Trip hop has just been shot dead. It’s about time. The little subgenre that could seemed to run out of gas about three years ago and has been losing momentum ever since. With the first Dabrye album (an alias for Ann Arbor’s Tadd Mullinix), it’s clear that trip hop didn’t really change hip hop at all — it just branched off, sampling everything in earshot. Unlike the MoWax crew, Dabrye deconstructs the essence of hip hop, looking between its downbeats for meaning. Minimal and quirky to the core, Dabrye kinda sounds like Timbaland, Thomas Brinkmann and Kenny Dixon Jr. getting their tweak on in the studio and nodding in unison.
It takes awhile to fully understand Dabrye’s world of off-kilter, down-tempo funk. Crisp beats stumble over each other only to make some kind of accidental pirouette (“The Lish,” “I’m Missing You”). “We’ve Got Commodity” and “With A Professional” are atmospheric gems that radiate genuine warmth through crackling, amorphous melody lines. Synth strings and metallic bass stabs weave an intricate counterpoint on “Hyped-up Plus Tax.” It’s one of many moments in which Dabrye dodges any possible comparisons to another artist.
One/Three is an album that will make you consciously rethink your definition of hip hop, but without stressing your dome. Although important electronic acts such as Autechre and Aphex Twin have already put their spin on hip hop, they never infiltrated its soul, just its beats. One/Three takes this flirtation much further and dissolves any remaining boundaries between true hip hop and abstract electronica.
Dabrye just might be the Salvador Dali of hip hop. One/Three is tightly packed surrealist funk with a steady supply of brilliant color and warped clarity. Thanks to Dabrye, hip-hop’s tick-tock drum beats and oversized clocks (see: Flava Flav) have melted beautifully onto the horizon.