From the opening samples of "Follow" from Masterz of Ascencion, local rap collective Ascended Masterz immediately proves that theirs is no amateur effort. Led by front man Yosidicus Gigus and with MCs Haas Nanotechnician, Smoke the Unwanted Stepchild (who is also releasing a solo disc, Leprosy), Octatongue and Many Pieces, the troupe of pseudonymed rappers kicks things off strong from the outset. A wizened voice implores the listener to "follow him" whose ways are "hard and steep," segueing into a fast-flowing lyrical rampage backed by a funk-heavy bass line and well-placed scratching.
Throughout Masterz of Ascencion, the outfit shows a well-conceived restraint and awareness of their assets. Instead of overloading their music with too many samples, too much scratching and convoluted beats, the Ascended Masterz keep it simple, paring the tracks to just the essential elements.
"Thru the Hemisphere" kicks off with an RZA-esque organ sample that maintains the song's sinister undertones along with some minor-key bass lines. Over that background, the MCs trade seriously delivered rhymes that, if not entirely focused, complement one another's flow with a variety of stylistics.
The Ascended Masterz/Smoke CD release party
Nita's Hideaway in Tempe
Friday, August 11, at 9 p.m.
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That variety is the group's greatest strength, as it allows them to flip through styles similar to artists as disparate as De La Soul and the Wu-Tang Clan without ever sounding derivative. When "KY Jelly" kicks off with a big-band sample matched with well-timed beats, it's obvious that the Ascended Masterz share both an imaginative proclivity and a sense of humor (the chorus goes, "You can't fuck without the KY Jelly . . .").
The group's sense of balance places this record outside the bounds of your average minor-league local release. They know how to match hard lyrics with humor and how to combine serious beats with playfulness, as well as when to use samples and when to let the rhymes and beats stand on their own merits. These are subtleties that it often takes artists years to assimilate; the Ascended Masterz have them wired already. -- Brendan Kelley
Ascended Masterz's Masterz of Ascencion and Smoke's Leprosy are available at www.geocities.com/octatoung/eots.html