This was Maxwell's first hit. He wrote it with Itaal Shur, who was a member of The Groove Collective and went on to write Santana's song "Smooth" with Rob Thomas. In a Songfacts interview, Shur said: "Me and Maxwell were hanging out a lot in a club called Giant Step, which was this acid jazz, funk, soul, really cool club that was happening in New York in the early and mid '90s. It was a combination of DJs and musicians playing together a mix of hip-hop mixed with funk and soul and jazz. It was a great scene and a lot of creative people were hanging out."
Maxwell I met through another guy. He was trying to do his thing, which was kind of a Marvin Gaye soul thing, which is the kind of music I grew up listening to. We had a crew around us that were into this, the same crew that went from The Brand New Heavies with Erykah Badu to D'Angelo - the whole New Soul thing.
With Maxwell, we wrote a few songs in a little teeny room in Brooklyn where I used to live, and one of them was 'Ascension,' which we changed two or three times until we came up with the right bassline. Then when we got in the studio we put down the track, which had Jonathan Maron who was the bass player from The Groove Collective, which is one of the most memorable bass lines. Also, Stuart Matthewman, the guitar player from Sade, played the guitar. I played the keyboards and did the drum programming. Max had the verses for that song and didn't have a chorus. He went through three or four choruses until he finally came up with the one that worked."
Shur told Songfacts: "That song is still played to this day on the radio. When I tell a lot of people who are real funk and soul and R&B fans I did 'Smooth,' they say, 'Yeah, cool.' When I tell them I did 'Ascension,' they practically flip their mind. To certain audiences, that's a real classic soul song. I've worked with a lot of artists, I haven't had a lot of hits, but I write classic songs, I think. I work really well with artists who are musically talented."