Conceived and placed into motion by a chance collaboration with Dabrye’s hero and mutual admirer the late Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla, Two/Three finds Dabrye evolving his minimalist acid hip hop productions into rhythm beds for a Detroit who’s who guest list. The excellent single “Game Over” featuring Jay Dee and Phat Kat was released at the end of 2003. It served as the cornerstone for the albums direction, and gave Dabrye the inspiration to reach out to other Detroit emcees.
While a few emcees stutter step over Dabrye’s broken trap beats, several own the air brake hi hats and the warehouse-drenched echoes to create an immersing second installment in this metallic headphone trilogy. The half mumbled flow of Doom over the single “Air” is near perfect. Invincible and Finale, who make two strong appearances on the record, break “Viewer Discretion” apart like they were swinging lug wrenches at it, and drop a rap sheet of the commercial industry indiscretions as they pass the mic back and forth. The reverberating guitar bite of “My Life” cradles AG’s short lyrical bio so well that the lyrical content and mood of production weave together until one can’t be discerned from the other.
My favorite discovery on the record though is the irreverent, almost uncomfortable delivery of Kadence. His unique flow took a few listens for me to warm up to, but without question in this space stretching production Kadence is the Hans to Dabrye’s Skywalker. Dabrye recognized this too, featuring Kadence on two of the most out tracks on Two/Three and inviting him on tour as his official emcee.
Dabrye’s critics darling production shines throughout with some of the strongest tracks emerging from the jazzy instrumental explorations of tracks like “Tell Dem” and the pad heavy psychedelic pop of the Waajeed collaboration “Jorgy.” “Piano” is an interesting appropriation of a sampled electric piano used as a percussive instrument, like Cecil Taylor playing hip hop.
Two/Three gives the feel of a paced out and deliberate unified direction, something extremely difficult to do with such a diverse list of guest artists. Even the auto schematics that trace through the jewel case graphics underscore the strip shop minimalism of Dabrye’s hydraulic snapping like a mechanized assembly line. The track list, twice as long as One/Three with 20 songs, could have been trimmed to exclude weaker collaborations, but it still clocks in under 60 minutes so it’s a minor complaint and really the only one I can make. Two/Three shows evolution and growth from an extremely talented artist.