Injury Reserve’s New LP Shows They Deserve A Spot In 2019’s Starting Lineup (Audio)

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Tempe, Arizona Rap trio Injury Reserve formed in 2013, but it wasn’t until the release of their 2015 mixtape Live From The Dentist Office that the crew started turning heads. Their use of Jazz samples, eclectic choice of guest features, and sporadic spazz-out vocal tendencies helped push forth a signature sound that, naturally and over time, became purely defined as Injury Reserve.

Contemporaries like JPEGMAFIA and BROCKHAMPTON choose to go full abrasive or melodic, while Injury Reserve remains coolly in their own spectrum, taught by DIY Punk ethos, experimentation, and full creative control. In the past few years, they’ve released the charged-up, yet still deeply introspective Floss, and the darkly Electronic-tinged EP, Drive It Like It’s Stolen. But this week, the triple-threat of rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey, make their studio debut a proper introduction to the peak of their careers thus far.

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Injury Reserve is an album full of personality and thoughtfulness, though both Groggs and Ritchie give off a level of humble unassuming raps that find common ground with Little Brother 15 years ago. Parker Corey’s production is tight-knit and distinct, and is fully on display with the Freddie Gibb-assisted track “Wax On.” The beat is spacey, but controlled with a twinkle and a concise rhythm that Groggs and Gibbs rip apart. Groggs details his success with Injury Reserve thus far, and the stresses that interfere with his life outside of rap: “Gotten less checks since I got the blue one / So please tell me what the f*ck that verifies / Twitter feeds don’t feed my daughter / If I could sell that mothaf*cka / I would cash it in / Cop a crib in Santa Cruz / never see my ass again.” Gibbs takes the song’s second verse with a flow that kicks up into double-time: “‘Freddie, you fallin’ off,’ b*tch, I invented this sh*t, they can’t f*ck with the Kane / Sh*t just be poppin’ off, Straight out of Gary with ni**as that’d kill you for fame / Rippin’ this water off, crack in the back of the ‘Lac, I’ma hit me stain / They better call the law, I can’t go back to the jail, I’ll go out in a blaze.”

On “Rap Song Tutorial,” the crew breaks down the basics of writing a rap song, but assemble each piece through an Injury Reserve filter. In between a computerized voice providing Rap lessons, Parker lays down the groundwork for Ritchie to spit over: “New chores, yeah, ‘New Freezer’ / Sh*t, new ni**a, you can tell by my demeanor / I’m just thinkin’ ahead, stackin’ big boy chips / Left arm four time the size on some Hellboy sh*t / My son gon’ want his gadgets too, on some ‘Elroy’ sh*t / And he’ll be workin’ for that tool on some bellboy sh*t / I’ll be drape-draped up like Joaquin in ‘Her’ / Baby, throw some threes on, so they don’t think I defer.

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The culmination of Injury Reserve thus far ends the album off on a high-note of peak Jazz-Rap with “Three Man Weave.” Ritchie hits us with an addicting hook comparing their rap careers now to basketball, and leaving Hip-Hop elitism for a love of the game: “This remind a ni**a of high school, no repercussions for the sh*t that I do / Check it, yo, My biggest worries were missin’ a free throw / Now me, Groggs and P doin’ the three man weave, though / Well, I was too pretentious for some Migos, Then Phonte made a song with Lil B, though / Check it, yo, sh*t changed, that’s some sh*t that we know / Now me, Groggs and P doin’ the three man weave, though.

Groggs reflects on his reign with basketball bridging into Hip-Hop just over Parker’s brassy Jazz loop: “I used to wanna be a hooper but I wasn’t that good / Had the doubt I’d see dubs with a panel of wood / Couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t on some king sh*t / But I had no J’s so it really didn’t mean sh*t, yeah / Sorry unc’, you spent your money on those cans / But we both knew I never had a chance, let’s keep it a buck / Like Ray in his rookie season, Then I found somethin’ I was good at, somethin’ that I believed in.

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Ritchie steps up for the track’s second verse with a compound rhyme scheme: “See, me, I hooped a little but, sh*t, I was JVin’, In rap parallels, I was like Russ decent / Plus if it was today I’d prolly get kicked off for kneelin’, and sh*t they wouldn’t trip it’s not like them n*ggas would need me / Now the big three out here three man weavin’ Seven seconds or less, Mari’, ‘Mare and Steven, / All wax, need plaques or no achievin’, You can hold all that feedback, we don’t need it, what’s up?

Injury Reserve is out now, via Loma Vista and Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua’s new label, Seneca Village Recordings.

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Photograph provided by Injury Reserve.