Something Special Is Coming From Injury Reserve
by Owen Murray
Injury Reserve has been innovating since their debut mixtape Live from the Dentist's Office in 2015. The project featured jazzy, hard-hitting instrumentals from Parker Corey coupled with off-the-cuff and energetic rhymes from Ritchie with a T and Steppa Groggs. The flows were rough around the edges, but everything about the tape oozed with personality.
Live from the Dentist's Office clearly displayed Injury Reserve’s distinct sound and showed the group’s range. They could put together solid, left-of-center bangers like the groovy opener “Yo,” or the edgier “Everybody Knows,” while also delivering heartfelt hip hop ballads like “ttktv.”
At the same time, Live from the Dentist’s Office wore its influences on its sleeve. All three members told Complex in 2017 that Kanye West’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was their biggest influence — as if the similarity between Ritchie’s autotune and distortion-drenched vocals on “ttktv” and Kanye’s on “Blame Game” weren’t enough of an indicator. Their love for Kanye showed through the infectious track “Wow” which swiped a hook Kanye teased — and specifically told fans not to steal — on “Last Call” from The College Dropout (2004).
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Injury Reserve is their relatable and distinctly human lyrics. In stark contrast to its greatest influence, Live from the Dentist’s Office displayed the ambition of the artists behind it with very little in the way of braggadocio or ego. On “Washed Up” Injury Reserve show their restlessness with their hometown — “why is everyone in my town so wishy wishy wishy wishy washed up” — and on “Whatever Dude” Ritchie raps about the struggle of getting people to take him seriously as an artist “Do these shows for people that, they've never heard of me/And they fuck with me but then they see me/When they try to cop some sneaks/At Foot Locker, working every damn day.” Here, the group shows that they believe in themselves and they’re working hard to prove themselves to everyone else.
If Live from the Dentist’s Office isn’t convincing enough, their follow up album Floss (2016) might just be. Ritchie and Groggs sharpened up their bars for their sophomore album and Parker Corey experimented with noisier and even heavier-hitting beats that showed that the versatility he displayed on their debut was only the tip of the iceberg.
Floss showed Injury Reserve evolving lyrically as well. The group clearly displayed their humor and social awareness on tracks like “S On Ya Chest” which called out white hip hop fans who rap along a little too enthusiastically saying “I know you wanna say it but that ain’t right, kid.” On “Keep On Slipping” Groggs delivers a vulnerable, heart-wrenching verse about his struggle with drugs and alcohol.
The collaborations on the album with Cakes Da Killa and Vic Mensa indicated that Injury Reserve was rising in status without compromising their sound in the slightest.
Injury Reserve quickly followed up Floss with the 7-song EP Drive it Like It’s Stolen —a solid collection of tracks that played to the group's strengths. Following the EP they kicked off their first headlining tour which was ambitiously (and ironically) dubbed “The Arena Tour.” For the live shows, Injury Reserve ramped up the noisiness, adding layers of distortion and new levels of aggression to both the vocals and the instrumentals.
After the tour — and a few months of relative silence— Injury Reserve announced that they had signed a record deal with Loma Vista Records and that they would soon be releasing a self-titled album.
While the group had already been carving out a distinct sound, the new singles show them truly trailblazing. “Jawbreaker” featuring Rico Nasty and Pro Teens is simultaneously a celebration and a sharp critique of streetwear and high fashion. Anime and Ritchie trade hilarious verses about hacking into Tesla’s on the aptly titled “Jailbreak the Tesla.” Both instrumentals take a step past experimental and towards avant-garde, silencing any concerns that Injury Reserve would have to compromise their artistic freedom for their record label.
Injury Reserve has shown steady growth between each of their projects and it seems their next full-length projectwill be no exception. The self-titled album shows that the group is taking the project particularly seriously, and the fantastic singles suggest that Injury Reserve could be the group’s best album yet.