Review Summary: Intelligent, educating and fearless. Aceyalone has undoubtedly created a novel, in the form of music.
If you look up the meaning of poetry on dictionary.com, the first definition you get is “The art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful imaginative or elevated thoughts. Poetry can of course, be applied to other things rather than just a piece of paper, one of these things being music. Many people consider certain hip-hop to be poetry, and in many regards, it definitely can be. One album in hip-hop that is so genuinely poetic, that it is in fact poetry embodied is “A Book of Human Language”. With this album, the man behind the curtain, Aceyalone, dismisses all rules and regulations that many MC’s follow. On this album you won’t find any features from other rappers, any song structure that follows a formula, or even any catchy choruses that jump out at you. This album is not only a book of “language” as the title speaks, but also a book on how to break all the rules, and how to break them in the best way possible.
“Forward”, the first track, which also happens to be an instrumental, starts off the album in a foreboding manner. The dark and eerie beat introduces you to the raw and somewhat unpolished feel that the production exemplifies. Mumbles, the man who produced the whole album singlehandedly, does a brilliant job at allowing Aceyalone’s complex and hugely intelligent lyrics stand out over the dredging, almost desperate sounding beats. If the first two tracks aren’t enough to let you know that you’re in for something different, Aceyalone steps out of his rapping character and lets you know himself. “Contents” is an introduction of sorts, introducing the one and only Aceyalone himself, Mumbles, and the various “chapters” that are on the album. These chapters allow Ace to express an idea, or even a lesson, whether it’s about the downfall of humanity on “The Hurt” or comparing a person’s own personal war, with that of a major one in “The March”. The rhymes throughout nearly 69 minute album, can most of the time be so unorthodox, so complicated, and so quick in delivery that it is nearly impossible to take in everything all at once, even after a handful of listens. While it may be easy to call this a weakness, it is in fact the furthest thing from it. The massive and over the top feeling that the album gives off is what makes it so unique. The challenges that you must overcome to fully appreciate the album can be an incredibly rewarding experience, inside of hip-hop and out of it.
Ace is at the top of his game throughout the entire runtime, never slipping or showing any signs of weakness. His performance is absolutely stunning. His ideas come across through his rhymes in a fluid and well thought out strategy. Rapping over the use of odd time signatures, whether it’s 5/4, 6/8 or ¾ is certainly something that rappers won’t dare to dry, but can’t even do without failing miserably. On “The Hold” we see Ace rapping over the 5/4 time signature, with such precision and grace, that it makes other rappers deemed “intelligent” seem second to none. The brief use of filler on the album is used wisely, whether it’s the lounge like vibe received from “The Catch” or the silly haunting one from “The Jabberwocky”. It’s hard to really even call these brief passages filler, as they work so well in the context of the album. The massive 7 minute and 49 second “Human Language”, the last proper track on the album, is a grand triumph. As the already impressive track hits the halfway mark, the song comes to an utter silence for a brief moment. Aceyalone comes back after this silence, except this time without a beat, in which seems to be in front of a crowd. The last 3 minutes consist of him preaching to this crowd, speaking at first, asking non rhetorical questions, before going into another one of his abrasive raps. His acapella performance is nothing short of captivating. Letting listeners know that his beliefs and ideas are just as strong and evoking when not up against a beat.
“The Book of Human Language” shows what an MC can do by not following the said guidelines. It shows that taking risks and trying new things can ultimately be an outstanding achievement. With each listen, something new is heard. The more you listen and the more you spend time with the album, the more you start to understand the genius lyrics, and the more you embrace the cold, organic production. More than 10 years ago this album came out, but it still sounds as fresh as ever, due to its deep poetic and novelistic makeup. Ace says himself “Get up on the facts and relax” and he couldn’t be any truer. Relax, throw on this album and don’t be afraid to learn, because you won’t be able to put this book down.