Like most great hip-hop albums, Aceyalone’s crowning achievement, A Book of Human Language, derived its singular success from a synergy between producer and emcee. Acey’s high-concept linguistic wizardry and compulsively listenable flow meshed symbiotically with the scratchy beats and musty, nocturnal samples of producer Matthew “Mumbles” Fowler. Appropriate for such a close collaboration, A Book of Human Language was credited to “Aceyalone, accompanied by Mumbles.”
A Book of Human Beats dismantles that relationship, presenting instrumental versions of the entire Language album. The Beats versions don’t differ much from their Language counterparts — most of the track times are shorter, “The Energy” is slightly reworked, and Mumbles adds a bonus track “A Tapestry of Folk Tales.” Still, it’s a worthwhile companion piece, allowing the listener to concentrate on Mumbles’ textured soundscapes without distraction. As it turns out, his unsettling jumble of upright bass, clattering percussion and jazzy piano is every bit as complex and nuanced as Aceyalone’s rhymes.
A Book of Human Beats doesn’t work as an instrumental hip-hop record, if only because Acey’s absence is so conspicuous. But the album does magnify Mumbles’ precocious brilliance (he was in his teens when he crafted most of these beats) and rightfully affirms how important he was to the success of A Book of Human Language.