Dabrye: Two/Three

Five years on from a remarkably auspicious debut, Dabrye's sophomore full-length Two/Three is about as incredible as one might have hoped. A radically innovative progression from the all-instrumental One/Three, Tadd Mullinix's twenty-track, hour-long collection—a veritable manifesto for visionary experimental hip-hop—mixes MC cuts with instrumental tracks to vertiginous and oft-spellbinding effect.

Mesmerizing peaks like the shuddering “Air” featuring MF Doom's (of Danger Doom and Madvillain renown) cryptic flow (“I'm as sick as the blood in your stool)” are plentiful. Kadence royally spits over a lethal whipcrack pulse in “Encoded Flow” while “Nite Eats Day” (a different version from the one on the recent Additional Productions Vol. 1) pairs Beans' vocal with classic Dabrye electro sputter and lurch. Guilty Simpson and Paradime bark over bleepy synth lines and slippery cymbal pulses in “Special,” and AG (Andre Barnes) testifies over warm dub-funk in “My Life” (“I dropped out of twelfth grade / A dumb move, I hate that / It made me who I am though / A move I wouldn't take back”). Notwithstanding the newfound vocal presence, some tracks perpetuate the signature Dabrye style (“Reconsider”) while others deviate from it: “Bloop” and the “Jorgy” collaboration with Waajeed (Platinum Pied Pipers) add a looser breaks feel, be-bop samples drive “Tell Dem,” and a jazzy rumble roils underneath Invincible and Finale in “Get It Together.” Lush horns and a druggy bell coil prod a deep lurch in “Game Over” while Jay Dee and Phat Kat trade rhymes, the cut, its title now so tragically ironic and prescient, a fitting epitaph for the late James Yancey (J Dilla). While much of the disc is brain-addling, the zenith is reached with “That's What's Up,” a jaw-dropping collab with Thomas Fehlmann and Vast Aire whose labyrinthine swirls infest your brain like a viral maggot, the song's repeated refrain “Rip the mic” a cranial itch desperately aching to be scratched.

Even fleeting instrumentals slay with brilliant masterstrokes: Dabrye wires a lethal whiplash crack into a looping pulse in the otherwise docile “In Water” while “Machines Pt. I” drops a pulsating prog synth melody over electro bass sputter and buckshot snares that crack like Shaolin warriors. With Two/Three, Mullinix throws down a serious gauntlet that makes other producers seem mere dilettantes and dabblers. Needless to say, one awaits with great anticipation the next chapter in the Dabrye trilogy.

June 2006