***“UN Or U Out” is a reissue of The UN’s 2004 project of the same name updated with two previously unreleased tracks. As such, HipHopDX chose to review the project without a rating.***

The last few years have been either a tiring or exciting time for reissues depending on where you stand. Whether a label touts unreleased songs or nostalgic packaging, there’s obviously been no lack of motivation to sell or buy up an extra copy of some staple and classic albums. The UN’s debut from 2004 is of a slightly different category; it’s a reissued-because-it’s-unknown instead of a because-everyone-loves-it type of release. While it’s easy enough to sell the project as a glimpse of Roc Marciano on Pete Rock and Large Professor production, “Soul Brother #1” only has three tracks on the album and Large Pro just one. Still, the liner notes are proof of just how well the release was conceived and executed and why it now deserves a second chance. Marciano himself helped A&R the project and Alchemist, Kamaal The Abstract (a.k.a. Q-Tip), and Large Professor get consulting credits. The label the album was released on, 456 Entertainment, was an upstart built by Carson Daly (he’s also listed as an Executive Producer here) along with noticeable help from Loud Records VP Jon Rifkind.

For all its rawness, UN Or U Out carries a thought-over street appeal. It’s deliberate across the board and sounds whittled down and perfected. The group first appeared together publicly on a Pete Rock solo release for the only two tracks on his PeteStrumentals release to feature rapping. The group’s only album begins with a short studio skit that leads well enough into the first song to not feel skip-worthy. Roc Marci, the obvious draw to new fans here, is more amped up in places than many will recognize him for given the laid-back gangster prototype of his recent solo efforts. Particularly on “D.O.A.” (not an Auto-tune diss) Marciano maintains his slickness while sounding downright hungry. He’s not whispering or talking out of the side of his mouth. “My palm hold the arm that flip your Hummer / Niggas should feel my hunger / My appetite’s like a African hunter / Kill, murder whatever,” he raps, adding to one of the LP’s best moments. The group’s three other emcees are no less capable though it’s clear why he’s endured. Thanks to a blend of distinct voices, there’s no leader or de facto frontman as Laku, Dino Brave, and Mic Raw help manage a careful and organic chemistry.

Throughout the nearly hour-long debut, the production is the logical allure and the rapping a surprising gem, particularly as most of the group hasn’t made much noise otherwise. Pete Rock’s second track, “Ain’t No Thang,” may be a lower point on the album as a whole, but the beat itself reads like a textbook and welcome DJ Premier tribute with its strings, tight drums, and clanking sample stab. “Golden Grail” stands out as one of Roc Marciano’s best beats on the album or otherwise; a hard break ends with a cymbal crash and keeps a shimmering, Italian gangster sounding sample snapped in place.

Even with five producers the project sounds consistent, it’s tailored and sinister everywhere. The reissue also tacks two unreleased songs onto the end of the tracklist. One of them, called “UN Da House,” first featured with a different name on a Rock Marciano (as his name was then spelled) mixtape the same year and in promotion of this release. It’s a smart and seamless addition here with production from group member Mic Raw flipping a vibey electric piano loop into a pounding anthem. Dino Brave’s first verse is full of a rambling flow and breathless non sequiturs. “Keep my babyface gangster / Aiming at your gangster / Major raw claimster / People, people, peep I level conversation coming past, rapid fire, ” he raps.

UN Or U Out is a legitimate sleeper and the reissue is more than a token. It’s a shame the group’s debut didn’t make a splash in 2004, but it ironically may have been too timeless to be timely. It came several years before a younger flock of artists would start obsessively harking back to the ‘90s, and it sounds naturally cut in that ilk instead of forced into it. Whether you listened 10 years ago or not it’s been long enough. UN Or U Out is as rightfully a modern Hip Hop classic as a handful of other albums released from the same time period, not because it’s recognizable or engrained in the public conscious, just because it’s that good. And now everyone can hear it.

***“UN Or U Out” is a reissue of The UN’s 2004 project of the same name updated with two previously unreleased tracks. As such, HipHopDX chose to review the project without a rating.***