Nicolay (of Foreign Exchange) is somewhat similar in style to 9th Wonder, in that he tends to favor swirling keyboards and a big sound. On Time:Line, he teams with a Houston rapper named Kay (of the Houston-based group, Example), whose really not that different from Phonte, also of Foreign Exchange (and also of 9th Wonder affiliated Little Brother), so you end up with an album that’s, you guessed it, along the same lines as a Little Brother album. Only this one is a concept album “based on the lifecycle of pre-life, life, and death.” Fortunately, you don’t have to know or understand that to enjoy it.
Kay is well suited for soul rap, being that his lyrics aren’t overpowering and his flow is understated, leaving most of the heavy lifting in each track to Nicolay. A song like “Tight Eyes” could easily be a Jill Scott remix: Romantic and easy hipsway, perfect for a post-club comedown. Attempts at grittier tunes, like “Grand Theft Auto,” tend to fall a bit flat, but there’s enough good stuff here to earn your eartime.