If Hieroglyphics’s wildly inconsistent discography proves anything, it proves you can count on them to deliver dope debuts. Peep game: Del The Funkee Homosapien’s I Wish My Brother George Was Here, Souls’ 93′ Till Infinity, Casual’s Fear Itself and their unifying family effort, Third Eye Vision, were the truth. Even the ostracized Extra Prolific’s Like It Should Be possessed redeeming qualities. However, from either being too experimental (Del’s Both Sides Of The Brain, Deltron 3030), missing in action (Casual), or just woefully inept (Soul’s Trilogy) Oaktown’s finest has seen their stock as individual artists, and as a crew, drop drastically.
But don’t stick a fork in Hiero just yet. Why? Because with history on his side, the last Boy Scout of Hieroglyphics, Pep Love, has finally stepped out of the shadows with his rejuvenating debut Ascension. While it’s been a slow grind for Pep, to say that he has made the most of his limited opportunities would be an understatement. Whether, it was shining on Third Eye Vision, Del’s b-side classic “Undisputed Champs” with Q-Tip, or rendezvousing with Encore on “The Situation”, wherever Pep appeared the heat was soon to follow; that trend holds true with Ascension.
For those who yearn for uplifting and positive hip-hop, then Pep is your kind of emcee, as Ascension yearns to inspire. Eschewing material greed, and trivial matters, Pep seeks to reach higher levels of consciousness, and wants you to join him on this self-help trek. On “A New Religion” Pep states “we having church today.” Yet, what separates Pep from other pulpit prophesiers is that he drops knowledge (“The Grime & Grit”, and “US”), without sounding overly preachy. Likewise, Pep’s pleas for responsibility “What You Are” featuring A-Plus, and the ode to young love “T.A.M.I” (which gets originality points subtracted for using the sample Nature flipped) in an otherwise irresponsible genre is utterly refreshing.
Yet, Pep does more then exercise the mind. The laid back production of “Pacific Heights” embraces you like the suns morning rays, as Pep reps the Golden State’s virtues—-”the water is freezing, but the tide brings the cool ocean breeze when it’s hot outside, we got mountainous terrains, valley and hot springs, and beauty that’s boundless.” And he also flashes his lyrical fangs, on “Act. Phenom”, the heavy metal scented “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em” feat. Casual, and the confrontational, Evidence produced “The Fight Club”, where Pep warns—”poetical fisticuffs, I spit to crush the shit you bust, you don’t wanna get in the pit wit us.”
Ascension’s main detriment lays in its occasionally loopy production, as a handful of tracks (“New Religion” & “My Energy”) fail to meet the elevated plane Pep resides on. Similarly, the sinister “Karma (The Snake Charmer)” is undone by some very misplaced reggae chanting.
While Ascension is a notch below the classic debuts delivered by Pep’s more-established teammates, it is a critical building block, as it generates renewed faith in the Hiero collective. As “Act-Phenom” reiterates, Ascension “is a ritual you will enjoy.”
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