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Injury Reserve
Injury Reserve Mike Vinti , May 31st, 2019 10:01

Arizone trio Injury Reserve blend industrial experimentation with old school rap on their self-titled debut, finds Mike Vinti

Since they first emerged from the relatively sleepy streets of Arizona four years ago, Injury Reserve have been at the cutting edge of hip hop. The trio, made up of rappers Ritchie With a T and Stepa J. Groggs and producer Parker Cory (who also directs the group’s music videos) have been staking a claim to the role of hip hop’s next great innovators since their first mixtape Live from the Dentist Office.

A blistering fusion of industrial experimentation a la Death Grips and JPEGMAFIA – who has toured with the group and features on their new album – and old school southern hip hop, with elements of boom bap and nearly every other hip hop mutation folded in for good measure, Injury Reserve’s sound encompasses everything great about the last forty years of rap music while simultaneously managing to sound totally distinct from it.

Now based in Los Angeles, the group’s self-titled debut on Loma Vista sees them perfect their blender-technique enlisting a cast of hip hop’s most promising talents, and the odd rap veteran, to kick the rap industry square in the face. Aminé lends a career-topping verse to single ‘Jailbreak the Tesla’ – a chaotic industrial banger assembled from tie squeaks, car doors slamming and engine revs – Freddie Gibbs delivers yet another flawless verse about the drug life on ‘Wax On’, while DRAM croons with trademark goofy charm over the lovesick ‘New Hawaii’.

However, despite the strength of the track list, there’s little doubt that Groggs, Parker and Ritchie are the stars of the show. The trio’s chemistry infects every track on Injury Reserve, from the spoken word tirade of ‘Jawbreaker’ to the jubilant early-00s ecstasy of ‘Gravy n’ Biscuits’. Whatever style or sub-genre the three of them turn their hand to, they master, bolstered by each other’s talents.

It’s when ditching convention all together that the group shine the brightest, such as on the frantic, unsettlingly aggressive ‘GTFU’ with Cakes Da Killa and JPEGMAFIA or ‘Rap Song Tutorial’, a step by step send up of the simplicity of much modern hip hop, aided by the robotic voice of a Siri-like AI assistant.

As Ritchie completes the ‘tutorial’, delivering a tantalising snippet of what could easily be another Injury Reserve banger, his computer tells him “Congratulations you’ve made a rap song. Repeat twelve times to complete a rap album”. It’s an obvious jab at the repetitive and lazy tendencies of mainstream hip hop in the streaming era but one that should sting a little harder given that on Injury Reserve, the trio don’t repeat themselves once.

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