Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

With the release of his second album, A Book of Human Language, former Freestyle Fellow Aceyalone has done the lyrical equivalent of giving away all of his worldly possessions and moving to a Buddhist monastery. Whereas a significant portion of his first effort, All Balls Don’t Bounce, was dedicated to the ancient art of boasting, Acey now seldom finds time to claim that he is an excellent MC. He strategically places “The Guidelines,” a merciless freestyle sounding more like something from All Balls, at the album’s opening, as if only to remind us of his talents. Apart from that track, Aceyalone abandons all other trappings of modern materialistic hiphop in favor of less ostentatious pursuits. Partygoers listening to Language will have to be content with “The Energy,” a cut wherein frenetic words and music perfectly embody the title without ever resorting to a catchy hook. Gangsta-rap fans will have to trade allusions to crack overdoses and fatal gunshot wounds for metaphors such as “The Thief in the Night,” which intelligently addresses the inevitability of death. Acey’s vocal clarity, diction, and superb timing allow every single word to come through; nevertheless, his atypically large vocabulary and stream-of-consciousness delivery conceal meaning from the casual listener. Silent partner and producer Mumbles forgoes recognizable loops and drum-machine beats for musical puzzles whose pieces of layered samples and constructed beats fit together like classical orchestration. With eccentric wisdom, Aceyalone voices his disillusionment with the current state of rap, but rather than take the “high road” and criticize, Aceyalone forsakes the road altogether for the uncharted wilderness. In doing so, he has taken the first great step in the evolution of the genre since Big Daddy Kane rolled his tongue.—Neil Drumming