Tadd Mullinix first made a name for himself as Dabrye in the early 2000s with a pair of instrumental albums combining the rhythmic finesse of Detroit hip-hop with the ingenuity of electronic music. But instrumental beats were only a temporary goal, a way for Mullinix to catch the ears of MCs. On Two/Three, his second Dabrye album for Ghostly International, Mullinix brought together a formidable crew of local and national talent to make the statement he’d always intended. Released in 2006, Two/Three offered a fevered vision of rap’s future that remains just as intoxicating a decade on. Ahead of the long-awaited conclusion of Dabrye’s hip-hop trilogy in 2018, Ghostly is reissuing Two/Three.
Dabrye’s move towards rap began in 2004 with the album’s first single, ‘Game Over’ featuring Jay Dee and Phat Kat. An early inspiration of Dabrye’s, Jay Dee invited Mullinix to his crib in 2002 for a listening session during which he picked the ‘Game Over’ beat to rap on. Crucially everyone involved was in accord that despite perceptions of their respective work this would be a hardcore rap song. Together with Kat, Jay delivered a one-two lyrical punch on ‘Game Over’ that no one saw coming. Detroit made the world go round and everyone’s head spun. ’Game Over’ set the tone for the album and, over the next few years, became a Detroit anthem — shortly after Jay’s passing in 2006 the audience at Movement Festival sung his verse.
Moody, propulsive, and above all ambitious, Two/Three emerges from a sonic stew of Detroit and UK dance music, Jamaican sound clashes, and hip-hop sampledelia. The guests, a who’s who of the mid-’00s underground rap scene, engage in a raucous rhyming session that pays as much attention to the realities of the streets as it does world events. MF Doom, Wildchild, Vast Aire, Beans, and AG represent for the various coasts while local talents — Waajeed, Ta-Raach, Invincible, Finale, Kadence, Guilty Simpson, Big Tone, Phat Kat, and Jay Dee — bring Two/Three alive with an infectious energy. In between bursts of raw rap and hard beats, Dabrye showcases detailed instrumentals that evoke bleak industrial futures, underwater meditations, and smoky late night sessions.
With Two/Three Dabrye placed himself at the forefront of hip-hop’s new wave, throwing a Molotov cocktail into the rap world as uncompromising as the head-twisting cover art from WK Interact. The independent press praised Mullinix’s audacity. Over the following years the impact of Two/Three was felt in slow increments as Dabrye’s music became central to the sonic makeup of a new generation of producers. As this beat scene grew and moved away from rap, it showed Mullinix the influence of his work and the value of his vision for Dabrye as his own brand of Detroit hip-hop.