FE’s Phonte.

Zo! Says that he is happier with this album than the others because it “represented what I wanted it to represent.”  He noted that he wanted to create a dance album and, indeed, he does.

The album is mostly upbeat, but at the same time varied in its use of tempo.  Fans who thought the producer/artist had reached a pinnacle with his last album, SunStorm, should be relieved that the beat goes on.  “After Sunstorm people was lookin’ at me like what you gon’ do now,” jokes Zo!, a hint of cockiness in his voice.

“I took that as a challenege.”


One Track Mind: Zo!, ManMade via The Washington City Paper

Source: Washington City Paper
Author: Marcus Moore

One Track Mind: Zo!, ManMade

Standout Track: No. 11, “Body Rock,” an eight-minute slow burner that sounds borrowed from Prince’s sex-ballad songbook. Over light piano and drum taps, Sy Smith gently coos, “I don’t need another love, you make my body rock.” It’s the final track on Lorenzo “Zo!” Ferguson’s new album, ManMade, which finds the Silver Spring composer experimenting with dance music, varied time signatures, and traditional soul.

Musical Motivation: Zo! wanted to create an ode to ’90s R&B. He chose Sy Smith for the vocals after conferring with collaborator Phonte Coleman, frontman of the North Carolina-based Foreign Exchange, who wrote the lyrics. ManMade is Zo!’s first album as a full-time musician; the Detroit native made his last one, the 2010 LP SunStorm, while teaching music at Rock Creek Academy in Van Ness. “I had more time to give to this album,” Zo! says. “That gave me more time to push the creative envelope.”

On the Grind: “Body Rock” is an “adult-time joint,” says Zo! “When you wanna have your quiet time with your significant other, you don’t wanna hip-hop ’em to death, you wanna slow grind,” he says. “That’s what we’re giving them with this record.”


‘ManMade’ Album Review via

Author: Andy Kellman

One sign of a great album is when its last track is as stimulating as its first track. “Body Rock” ends Lorenzo Ferguson‘s second album for the Foreign Exchange label with eight minutes of heavenly, faultlessly crafted quiet storm. Thirty-eight minutes earlier, at the beginning, there’s the deeply contrasting “The Train,” a blissful machine-soul jam where Ferguson displays mastery of the synthetic and the organic. Those highlights feature two of Sy Smith‘s sweetest and best vocal performances, and they surround a high quantity of strong songs. Make that stronger songs: while ManMade has much in common with 2010’s fine SunStorm, this particular set of relaxed and mature R&B is a little more complex and nuanced, yet the instant appeal remains. As with Ferguson‘s previous album, the moods here are predominantly romantic and relentlessly positive, even when it briefly confronts the pressures expressed by Phonte in “Out in the World.” ManMade features some of the same collaborators, including not just Smith and frequent background and foreground presence Phonte, but also Carlitta Durand and Eric Roberson, the latter of whom leads the sophisticated twilight funk of “We Are on the Move.” Whether the leads are supplied by labelmate Jeanne Jolly, the higher profile Anthony David, up-and-comers Gwen Bunn and 1-O.A.K., or underexposed veterans like Choklate and Carmen Rodgers, the album maintains an easy elegance and never derails. For all the help he receives, this is Ferguson‘s show. On each track, he’s credited with either “all instruments” or “all other instruments,” which means that he played everything but some flute, horns, and percussion. ManMade is a complete work — his best creation yet.

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Review of The Foreign Exchange show in Brooklyn, NY (6/4/12)

Beats, Bartering and Brooklyn: The Foreign Exchange Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg

By: Matthew Allen


Phonte “Phontigallo” Coleman and Matthijs “Nicolay” Rook named themselves The Foreign Exchange because they recorded their 2004 debut album, Connected, without ever having met in flesh. This transcontinental changing of hands – forged from their Okayplayer encounters – makes their moniker simple to understand, but there’s much more to the name than that. The exchange of alien musical ideals between the two – Coleman’s North Carolina hip-hop roots as one third of Little Brother, Nicolay’s background as a Dutch electronic music producer – have come to reconcile a form of music that is not easily explained. When they received their first Grammy nomination in 2008 for the song “Daykeeper,” they were classified as Urban/Alternative; a curiously damning and contradictory title, as it combines two terms that are limiting and vague, respectively. Appropriate that such an indescribable band chose Brooklyn as a performance stop. The New York City borough is a terminal where countless cultures, sounds and spirits collide and implode. If their performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg offered any resolution, The Foreign Exchange (+FE) has to be described as a jazz band. Not jazz in its predictable preconceptions, but rather as an abstract ideal, or a means to an end. The end is to create physical and intellectual rejuvenation for its listeners; the means is to use every melodic and lyrical resource that their mental disc-changer can muster.

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Grown Folks Music Reviews Zo! + Sy Smith in New York City

Sy Smith & Zo!: One of Them Nights

By Al-Lateef Farmer

Thursday nights are meant for many things: payday, preparation for the weekend and Happy Hour among them, but for “Rock, Paper, Soul” and Drom, it is cause for getting down. Fortunately for those that dodged raindrops on Avenue A this particular Thursday, Sy Smith and Zo! commanded the bandstand with a singular goal…set the party off!

Taking the stage in front of their band, the duo seamlessly weaved between their respective solo albums and collaborations through the years, kicking off with a rendition of “Nights Over Egypt” that made any unsuspecting concertgoer aware of the business at hand. Showcasing a rare mix of musical marksmanship, impeccable vocals, interactivity and a unique feel for the audience, Sy and Zo! I want to be clear, they didn’t simply stand in front of a drummer and guitar players all night, their band consisted of the requisite drums and bass, but also included a flute and sax as they fronted on dual keyboards.

Click Here to Read the Entire Article’s Coverage of the Axel F. One Year Anniversary Party

Source: • Author: Marcus K. Dowling

For many urban blacks, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States signified the epitome of crossover achievement. The infusion of culturally inclusive African-American style into mainstream popular culture feels like the harbinger of a brand new time. You remember this era’s precedent, a moment best defined by German producer Harold Faltermeyer’s handling of a minor key synth progression making Eddie Murphy into an iconic film legend. Add in some body rolling and questionable fashion choices from 30 years ago? The spotlights of the past meet the floodlights of the present here. Axel F is not just a showcase of music, but possibly one of America’s most ultimate showcases of the universal crossover potential of African-American excellence.

Ex-Washington Post journalist and now full-time deejay Rhome “DJ Stylus” Anderson refers to the party as “a mix of ‘lazer boogie,’ ‘Jheri curl funk’ and ‘champagne soul.’” It’s a celebration of the storm of post-disco crossover R & B, Detroit techno and the Minneapolis sound’s early 80s takeover. Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May’s down tempo electro funk was a staple of so many pop radio crossover hits of the era. Furthermore, you can’t tell the story of the 80s without Teena Marie, Prince, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam or Terry Lewis. Stylus continues, “I was hanging out one day with (fellow Axel F resident deejays) Jahsonic and Adrian Loving, and we realized that there were so many classic R & B jams that nobody really played out anymore. We wanted to change that, and for the past year I think we have.”

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Videos & Pics from 1st Hit Listening Lounge Featuring Zo! (in Atlanta)

Zo! and Jodine During the Meet & Greet

By: Kimberly Kennedy Charles

Zo! was in the building at Moods Music on August 7 for the Music Addikts and Harmony In Life’s 1st Hit Listening Lounge. Host Jodine Dorce of Jodine’s Corner and Zo! chop it up in an intimate, “Inside the Actors Studio” fashion about his background and passion before music, how some of his hottest collaboration tracks came to fruition, who his musical inspirations are and even why he gives away some of his music for free! It was a great time as in-store fans and fans via Twitter alike got the chance to interact and vibe with Zo!