The cover of Dabrye's Two/Three
shows a man getting his neck broken by something you can't quite identify. Is it a ghost? Some sort of demon? You just can't tell. In a way, this sums up Two/Three
rather well. The music sneaks up on you and explodes, slapping you across the face, but after it hits you, you aren't sure what exactly happened. Was that electronica? Hip-hop? You don't really know. But no matter what broke that man on the cover's neck, he is dead. And no matter what genre Dabrye's Two/Three
might be, you'll still hear it and you'll still want more.
Dabrye is Todd Mullinix, a quiet nerd from Michigan who made a name for himself by making two albums of moody instrumentals, 2001's One/Three
and 2002's Instrmntl
. Both albums impressed critics, who loved how he made electronic music that seemed to have hip-hop running through its veins, but Dabrye was in no rush to get back in the studio. And for a few years, the music community was forced to step back and wait for his return. 2006's Two/Three
is that return. It shows Mullinix exploring hip-hop even more than before and enjoying every second. Now, he treats his songs less like instrumentals and more like beats, allowing various emcees to rap over them. The guest rappers include Stones Throw regular Wildchild, MF Doom, Beans and even J-Dilla himself. Dilla, of course, passed recently, but the track was recorded a few years back. The album also puts the spotlight on some emcees who the public may not be aware of, cats like Invisible, Vast Aire and the phenomenal Kadence.
The first thing one notices about Dabrye is his production style, which is incredibly hard to describe. If Richard D. James smoked dope with Madlib and the two made an album together, it would sound like Dabrye. If Björk meditated, channeled Dilla's spirit and walked into a recording studio, it would sound like Dabrye. If you took a sledgehammer to the side of pinball machine while fighting the man with Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the Bomb Squad, it would sound like Dabrye. It's like EL-P, but also sort of like Moby. It's raw, but also epic. You often hear people say that such acts as Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Sigur Ros are showing us where music is headed, but I think the same can be said for Dabrye. Electronic music and hip-hop have to eventually unite, right? It is just bound to happen. I mean, I suppose you could claim it has
already happened, but I'm not so sure. This is the point where The Unseen
meets I Care Because You Do
, where Deltron 3030
There are a number of highlights here. On album opener "The Stand," Wildchild raps with style and authority while Dabrye's beat is a mix between a creepy string section and what sounds like lazers being shot in a sci-fi flick. "Air," another highlight, features MF Doom. His rhymes don't really make much sense, sure, but his flow is as relaxed and matter-a-fact as always, giving them that charm that you can find in almost anything Doom touches. Another solid track is "That's What's Up," a song featuring Vast Aire. Aire doesn't rhyme with the beat, instead just speeding up and slowing down as he feels is necessary, but his delivery still works somehow, making you follow every line as he spits. The beat on "That's What's Up" is equally impressive, blending video game sound effects with handclaps and a suspenseful keyboard part. And "Game Over," the track featuring both rhymes and additional production from Dilla. ends the album with a bang. It bumps like a TI single, but the beat is much less repetitive than, say, "What You Know" or "Rubberband Man," drawing you in and keeping you interested throughout.
Despite all of those great tracks, though, the instrumentals are clearly what Dabrye is still the most comfortable with. Both "Machines Pt. 1" and "Machines Pt. 2" paint the pictures their titles would lead you to believe, "Jorgy" features a distorted beat just begging to be rapped over and the strange "Piano" shows exactly where the Aphex Twin comparisons come in. Really, there isn't a single second of production on Two/Three
that isn't interesting. Even if a certain beat or emcee turns you off, you'll probably find something else about the track to keep you from wanting to change songs.
Overall, Dabrye's Two/Three
is a stellar album that shows where hip-hop is headed. It may not earn Dabrye much more national attention, but it should certainly help him become one of the most sought-after producers making music today.