I almost jumped out of my shoes when I found this one in a record store! I knew it was out of print. Since I had discovered Acey as a member of Freestyle Fellowship and I already had "All Ball Don't Bounce," I could only imagine obtaining this album. With the cover, and the title, I wanted this cd so bad. I was almost pinning it as my favorite Hiphop album ever before I even bought it. See this is why it's bad to go into albums with specific expectations because we need to keep an open mind at all times...not saying that this album was a disappointment, but my expectations were unfairly high for this 1998 album, a year in which underground/conscious Hiphop was making a comeback.
If you don't know, Aceyalone is an incredibly talented and unique MC. He can pull off gangsta-type bragging (with Freestyle Fellowship) or go conscious, abstract, comedy, or off-the-wall. Acey is probably the most slept-on MC in history. This was his second solo album, and it is approached with a loose concept theme. He covers everything from death, time, balance, the state of Hiphop and mankind, etc. Twenty tracks all in the same focused manner.
It took me a few listens through to regard this as a five-star album, mostly because it's so tough to pull off what he attempts. I still regard most of my favorite songs here in the first half, although the second half contains standouts "The Face," "The Thief in the Night," and "Human Language." The ones I like in the first half are "The Guidelines"(Hiphop guidlines that is-maybe the album's strongest song), "The Balance," "The Energy"(the best short song here, out of quite a few short ones), and "The Walls and Windows." "The Grandfather Clock" is solid as well. "The March" and "The Vision" in the second half are both short, but have nice jazz music in the background. The vocablulary here is impeccable, of the highest quality, like you would never expect from a rapper. Some reviewers have complained about the beats on "ABOHL." I liked it though, although none were upbeat, many of the backgrounds produced by Mumbles were unique and organic. I like how Acey rhymes with no background music at times, and there is a live recording at the end of track 19.
I think the reason this album wasn't the best Hiphop cd ever was because it is a tough task to accomplish throughout an album. Acey gives us straight up poetry in its purest form, and if you love poetry, you need to get this! He tackles heavy issues, while barely even cussing, or bragging, and never mentioning anything about hoes, sex, his sexual triumphs, etc. No cliches, very little ebonics! An album of this sort is almost impossibly unattainable, and Acey trys hard and nearly pulls it off. You have to commend him for that. It's just that even though he experiments with his voice, his flow (flavor basically) it's almost impossible for the album to not come off as dull. Just keep listening to overcome this notion. I guess it does kind of depend on the mood you're in before you listen to this. Like I said, while Acey is positive and telling the real, nothing upbeat is to be found (even though there's a reason for that). This album is serious. Although when Ace is experimenting with his voice and flow, at times it seems as though he's not taking his own subject matter seriously (check track 7 for this). Nonetheless, Aceyalone is a talented, intelligent artist who goes for the unthinkable in this album.
Like I said, my high expectations for this album almost caused me to overlook the beauty that it contains. So, is "A Book of Human Language" the best album ever in Hiphop? -I wouldn't go that far. Does Hiphop need an album like this? -Definitely. An album that expresses Hiphop in it's truest form (poetry), and steers away from superficial subject matter. I'd say, if you like mainstream rap or want to get deeper into Hiphop, this album is a great place to begin (if you can find it)! Don't forget about the vocabulary though, oh my God it's beautiful! Instead of the best Hiphop album ever, it should be regarded as another exceptional, high-caliber disc from a gifted, multi-dimensional artist that has a catalog of high-quality releases. I can't think of any MC from the West Coast that is as smart, talented, versatile, and dedicated to the Hiphop art and culture as Mr. Aceyalone.