Album Review: Dabrye – Three/Three

By Eli Schoop, Copy Editor
[Ghostly; 2018]
Rating: 5/10

Key Tracks: “Tunnel Vision”, “Lil Mufukuz”, “Dr. Shoomen”

Instrumental hip-hop hasn’t been particularly in vogue lately unless your musical world revolves around “chill lo-fi anime hip-hop beats” radio on Youtube. Dabrye, however, utilizes a time machine on Three/Three to bring back the mechanisms of the mid-2000’s through a slightly IDM lens, with varying results. It’s a loose collection of tunes owing itself to both Slum Village and Prefuse 73, which while enticing for a certain crowd, doesn’t really revamp itself enough to appeal to the multifaceted world of today’s hip-hop producing.

Dabrye, or Tadd Mullinix as stated by the government, seems to have a preference for intricate rhyme schemes and the didactic conscious rap that has faded over the past decade. “Culture Shuffle” has a nice, slightly staccato beat, but the lyricism provided by the featured rappers is overwrought and bloated, substituting a thesaurus for any originality or personality. In addition, his beat selection fails to complement the MCs’ strengths, creating a confusing framework in which the song gets muddled, like on “The Appetite”. What should be a star-studded romp (Quelle Chris, Roc Marciano, Danny Brown), ends up a mess, in part due to the subpar mixing and a lack of desire by those featured.

That being said, when Dabrye hits the mark, the songs are inventive and strong. The intro track is bars over a dark, twisted boom-bap, reminiscent of a rap battle in a Detroit basement. A rare MF Doom sighting is predictably great, with his lines on “Lil Mufukuz” alternating between grace and a vulgarity that is uniquely his own. What Dabrye falls short in in terms of innovation, he makes for in sheer quality, and his attention to detail is top-notch, like on the warped abstraction that is “Dr. Shoomen”.

Unfortunately, Three/Three is too boilerplate to consistently impress. There is a genuine spirit of the genre that mines itself throughout the LP, but the overarching elements don’t adhere as they should, becoming a mess of rap cliches in between glitched yet flowery beats. By drawing elements from Nujabes, Boards of Canada, Autechre and more, Mullinix is hinting at a derivation of these sources but without the otherworldly nature that made them so illustrious.

Listen here:

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