Bread, the staff of life, needs four elements: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Hiphop—the music, not the culture—needs only two: beats and rhymes. In the case of both, the use of basic ingredients, allowed to marry crusty and elastic slowly under careful supervision, is to be commended. Forget low carb when you can find the artisanal best.
Ann Arbor, Michigan's Tadd Mullinix—AKA Ghostly International recording artist Dabrye—keeps the music laudably simple. Using "a shareware tracker endorsed by E-mu that runs in DOS on an old sound card that isn't made anymore," plus assorted detuned and retuned vintage analog gear, Mullinix spent almost three years cobbling together the corrugated instrumentals that form the foundation of his latest full-length, Two/Three.
Citing Motown, Jeff Mills, and ghettotech as favorites (alongside Aphex Twin, Eric B. & Rakim, and postwar classical), yet drawing more figuratively on the industrial abscesses of nearby Detroit than any previously established aesthetic, the 27-year-old Mullinix lays down monochromatic sketches rounded off within Ann Arbor's tree-lined cultural oasis. For Two/Three, Mullinix then sent clusters of crisp, clanging beats, heavily articulated bass lines, choppy chords, and spiny squelch to MCs. Spitting fiery verses on Two/Three are such lyrical luminaries as MF Doom, Vast Aire, Beans, Guilty Simpson, Kadence, Wildchild, Platinum Pied Pipers' Waajeed, and Mullinix's idol Jay Dee (R.I.P.) of Slum Village, among several others.
"'Game Over' was the first collaboration for the album and I idolize J Dilla, so the fact he was into my stuff gave me a lot of confidence," reveals Mullinix by phone from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and Zingerman's Delicatessen (Mullinix's source for his favorite snack, gourmet cheeses). "I didn't think I had a chance, then I found out he had some of my stuff. That was the first single and I was happy to see I could collaborate with someone so highly regarded.
"My goal overall has always been to make beats for MCs," continues Mullinix. "But during the first [Dabrye] albums, I was doing so many projects at once I couldn't get out and socialize and network with MCs, so I did the instrumental stuff in order to establish a name so I could get to collaborating. Plus, I'm antisocial because I always run into people talking shop, and I just want to have fun. But more importantly, I have so many projects I preoccupy myself."
And collaborate Mullinix did, successfully, though this is where the simplicity ends. Even after establishing his name, Mullinix found he had to reestablish his identify. Sure, the amateur vegetarian cook, skateboarder, and Oregon pinot noir fan makes "braindance" (AKA "IDM") under his own name, as well as dirty Chicago tech-house/jack trax under James T. Cotton, and mashed soundclash as SK-1, but Mullinix is still frustrated that people don't acknowledge Dabrye as straight-up stripped-down hiphop with analog ice not bling, and Detroit grit in the grooves.
The pseudonym "Dabrye" doesn't even mean what so many people assume it does, which is that it's a twist on "debris" and a comment on pasting together broken remains. Dabrye is just an aesthetically pleasing tag, a tie to graffiti art much like the inflammatory cover of Two/Three, which depicts an act of phantasmagorical vengeance on the overly analytical.
"Throughout my career I had this problem of being called glitch-hop and seeing all these people standing and intellectualizing instead of dancing," says Mullinix. "What I did wasn't seen in the right light, so in a way that scene on the cover represents the scene intellectualizing what I do as music filled with technology and trickery as opposed to barebones music. And the burglar is snapping that notion out of the hipster's neck."
Now touring in between producing for his many aliases and working a record-store day job, Mullinix knows that he can't literally break heads no matter how an audience postures. But he can certainly attempt to blow minds, as he plans to do appearing live with Kadence, whose lyrical content tends to be sociophilosophical/political. Additionally, the tour will feature primarily loops people haven't heard. Mullinix considers it more a side project with Kadence than a tour behind Two/Three. Regardless, Mullinix's goal is to keep it organic: tour with one part beats and one part rhymes and see what (a)email@example.com