Outerspace rolls out from the warm embrace of the Philly hip-hop underground and the heads of the Jedi Mind Tricks family. Blood and Ashes, their debut, is a success but at times a baffling spectacle. A calculating production team sews together tumbling, catchy thug beats and elegant looped string samples fit for a lavishly-decorated ballroom. But the puzzling part is that all of the royal-sounding chopped strings and pearly brass score is matched against lurid gangland verse. Overtly cocky emcees Planetary and Crypt the Warchild exercise powerful wordplay, be it brisk and murderous, a la neighbors Beanie Siegel or Freeway. The skills here are notable, but sometimes all the tough talk is just as tough to take.
Outerspace’s underground standing has been forged by way of guest spots on the Jedi Mind Tricks stuff as well as their own twelve-inches. Founding members Crypt and Planetary are by no means fresh faces to the game. Their collaboration with DJ Sat-One followed their 1999 single on Superegular, We Lyve, and they soon found themselves recording with Jazzy Jeff’s production company, A Touch of Jazz. The names associated with Blood and Ashes are as royal as the backdrop; the guest list reads like a rather fruitful underground dinner party. Immortal Technique makes an-always noteworthy appearance on the closer, “Angels of Death,” and the album also features Vinne Paz of JMT, Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Esoteric, 7L, and a bloodthirsty visit from Celph Titled.
Celph keeps within the Outerspace realm on “The Revolution,” though, pushing their family vibe but spiking it with violent newscast imagery. Planetary uses said imagery, threatening both humorously and seriously on “Cutthroats,” a volume of the record’s boast theme over Sat-One’s stylish wind chimes and classical-guitar-laced beat. “To harm me exact, you’re gonna need an army attack/ I wash away you soldiers like the laundry in fact,” he professes before Sat scratches quickly and competently in between verses.
“Top Shelf” is more of the same bragging fare, and they get a bit more violent, too. The idea of disrespecting the Outerspace clique is unappealing; I don’t want to be “found in a ditch, with your son and your bitch.” Sadat X blazes through this one, matching the vigorous Outerspace banter with some wit of his own against some ultra-Parliamentary beats, a jubilant chorus of brass and woodwinds as if announcing the Queen and her loyal attendees. The loyalty within the Outerspace family is just as evident all throughout Blood and Ashes, and it better be. Or else.