By: Wesley Reno, Entertainment Writer
Injury Reserve is a 3-piece hip hop group based out of Phoenix, Arizona that pushes the boundaries of blending electronic music and hip hop. Following a commercially successful sophomore album, Drive It Like It’s Stolen proves that the trio still has something to say to the music world.
Floss, Injury Reserve’s previous release was filled with heavy, aggressive bangers that had infectious hooks and incited thrashing in many listeners (myself included). The highest point of Floss was the intense, energetic production that drew heavily from classic underground electronic music. Drum patterns, dirty synths, and pulsating rhythms built an instrumental that continuously drove the progression of the album.
Drive it Like It’s Stolen is a very large directional change for the group. While some of the same ideas come across in this project, the stylistic decisions made by Injury Reserve removed a lot of the “banger” energy that was on their previous album.
The exposition to the EP, “TenTenths,” immediately makes it known that what’s to follow is going to be different. It sets the dark tone for the EP and begins to explain the group’s artistic intentions. The lyrical themes on this track explain that what the group is doing isn’t the typical telling of drug-dealing stories influenced by guns and gangs. It lyrically sets up the premises of the EP, but it doesn’t preview the diversity of musical styles to come.
The second track “See You Sweat” is the banger of the project. The production is phenomenal, and I found myself aggressively and involuntarily bobbing my head. The vocal delivery from Ritchie with a T and Stepa J. Groggs is on time, traditional, and heavy hitting.
The rest of the project sounds like it’s beautifully falling apart into the components that make up a traditional hip hop song. The vocal delivery falls behind the somber production, and the mismatched tempo accents intricacies in the production and vocals.
“North Pole” is a mellow, sad story that brings the tempo and edge of the EP down. It’s incredibly pleasant to listen to, and alongside “See You Sweat,” it could stand alone without the rest of the project. Next is “Colors” which provides social commentary on race relations and gang pressures among America’s inner city youth.
The outro “Chin Up” is a perfect closing to the project. It provides themes of happiness and hope after such a dark, introspective look on social issues in the world. It delivers a wonderful message in a wonderful performance. The verses continue as the album fades out, giving the idea that life is continuous.
Overall, this is a great project. There isn’t a track on it that I would want to skip if I began listening to it in a neutral mood. My main complaint is that because of its length, it’s difficult to create a unified theme for the album. While there is movement that creates commentary, a concrete concept would be entirely possible to convey given the impeccable production and vocals.
This will be a project that contends for my favorites of 2017, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in electronic music or hip hop.