“Injury Reserve” Review: Self-titled album makes underground waves

Intro

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.

Listening through

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.

Standout tracks

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”.

Meh tracks: “What a Year It’s Been”, “New Hawaii”

Overall impression

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.

Rating: 4.3/5

“IGOR” review: Tyler, The Creator creates one for the ages

I recently wrote a piece about why Tyler The Creator completely finessed his way into the position he has in the rap game. If you are confused as to what I mean by that, you should check out that post before reading this one. It details his rocky rise to stardom and the progression that he has shown since jumping onto the scene 10 years ago.

Tyler first announced his new album IGOR in early May 2019 after a report leaked that showed he had an album on the way before June 1st. The rollout for the album consisted of him dropping snippets of some of the tracks on YouTube and Instagram as a way to hype the fans up. He also dropped a few merch packs containing some interesting items for those that are interested.  

Needless to say, the album has finally materialized and I cannot wait to jump right in and listen. Here is my review of Tyler The Creator’s latest album IGOR.  

First impressions

  • The Good: On my first listen through this album, I was honestly stunned at how sonically pleasing it is. Each track has different musical elements that are very pleasing to the ear. Tyler’s flow is as crisp as ever and he even breaks new ground on this album. I’m really enjoying the project thus far.
  • The Bad: The only knock I can see is that a few of the tracks sound a bit similar. There are some tracks that mainly consist of very heavy base with other little elements in the background. These tracks are good in their own way, but may be slightly boring to those who don’t like that sound.  

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: As I mentioned, the flows on each track are very good and fit the vibes very well. The subject matter is interesting in itself and discusses themes such as love, relationships, and life in general. There is also a decent amount of singing sprinkled into the project. It really compliments the rapping and makes the tracks stand out even more.
  • The Bad: The only negative I can see in this category is that there aren’t too many new themes discussed. We’ve heard Tyler talk about love and his relationships before, but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the project. It is just a small knock on an otherwise exceptional album.   
  • Score: 8/10

Beats

  • The Good: To put it simply, the beats are the best part of this project. Each one has its own distinct feel while also sticking to a constant theme. They just work and sound great. The entire album was produced by Tyler, as with most of his previous work, but something feels different. T got to a new level on 2017’s Flower Boy, but I think he leveled his production game up even further on IGOR. We also see him explore some new sounds yet again, which is always a highlight of his projects.  
  • The Bad: As mentioned in the intro, a few of the tracks sound similar in terms of the beat and that may annoy some listeners. Even if they do sound a bit similar, that does not ignore the fact that they sound great and carefully crafted.  
  • Score: 9/10

Replayability

  • The Good: Over the course of his career, Tyler The Creator has been working very hard to make his projects more concise and cut out extra tracks that may not be necessary. He does just that on this album due to it clocking in at 12 tracks. The project has no filler and each track brings its own vibes due to the different sounds. This will be an album that ages well due to the diversity it contains.  
  • The Bad: If you aren’t a big Tyler fan, you may see this as just another one of his random sounding albums. And admittedly, it is random sounding at times. But that isn’t a bad thing if each track is quality and has a place on the album. I recommend that every hip hop fan give this album at least one listen.  
  • Score: 8.5/10

Standouts

Final thoughts

As I wrote in my previous post about Tyler The Creator, it’s crazy to me that he released Bastard nearly 10 years ago. He has shown so much growth in those 10 years and it is very admirable. On IGOR, he continued with that growth in the best way possible.

What I already love so much about this new album is how it stands out all on its own among his discography. None of these songs sound like anything else that Tyler has ever made and will probably ever make again. He said that this album is supposed to stand out from the rest and he definitely delivered on that. Here is what he said on Instagram the day before the album came out:  

Besides maybe Flower Boy, IGOR is easily the best album that Tyler The Creator has ever made. It simply shows a beautiful artistic progression while also allowing him to be true to who he has been all along. To put it simply, an album is great when it actually serves its purpose and delivers on all of your expectations and more.

IGOR has the ability to evoke many emotions and helps you to think deeply about love, relationships, and what it all means to love. That’s what makes it a fantastic album. It is the best album from a primarily hip hop artist thus far in 2019. It stands out among Tyler’s discography and among the work that his peers are creating due to the creativity and experimental sounds it contains. I would highly recommend giving this project a shot because it isn’t your average everyday album, it truly is something special.

Final Score: 8.8/10    

K-UTE Radio/University of Utah does not own any images in this piece.

Rate Your Music dot com

Too Much Music?

In the vast untamed world of 21st century music it can be easy to feel lost. There are more artists and genres than ever before, yet we are still on a never ending quest of finding new music. Being overloaded with options can make it hard to find music that truly speaks to us. Internet radio stations are spotty. Discover weekly playlists never seem to show us anything new. Is there anything out there, made for the user, to navigate the infinite possibilities of music?

Rate Your Music

Let me introduce to you rateyourmusic.com. As a music enthusiast, this is your one-stop website when it comes to all things music. Rate Your Music has several useful features from album reviews to ways of discovering new music. If you want to make the most out of your listening experience and improve your music knowledge in general, Rate Your Music is for you.

When the website pulls up you’ll notice tabs in the upper left hand corner and a search bar in the upper right. The home page also includes a reviews, latest ratings, and new releases section. These can be useful in finding new music but honestly I rarely use them because they eliminate the greatest feature of rate your music which is specificity of searches.

Searching

For your journalist, the most used feature is the search bar. You may notice a drop down menu inside the bar. This changes the parameters of your search. Since it defaults to “artists” you have to enter the bands name when entering a search. If you try to enter a song title or album name you most likely won’t find what you’re looking for. Once you do find the band, click on their name to take you to the artists’ page.

Artists’ page shows when/where they formed/disbanded, members years active and instruments (click on their name to take you to that persons page), other names for the band, and genres (click on the genre to get more information about it). As you scroll down you’ll see their entire discography with a rating beside it. Albums are rated out of 5. Anything above a 4 is extremely rare and above a 3 is strong. The rating shown is an average of all reviews which come from critics and fans. These are also subject to change as more people like or dislike the album over time. This is why I feel Rate Your Music does a better job at ranking music than any other music review site.

You can then click on the album title to take you to that page. On this page you’ll find general album information including its rank for the year it was released and overall (yes, this is a comprehensive list). The most used features I use to get a taste of the album are it’s rating, genres, and descriptors. You can then form your own opinion about the album but it’s nice to have a place to start.

Charts and Lists

…are a great way to discover new music. The charts page allows you to search the top rated albums, eps, etc. from a specific genre. You can limit your search to a certain decade or specific year. If there is an album I particularly like, I’ll look at its genre and check-out the related chart. This has allowed me to sort through some of the classic music of that genre, in order to find the best, as well as discover more unknown artists that are highly acclaimed.

The lists page can also be useful for finding new music. This is essentially a page where users can compile playlists of similar artists or “best of” lists, etc. There are lists such as “1001 albums you must hear before you die” and some more random like “Worst album covers of all time”.

I’ve only scratched the surface of all the features this website has to offer. Go check out rateyourmusic.com and leave a comment below to tell me what you think!