Injury Reserve Reinvent Themselves With Their Self-Titled Record
By Erin Christie
Opening track, “Koruna & Lime” says it best: “Love to fans that say we don’t get enough shine / I mean, well, shit… they isn’t lying.” On May 17th, Atlanta-born trio, Injury Reserve, released their fourth studio record, a self-titled record, Injury Reserve (via Loma Vista Recordings and Concord Music Group). Fans, like myself, have eagerly been awaiting Injury Reserve’s next master-class release since 2017’s EP Drive It Like It’s Stolen and this self-titled record is a far cry from a disappointment. Despite rivalling Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR (which was released on the same day), at least in my opinion, the trio manage to hold their own and make a memorable entry in terms of hip-hop releases as of this year.
Injury Reserve is unconventional in everything they do, and this record is no exception. Comprised of emcees Ritchie (with a T), Stepa J. Groggs, and producer Parker Corey, the trio have been making waves since they jumped onto the scene in 2015, yet, they somehow still fly under the radar - and unjustifiably so. Their lyricism is intelligent and poignant, often poking fun at the fact that what the mainstream sees as important is far from what’s on their minds. Combined with Corey’s stunning production, it’s offensive that they haven’t obtained Grammy-status already.
Despite their self-titled being their fourth studio release, the fact that it is self-titled in the manner that most artists would typically title their debut record, this marks this record as a jumping off point for the trio. It’s as if with this release, they’re announcing their rebirth, their reintroduction to the world as a means to announce that this time, they’re here to take names and do so unapologetically.
Track “Jawbreaker” (ft. Rico Nasty and Pro Teens) gave listeners their first taste of what was to come earlier this year and needless to say, it set the mood perfectly. Creating a satirical stance on social media’s obsession with being on “the cutting edge” of fashion, the three-piece delves into the absolutely ridiculous nature of our current culture’s definition of a “fit.” “He does happen to have the Supreme x Playboy collab jacket on,” Ritchie notices, describing a typical “hypebeast” Instagram post in which every branded item they’ve managed to wear at once is detailed, price and all—this is somehow being considered “fashionable,” Ritchie criticizes. Indirectly, they make a pointed controversy regarding social media culture and the validation that we tend to seek from such: how many brand name items do you need to own before you’re considered “cool?” Tracks such as this also create a perfect example as to how masterful Injury Reserve’s use of features have been, from this record to their past releases. From Rico to JPEGMAFIA to DRAM, each feature adds a cherry on top of each already sugary-sweet single, making the record holistically enjoyable. Rico’s feature on this track, for example, makes notice of her individual greatness, too: “They copy my swag, you can see I taught them,” she boasts. It’s artists such as Rico Nasty and Injury Reserve, that are pioneering a new hip-hop mainstream.
Track two, “GTFU” (ft. JPEGMAFIA and Cakes Da Killa) is a harsh slap in the face, arriving hard and fast like a hailstorm, instructing listeners to “get off their ass,” an instruction that you can’t ignore. Cakes Da Killa is no newbie in terms of Injury Reserve features—he made an explosive introduction on 2016’s Floss with honestly one of the greater tracks on the album, “All This Money.” His and DRAM’s inclusion smooth out the track as it progresses, fading into a melancholic sway.
Follows is the record’s second single, “Jailbreak the Tesla” (ft. Amine). This is one of the most solid tracks I’ve heard as of recent, continuing on Injury Reserve’s redefinition of hip-hop greatness. With controversies surrounding Tesla-creator, Elon Musk, on the daily, this track is not only relevant, but genius in itself. Corey’s production is absolutely mind-boggling, combining a metronome of screeching tires and head-bobbing bass that would make for a totally beautiful mess in a live atmosphere.
The three-piece circles around dozens of different musical compositions and styles, creating a diverse masterpiece within this record alone—from past releases such as 2016’s Floss in which they heavily sample brass alongside skull-crushing, bass-heavy instrumentations (track “S on Ya Chest,” for example), it’s clear that this element of their style sets them apart. Combining orchestral, harmonic pieces with abrasive howls and shouts, this record alone is eclectic in nature, creating something that essentially the entire family can enjoy. On a surface level, they’re absolutely unafraid to stray from the path set by their predecessors and peers, and it tends to pay off.
“Rap Song Tutorial” is one of the most ingenious inclusions within this release, through Injury Reserve is notorious for being experimental. Tongue-in-cheek, the group notes the robotically monotonous nature of a lot of releases as of late: “Repeat 10-12 times to create a rap album,” the robotic instructor denotes of the step-by-step detailed throughout the track. It’s humor and self-awareness like this that makes them worthy of more attention than ever: these guys aren’t afraid to push the envelope and go outside these conventions, and they’ve shown that with this record considered.
“What a Year It’s Been” is emotionally raw, a step back from the aggression and bluntness exhibited throughout much of the record. In it, Stepa speaks like a spoken-word poet, realistically detailing the lows of the past year and his struggles with alcoholism and depression. In the vulnerability that this track contains, we’re able to see another side to Stepa, to the group holistically, and notice the toll that attempting to make it in the cut-throat music industry can have on one’s personal ability to cope. It’s not without inclinations of hope, though, as with this release and their power-packed discography considered, 2019 might just be their time to bask in the limelight.