Injury Reserve shines on debut album

Trevor Babcock

On their self-titled label debut, rap trio Injury Reserve takes their deepest dive into experimentation and exploration yet, emerging from the underground with their most triumphant insertion into alternative hip-hop.

On their 2016 mixtape “Floss,” Injury Reserve uniquely balanced catchy and infectious accessibility with a heart for pushing boundaries with increased aggression. Composed of rappers Ritchie With A T and Stepa J. Groggs with producer Parker Corey, they present a narrative of “blue-collar rap.” A tale of average guys with a hunger for creative investigation and infectious hip-hop.

In 2015, Injury Reserve self-released their first effort “Live From The Dentist Office,” actually recorded in Corey’s dentist grandfather’s office. The trio made an impression with a playful and relaxed jazz-rap palette. Their take on the genre sounded like a contextualization of jazz-rap in the present, with forays into an alternative and progressive sound.

Injury Reserve’s versatility is among their biggest strengths, making bangers and soothing introspective tracks that can appeal to fans of today’s mainstream hip-hop or hardcore hip-hop fans. Their 2017 EP “Drive It Like It’s Stolen” even featured an atmospheric acoustic track with “North Pole.”

Forming in Arizona, the group started out playing punk, indie and DIY shows around Arizona State University. By playing to these crowds, Injury Reserve developed a desire for experimentation and to create music that would release a wild energy at shows.

They were signed to the record label Loma Vista by executive Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua, who also signed Kanye West to Rock-A-Fella Records. On their self-titled record label premiere, Injury Reserve break free from a middle ground, pushing back much of their jazz rap beginnings to fully embrace new and unconventional ideas. Much of the boundaries that are pushed are with Corey’s production, which is hard to characterize due to his insane versatility.

“Koruna & Lime” opens the album with industrial production unlike anything on previous projects leading into “Jawbreaker,” a wonky and lowkey track threatening “hypebeast” culture.

Easily their most aggressive track to date, “GTFU” unsurprisingly features rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA. Ritchie With A T’s verse is darkly humorous by referencing “Simon Says” through his most angered delivery on a track to date.

“Jailbreak The Tesla” has what could be called an industrial-club beat that is the most insane ride of the album. With lyrics comparing Elon Musk’s Teslas to hacked iPod touches, the track is bizarrely fun. Rapper Aminé hasn’t sounded better than his feature on this track.

“Gravy n’ Biscuits” comes in hitting different emotional receptors with a sarcastic and playful tone with undertones of Injury Reserve’s previous jazz-rap production.

In typical Injury Reserve fashion, the second half of this project is filled with more dreary, slow and emotional tracks. While the group reaches their highest points of aggression on this album, they also reach their most personal and introspective lows.

“Three Man Weave” ends the album with a straight jazz-rap track that calls back to their previous releases, fittingly calling out those critical of their new sound.

Despite all three of Injury Reserve’s members looking nothing alike, Groggs and Ritchie show a chemistry in building off one another’s flow and matching each other’s high charisma. Both MCs bring clever and insightful personalities behind the mic adding a heavy dose of charm to their kit. Neither disappoint in reaching their full potential with Corey’s progressive and complementary production.

Injury Reserve shows a clear intention to evolve with each release on their self-titled album making them one of the most exciting hip-hop acts to follow.