Rather than picking apart the latest Roc Marciano album – we’ll get to that eventually, don’t worry – I find myself revisiting his first release, 2001’s mixtape “World Domination” from his crew The UN. It arguably lived up to the name, as two decades later, the Long Island, New York emcee has made his mark on the Hip-Hop industry in various ways. Rather than stomping all over the Pop charts and becoming a household name, Marcy built his brand of rap that has infiltrated the culture and created its own subgenre, expanding on the blueprints laid down by the likes of Raekwon and Kool G Rap. “World Domination” is largely forgotten these days, but is the first example of the star quality we now know well, even if we didn’t know about it at the time.

I discovered this project two decades ago, through a lost technology. In the UK, televisions used to come packaged with something called Teletext (aka Ceefax on the BBC), an information service you could access through the remote control. Think of the Internet, before the Internet was widely accessible. You could view the news, the weather, sports scores, lottery numbers, and type in ‘888’ to activate subtitles, if available. Journalists were working on this service and would contribute to film, videogames (Digitiser, latterly GameCentral), and music publications (Planet Sound), and Thursdays were the Hip-Hop day. If evenings were reserved for printing OHHLA.com lyrics and browsing the reviews here at RapReviews, Thursday mornings were spent slurping on cereal before school, reading the latest news and reviews, submitted from the streets of New York by some apparent ‘connection’ who would share what the hot new records were. Much like the UK’s magazine publication Hip-Hop Connection, it possessed a purist’s approach to the culture, championing the traditional and more authentic material, and it’s where I first heard about some crew called The UN.

Teletext’s music publication Planet Sound

The UN consisted of Roc Marciano and his junior high school friends Dino Brave, Laku and Mike Raw. Unlike the New York crews knocking about in the early 2000s like Pitch Black, FABID and All City, The UN benefited from having rappers with distinctive styles. Roc clearly stands out, much like Blaq Poet did in Screwball, but it never feels like “Roc and his crew”. Instead of benefiting from a DJ Premier single, The UN ended up with a bunch of great production from the other top New York producers: Large Professor, Pete Rock and The Alchemist. Considering Roc was signed to Flipmode Records at the time and was on Busta Rhymes’s album “Anarchy”, he established some good connections.

The UN (Source: https://www.longislandrap.com/2014/08/the-un-time-for-some-action-unreleased.html)

Pete Rock worked with The UN on his excellent “Petestrumentals” project, released in 2001, supplying certified heat on songs such as “Cake”, “Nothin’ Lesser” and “Give It To Y’all”. The first two return here, alongside the wonderfully chaotic piano of “Long Time Coming” which later caught a vinyl release in 2005. These four tracks represent the core of what makes The UN’s legacy so interesting, as they created brilliant singles that would stand out in a DJ’s set. DJ Yoda, The High & Mighty and DJ Babu all released records with a UN/Marciano joint from this mixtape.

“World Domination” is a mixtape in its early digital guise, leaked online in 2001. It contains much of what would appear three years later on the only UN album, 2004’s “UN Or U Out”, but also contains some interesting exclusives that ensure it remains a historical curio. Three of these were produced by Reef, who seems to be overlooked these days as one of the better producers from the early 2000s (most famous for Eminem/Royce Da 5’9”’s “Scary Movies”). “The Don” is suitably lavish, if brief, at just a minute in length, but possesses similar strings to The Alchemist’s “Dominant”, another sixty-second surge of screwface energy. “Just Like A Star (Remix)” is the one miss, as its corny hook just doesn’t fit with The UN, and amongst all the other tough beats and raps, I’m glad they dropped it from “U N or U Out”. I like “It’s Over” in particular, despite having a sample we’ve now heard numerous times since from Freeway and Ghostface Killah.

These snippets are what make this sound like a mixtape rather than an album or compilation, as you’re getting glimpses at emcees, as they showcase their rhyming ability. “Hardcore (Revisited)” is the guys sparring over an old school table-tapper, and the final exclusive is “Pop Tarts” which sits between a teased snippet and full track, fading out after a couple of verses, but does include a mysterious guest who I can’t find anything on. A shame, because he kills it.

“Money” was latterly renamed “Russian Hat Wear”, but otherwise you’re getting most of The UN’s output on this 21-track mixtape. Depending on your personal preference, songs like “Ain’t No Thang” and “Golden Grail” sound even grimier here, possibly because they haven’t been 100% mixed and/or mastered.

In 2008, both The UN and Teletext were confirmed to no longer exist. Projects that left their mark on the dedicated few, but are quickly becoming a footnote in history. I remember 2008 was also when Spotify emerged, and since creating an account, in many ways, it signals a clear cutoff between old-school journalism methods and the rise of blogs and algorithms. The world hasn’t been the same since. “World Domination” is an example of the right music at the wrong time, even if there was probably never a right time for this record to truly flourish. “UN Or U Out” is undoubtedly the superior record, and we’ll also revisit that later in the year, but for now, it’s still worth hunting this mixtape down online. It pissed off The UN twenty years ago when it leaked, but I’m sure Roc won’t mind now. He runs this world, after all.

The U.N. :: World Domination: The Mixtape
8Overall Score