Neek The Exotic made his impact at the tail end of rap’s Golden Era. The New Yorker’s fiery performance on the 1992 Main Source single “Fakin’ The Funk” made him one of the genre’s most promising new acts.
After nearly two decades of personal and professional detours, Neek The Exotic reunited with Main Source frontman Large Professor for the recently released “Still On The Hustle” album. Full of boom bap production and the type of witty lyricism typical of New York rap, the collection has a classic feel.
Thus, it’s no wonder Neek felt a special vibe when he was crafting the song “New York.”
“When I was writing that song, I had that feeling how New York used to be, when everybody used to go to Brooklyn-Queens day and things like that,” he says. “I just had that good feeling, how New York used to make me feel when we used to have all those live events right here in our backyard. It just gave me the inspiration to write that. It was one of those feel-good songs and it made me think about places like Grant’s Tomb, that’s not even around or relevant anymore that we used to have fun at.”
Of course, the rap landscape has changed dramatically since Neek’s breakthrough in 1992. Rap’s commercial appeal has grown exponentially and the genre’s epicenter has shifted from New York to the West Coast and then to the South. Now, many would argue, the Midwest and the South are home to the genre’s best artists.
Staying in your Zone
Even tried and true New York rappers have strayed from their traditional sound, something that bothers Neek, especially because many of these songs sound forced, even unnatural.
“They all started off with all the New York producers in the beginning of their careers and they made hits and were successful,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s a wide range of producers in this world and everybody that produces good music ain’t from New York and I understand that, but they’re just reaching too much. Sometimes people go too far out of the box with it. It’s good to be different, but you’ve still go to stay in your zone.”
Neek’s favorite zone gets a shout out on “My Own Lane.” He mentions several artists that inspired him -- Rakim, Kool G Rap and LL Cool J, among others -- and highlights the type of musical ethos that drove him to become a rapper.
“Artists like Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Nas, these are artists that we were around 15 years ago,” he says of his early days with Large Professor. “They were in Queens and they were hanging out with us. Those guys inspired me, especially Nas, because I always grew up on a lyricism type of tip. Nas inspired me with his creativity and the things he used to say. Busta inspired me with his energy. Q-Tip, his creativity was off the charts with the music that they were making [with A Tribe Called Quest]. I never tried to follow their style, but I always wanted to be as nice as them, as clever as them, in my own way and in my own lane.”
For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker.