Artist: The U.N.Title: U.N. Or U OutRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
The Wu-Tang Clan once asked the question, “Can it be that it was all so simple then?” Turning on the radio or flipping on MTV these days conjures up this intriguing question in the minds of hip-hop purists, with the majority of rap records favoring style over a once prominent amount of substance. Long Island representatives The UN are ready to take hip-hop back to when things were much simpler, using their debut album U.N. Or U Out to reinstate a once governing policy for the state of rap music as they shun flashy gimmicks for rugged street music. Sticking to straightforward MC’ing over consistently banging production makes this album a definite success for The UN, and despite its clearly underground appeal, should make some noise throughout the industry.
Made up of rappers Rock Marciano (a once but brief member of the Flipmode Squad), Laku, Mike Raw, and Dino Brave, The UN enlist the beat-making talents of veterans Pete Rock and Large Professor alongside newcomers such as Mahogany in constructing hardcore sounds in the vein of mid-90’s New York City rap. “Mind Blowin’” is a straight spit-fest, with a bare-bones percussion arrangement inspiring lyrical brainstorming from all involved. The eerie violins of the instrumental induce the midnight darkness felt on “Golden Grail”, while “D.O.A. (Death On Arrival)” brings back memories of early RZA with its scattered vocal samples and snare kicks. “Ain’t No Thing” will require a neck brace post-listening, with its pounding orchestral composition.
For some, the steady tough-guy talk may grow tiresome as U.N. Or U Out rolls along, but it seems as if these four UN delegates really don’t care what people think. One of the strengths of this album is the hunger that oozes through the speakers, never letting up as each MC delivers his rhymes with enough energy to hold ears at attention. On the aforementioned “Mind Blowin’”, Mike Raw opens his verse with, “Hit ‘em up, back in the days down to stick ‘em up/ I done put the tool down, Lord don’t let me pick it up.” It’s this narrative honesty that allows the group’s charisma to shine above its limited subject matter, as U.N. Or U Out entertains from beginning to end.
If getting tipsy or going “skeet, skeet” in a club has filled you more with anger than joy, then investing in this UN album is a must-do. U.N. Or U Out is a much-needed return to hip-hop’s golden age, before The Neptunes and Timbaland replaced names like DJ Premier and Da Beatminerz as the go-to producers, and quality albums were made rather than just hot singles. The UN showed much promise when they appeared on Pete Rock’s Petestrumentals, and U.N. Or U Out exceeds expectations in bringing that rough, rugged, and raw music that has been absent for far too long.