Genre: Arizona Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “Koruna & Lime,” “GTFU,” “Jailbreak the Tesla,” “Gravy n’ Biscuits,” “Rap Song Tutorial,” “Wax On,” “What a Year It’s Been”
INJURY RESERVE is the Arizona trio’s debut album in the way Ichiro Suzuki’s 2001 season was his rookie year. Anyone who’d been paying attention knew they were seasoned veterans. And much like Ichiro’s MVP campaign, INJURY RESERVE is a cornucopia of hits.
In Ichiro’s eighth game of that insane season, he embarrassed the coolest team in baseball and let the whole league know there was a new superstar to watch. Oakland A’s catcher Ramon Hernandez smacked a line drive single right to Ichiro, who calmly fielded it and threw a frozen rope that’d put Antarctica to shame to nail Terrance Long on his brazen attempt to go from first to third. When asked about the play, Ichiro matter of factly said, “The ball was hit right to me. Why did he run when I was going to throw him out?” This is the confidence that Injury Reserve exudes, especially on the opener, “Koruna & Lime,” a bonkers beat bolstered by turntable work courtesy of A-Trak that Stepa J Groggs and Richie with a T ride like hydraulic low-rider. Groggs turns in one the record’s best verses, signing off with “Seen a couple shitty deals that we had to decline / Primo shit, better get the three in the prime / From Flagstaff to Czech, gettin’ checks, koruna and lime / Told ’em fax that shit to Prague if you want us to sign.” Producer Parker Corey does double duty on the track, not only supplying one of the album’s best beats, but also directing the accompanying music video, one of the most creative I’ve seen all year.
Of course, Ichiro’s greatness wasn’t accomplished all by his lonesome. He played along seven other All-Stars that year including Bret Boone, Freddy Garcia, and future Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez. Injury Reserve assembled a killer team of their own, grabbing Rico Nasty, JPEGMAFIA, and Freddie Gibbs among others to pinch hit. Peggy’s contribution comes not in the form of a verse but rather a deranged intro and outro almost entirely consisting of him screaming “Get the fuck up, get the fuck up,” as Corey’s production convulses and collapses into ear-piercing distorted screeches. Gibbs proves why he has a legitimate claim at best rapper alive, cycling through four different flows in 40 seconds while rapping about his tried and true material of cooking drugs and Instagram thots. But the most memorable guest contribution comes from Amine on “Jailbreak the Tesla.” Halfway through his verse he delivers a clever punchline, “Your engine go “Vroom” and my engine go—” as he and the beat goes completely silent. Its moments like these that drive home the fact that Injury Reserve is a group raised by the internet, a fact they have stated quite plainly over the years (including on this very track).
But Online’s influence is no more apparent than on “Rap Song Tutorial,” a deconstructed commentary on hip hop’s evolution into becoming mainstream pop. The song gradually takes shape as Siri lays out a step-by-step process for making a modern rap album with new bits of production and vocals getting layered in with each step, culminating with some words of encouragement from Siri, “Congratulations, you have made one rap song / Repeat 10 to 12 times to create a rap album.”
The record is not all entirely internet-obsessed and tongue-in-cheek. “Best Seat in the House” holds the album’s most brutally heartbreaking verses from Groggs failing to make good on his promises (“Said, ‘If he wakes up, I swear that I’ll call and text him every day’ / Yo, luckily he did, my promise didn’t last that long / You would text me, it would take like a week to respond”) to Richie reflecting on the guilt of how he handled his friend’s death (“But to me, man, that shit was inexcusable, uh / To talk about a death and not go to the funeral / Tellin’ myself, ‘You gotta swallow all that guilt that chewed at you’ / Shit was juvenile, like how was I too cowardly to go to your fuckin’ funeral / But still feel like rappin’ about your death was fuckin’ suitable?” ) It’s without a doubt the realest part of the record and a testament to the maturity of the budding stars. INJURY RESERVE may not win every award imaginable like Ichiro did his rookie year, but there’s no doubt in my mind they’ve got a Hall of Fame career ahead of them.