Hip Hop's Hit Ticker

Dabrye's nerdy interior

While hip hop may be a relatively nascent genre, it's already dealing with some identity problems. The influx of commercialism is arguably turning a vibrant and informative music into cookie-cutter templates of materialism and violence, although admittedly sometimes with sparkling results. There are those whose production and topical matter bucks the mainstream, but therein lies another problem; sometimes the indie hip-hop scene sacrifices soul for cerebellum. Enter nerd rap. Innovative MCs and producers like El-P, Aesop Rock, and the Anticon crew expand upon the art form, but even they can leave the listener full of ideas yet hungry for the essential boom-bap. Fortunately, there's an entrant to the indie hip-hop playing field who manages to feed both head and heart: Tadd Mullinix, better known as Dabrye.

Dabrye, who hails from Detroit, also records minimal techno under the alias James T. Cotton. His roots in the e-music scene might lead one to assume that his new LP, Two/Three(Ghostly International), would be a mechanical, futuristic affair, a la Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein. This is half-right, as his soundbank of samples does lean heavily on crackling beats and shimmering, robotic, synthesized tones instead of smooth soul loops and crate-dug jazz breaks. But Dabrye's touch is light and his understanding of hip hop sincere, resulting in one of the most off-kilter and enjoyable rap releases of 2006. And his efforts are aided in no small amount by the slew of underground guest MCs he's recruited. The ultra-prolific MF Doom spits his usual stream of consciousness on the lead single, "Air," which is just the tip of the iceberg: Vast Aire, Wildchild, Beans, AG, and the late, great Jay Dee also make noteworthy appearances. And Dabrye's instrumentals, usually the hardest sell of any hip-hop record, are just as engaging. Score another one for Detroit, as nerd rap finds it's got heart after all.

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