Hip Hop loves second chances. Like Nas and Akinyele, Queens, New Yorker Neek The Exotic was blessed to appear in a featured role on a Main Source classic single. However, in the years following "Fakin' The Funk," Large Professor's longtime homie proved that he was faking nothing and dealt with incarcerations and street drama in lieu of running with the microphone handed to him. After 2008's Exotics Raw, Neek now shares the billing with one of Rap's most celebrated emcee/producers for Still On The Hustle, a second chance opportunity for a veteran vocalist.
"Guess Who" tells the story of the friendship between Extra P and Neek. With a soulful vocal sample, the men speak about their commitment to Hip Hop and each other. Making rare appearances since his 2008 album, the work is a welcomed return for Large Pro. Between production and rapping, the SP-1200 master is not as active on the album as the billing suggests; he's only on half of the album. However, the limited presence is still welcomed. As has been the case for 20 years, Large Pro has limited subjects: Hip Hop, beats, and women. Nobody's complaining though, as one of the most definitive New York emcee voices sets the stage for Neek to rap about greater specifics with street imagery. As has been said about Group Home's relationship with DJ Premier, Neek's bars aren't as strong as many heard alongside Paul Sea Productions. There are a lot of awkward flows that show a rusty emcee, still with a lot of perspective to share. Take the Marco Polo-produced "Hip-Hop," where Neek sweeps to talk about the contrast of his street career with an undying love for the culture, dating back to pause tapes made by his rhyme partner. Neek The Exotic is a capable emcee alone, but the master at the helm helps his cause greatly.
Coupled with the mosaic samples coming from Large Professor's beat machines, the chemistry on this album is strong. Rather than simple boom-bap, calling back to the 1992 genesis of the union, the pair comes with a slower, more introspective sound, heard on the music of borough brothers such as Cormega or Q-Tip's solo work. When he's not at the boards, Large Professor leaves his duties in good hands with work from D.I.T.C.'s Lord Finesse and the aforementioned Marco Polo. As the former lays out an O.C. Bon Appetit-era composition, Marco matches LP's vibe with knocking Jazz tracks that allow Neek to deliver his bars with power.
Queens Hip Hop has largely been built upon substance before style. While there are definite exceptions, rappers like 50 Cent, Havoc and Capone-N-Noreaga have built careers off of powerful revelations in their raps, even if the technique sometimes dipped. Neek The Exotic fits this lineage, as a street enforcer who's stayed close to the culture, regardless of which side of the law he was on. Luckily, Neek's second album has a shadow in Large Professor, who props the work up with supreme production, and dazzling deliveries that make this a strong effort.