Nesian Mystik, a staple of New Zealand's hip-hop and R&B scene for nearly 10 years, explain to Scott Kara why they've decided to pull the pin and go their separate ways.

In the middle of a busy Auckland cafe, Te Awanui Reeder and Junior Rikiau greet each other with a big, hearty best-bros handshake. You know the sort, a clasp of hands, a shoulder to shoulder hug, and big smiles.

They're still mates then, even if Nesian Mystik are calling it quits after more than 10 years together.

"Oh yeah, we're still mates," beams Reeder, the sweet soul singer of the group who's better known as Awa.

Like Nesian Mystik's stauncher contemporaries the Deceptikonz, who have also just disbanded, they don't see it as an end of an era, more like a new beginning where they'll be flying solo.

"There's a plan in place so everyone's got their own goals and what they want to do. So it's kind of like it's part of the ride," says rapper, drummer and ukulele player Rikiau (aka Junz), who is a family man these days with two young children, but still has his boyish charm.

"It seems to fit with where we're all at in our lives at the moment," continues Reeder. "It's better to determine your own exit as opposed to people saying, 'Nah, you're not cool anymore'. So it feels good."

Nesian Mystik - also made up of rappers Feleti Strickson-Pua (Sabre) and Donald McNulty (Oldwun), guitarists David Atai (Dmon); and turntablist Heath Manukau (Notiq) - have always done things on their own terms, especially with their music. They got together traditionally enough in the late 90s, meeting in the music room at Western Springs College to play guitars and sing. It wasn't long before they developed their own sound, merging lippy hip-hop, smooth R&B, catchy pop, a sunny Pacific feel, and an oddball experimentalism to come up with chart-topping singles Nesian Style and It's On from 2002 debut album, Polysaturated, which sold more than 60,000 copies.

"It's just luck that it works out though," jokes Rikiau.

And work out it did because they've had a string of top 10 songs ever since, including current single, Sun Goes Down, a breezy reggae track off their fourth - and last - album 99 A.D. which is out July 26.

That song, and many of the others on the album, were written at Reeder's family home in Tauranga.

"It's not flash. There are paintings on the wall that my sister did with vivid and mattresses on the floor," he offers.

"It's a home away from home," says Rikiau, "and a place where we can just sit and enjoy the sun and focus on the music."

"And my family," continues Reeder, "pretty much own the whole street so it doesn't matter how loud we are. But my poor dad. It was 4am and we'd just finished Sun Goes Down, and we were like 'woohoo', and he comes out, wiping his eyes, and says, 'I love that song boys, play it again. Now, shut up'."

99 A.D. is a good reflection of their legacy as a band in that the sound is as catchy and diverse as their debut, with many twists and surprises along the way. There's also a cheeky sense of humour, which is what you get when you get three Maori fellas, a Tongan, a Cook Islander, and a Samoan who are all great mates in a band together. For example, on Paradise they rap "New York is the city that don't sleep, Nuku'alofa where the Tongans sleep all day."

"For me," says Rikiau "99 A.D. is a fusion of our first album, when we were young and free-willed and guessing a lot of things, and the second album, when we kind of knew what we wanted and what direction we wanted to take our music in."

Don't expect the album to be a bold final statement because they finished recording it before they decided to call it quits.

"We all came back from holiday and just asked, 'Well, should this be our last one?"'

And like any decision they've made over the years - be it what single to release to where to invest their money - they decided by democratic vote. It was unanimous.

"We met at Donnie's house, we voted, it was that simple," says Reeder.

Although he does hint at the fact they were "not cracking it overseas like we want to and New Zealand can only go on for so long" so the time was right to "step aside".

The group, with an average age of 27, had prepared for the end. They were savvy early on, investing the money they made from Polysaturated in a commercial property that they lease and is now freehold.

"We knew that once we left the game we wanted to leave with something. And the music industry has been good to us, but we wanted to make sure that if we did decide to end it, or leave the group, we would leave with something for our families," says Reeder.

"But yeah, now we're asset rich, but cashflow poor eh."

Over the years there has been some minor personal politics - "It's like having six brothers, and obviously they're going to fight," says Rikiau. - but they have never fallen out.

And many things have changed since they started out: in that time they've moved out of home, some of them have had children, and now they have solo opportunities on the go.

Rikiau: "When I was young, music was a way to enjoy a good night out or to get out of here and go travelling. Back then I was really careless, but music is what I've used to get where I am now, and it's made me a better father."

Reeder: "We've basically gone from boys to men. But we still feel like boys though. We're still having fun, nothing seems real in a way, and we manage to get by and that's all we can really ask.".

LOWDOWN
Who: Nesian Mystik
What: The Nesians call it a day
Line-up: Te Awanui "Awa" Reeder (vocals); Feleti "Sabre" Strickson-Pua (raps); Donald "Oldwun" McNulty (raps); Junior "Junz" Rikiau (raps, drums, ukulele); David "Dmon" Atai (guitar, vocals); and Heath "Notiq" Manukau (turntables).
New album: 99 A.D., out July 26
Past albums: Polysaturated (2002); Freshmen (2006); Elevator Musiq (2008)