Injury Reserve has been tearing up the underground scene with mixtapes since 2013 with a repertoire of hits and 2 lead up-singles before the release of their debut album. The timing for its release almost went under the radar due to being the same day as Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR, but the group almost relishes in its underdog status among the music industry
The trio, Steppa J. Groggs, Ritchie with a T, and producer Parker Cory come together on this debut LP in a show of unison to release some of the strongest songs the group has put out to date. With gritty lyrics and grimy, mechanical production Injury Reserve establishes itself as one of the most experimental and trendsetting projects of 2019 for better or worse. Without further adieu, let’s get right into it.
We open up with “Koruna & Lime” with a grinding synth line which establishes a tone for the experimental nature of the rest of the album. As their first full commercial debut the group sets itself apart with the off-kilter beats to keep the listener following along.
This continues to “Jawbreaker”, one of the singles released before the album. Layered vocal hooks of Pro Teens sets an offset beat and cruel melody for which the song sits on. It accentuates Ritchie’s talent of witty observational comedy and rap. The track starts with him making fun of Instagram accounts used to sell clothing, then it effortlessly turns into a fast-paced rap track. It that almost overtakes the beat in the best way possible. The track also features up and coming female rapper Rico Nasty showcasing her ability as an MC. It adds a much needed flare of personality and contrast to the common culture of hip hop.
The other single,“Jailbreak The Tesla”, also does a great job showcasing the group’s weirdness. When first hearing the song name I was amused and also immediately noticed the Aminé feature. He is a frequent collaborator with the group, previously featuring them on his single “Campfire”. The track uses a deconstructed melody sample of “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz, a hit single from the Fast and Furious movies. The entire track gives an eerie, high-tec futuristic racing vibe through a series of random bleeps, bloops and vocal shifting. This is a true testament to Parker Cory’s skill of being able to create a solid melody out of this mash-up of sounds. The track also hosts to Aminé’s funniest line yet to me: “Elon on them shrooms/ And Grimes’ voice gon’ be the GPS (Turn left)”
This track is immediately followed up with “Gravy n’ Biscuits”. It is a step-back from the intense production we’ve been hearing to a more laid back jazz rap beat. Groggs also shines on this track with more rhyming couplets then you’d know what do with and possibly one of the catchiest hooks they’ve done to date.
It would be remiss to not mention “Rap Song Tutorial”. It is a comedy skit with Ritchie simplifying the rap music-making process to a 5 step tutorial narrated by Siri. I’d be a liar if I did not say the infectious hook “FIGHT ME” has been stuck in my head while writing this.
From here on, “Wax On” featuring Freddie Gibbs is superb and shows off Freddie’s versatility on just about any beat. Speeding and slowing his flow as the song goes, he establishes himself in the forefront of lyrical rappers in the 2010’s. Another highlight was Ritchie coming to terms with his song meanings and interactions with a fan on “Best Spot in the House”. It was a cool touching moment you don’t often see from the more standoffish character that Ritchie can be. The other songs around this 2/3rds point didn’t stand out too much to me apart from the finale. The DRAM feature on the RnB-esque “New Hawaii” was novel at best. I found the song to almost drag on for too long.
Speaking of that, the finale track “Three Man Weave” is probably my favorite song on the record. It’s the smoothest joint on the album. It time-traveled me to “S on Ya Chest” or some of the other laid-back tracks a la the albums Floss and Live from the Dentist Office. Rightfully so the track features the gang reminiscing on where they’ve been and how far they are now. A solid ending.
Sick tracks: “Koruna & Lime”, “Jawbreaker” (feat. Rico Nasty & PRO TEENS), “GTFU” (feat. JPEGMAFIA & Cakes Da Killa), “Jailbreak the Tesla” (feat. Amine), “Rap Song Tutorial”, “Wax On” (feat. Freddie Gibbs), “Three Man Weave”.
Overall, this album has outstanding production and lyrics. They set it apart from the rest and gives a welcoming breath of freshness to the genre. You can tell the group really wanted to set themselves apart and they did just that. Although the album drags for a little bit, they still pick it up at the end. This self-titled debut is exactly what they wanted to put out in just how uncompromising and experimental the project is.