On its release One/Three was the rare album that appealed to both fans of Slum Village’s smooth yet rugged hip-hop and enthusiasts of the distinct American IDM released by labels like Schematic. Over the following decade, the inadvertent demo submission turned into a body of work that placed Dabrye alongside innovators such as Prefuse 73 amid the cannon of a new generation of producers. Today, One/Three remains a concise and intriguing study in instrumental hip-hop that helps join the dots between J Dilla and Flying Lotus.
One/Three is a record that says much with little. There are no obvious hip-hop tropes. Instead Mullinix captures the ingenious minimalism of ’90s hip-hop instrumentals to build tracks both supple and hard, joyous and melancholy, full of sharply angled rhythms and warm rubbery basslines: ‘The Lish’ throws a sickly sweet saxophone against digitally fragmented melodies; ‘How Many Times (with this)’ draws you in with an irresistible, clipped guitar groove; the rhythmic stutter of ’Smoking The Edge’ makes your head spin with pleasure. Playing with his inspirations, Mullinix injects omitted downbeats for imagined rhymes and repurposes the intricacy of ragga jungle for breakdowns.
But what really defines One/Three is the rhythmic sensibility and metric modulation of Detroit’s school of hip-hop production, which Mullinix was a fervent student of. The beats feel like they’re constantly escaping a rigid tempo grid even though they are, in fact, pretty tight. “A lot of it is nuance,” Mullinix explains. “I’ve been known to say that I’m not impressed by spectacle. I think that nuance is what really captivates people.”