Injury Reserve is the desert’s rowdiest secret, dropping their new and near-perfect project Floss right before 2016 ends.
This three-piece rap group dropped “a classic album motherfuckers couldn’t find” last year with their jazzy project Live From The Dentist’s Office. This year they’re back with a pack of in-your-face beats, which still give way to their jazz roots, and a refined collection of bars and infectious hooks. Between producer Parker Corey and MCs Steppa J. Groggs and Ritchie with a T, the trio has taken Floss as an opportunity to push the boundaries on their sound. Meaning, it’s time to stop sleeping and check out the project that’s about to upset every year-end list so far.
Floss may just have one of the punchiest album openers of the year. A sinister piano melody scales up into a distorted scratch and Ritchie jumps on the beat with a seismic energy. It’s clear the trio has found a new pocket of sound, “that spazz rap” for this project. The way Parker stutters the beat before the hook, something of a gasp for air, before Ritchie hits us with the “Oh shit!” makes this hook so easy to get into. Imagine the whole venue hitching for a second before everyone hits the hook at a show. Despite being a bonafide banger, Groggs and Ritchie also manage to pack some allusions to fatherhood on both of their verses.
The other single for this album, “All This Money,” comes with this g-funk meets jazz beat and another impossibly catchy hook. This cut will make you feel like a baller, whether you’ve got ten dollars or ten thousand dollars. The aggression in Ritchie’s voice is just addicting when he kicks off the hook with a booming “Oh my god!” Groggs and Ritchie sound right at home flowing over the almost sawtooth bass line, proving there isn’t a beat these guys can’t tackle.
But this album isn’t all bangers and hooks. The trio updates their jazzy sound on “S on Ya Chest,” opening with some references to Little Brother. Ritchie even takes a cheeky approach to talking about race: “Ya what you know about a young nigga like this/ What you know about a young neighbor like this/ I did the second one for the white kids/ Cause I know you want to say it, but that ain’t right kid.” The hook on this track may come off a little disorienting with bars coming in from the left and right side of the mix, but take that as an homage to the organic and improvisational nature of jazz. The Groggs verse on this track is airtight. Every line sounds smooth and confident with Groggs’ delivery. As a final plus, the outro of this track leaves a very distinct Quasimoto vibe.
The meanest beat on this project goes to “What’s Goodie.” This track is the definition of an Injury Reserve beat: a jazz inspired percussion that’s not at all cluttered and manages to knock you out and get you by the throat in the same loop. This cut also has one of the best features of the year with Cakes Da Killa spitting sharp bars that crescendo to an aggressive growl. It’s just ear candy. We get Groggs and Ritchie flexing their chemistry as they trade bars on the second verse and finally Ritchie’s third verse introduces a zoom-in-zoom-out synth line that transitions seamlessly into the funkier “Girl With The Gold Wrist.”
The other feature track, “Keep On Slippin” has the trio plus Vic Mensa getting into a darker, more introspective, mood with more tact than you’d expect out of a project that’s packed with aggressive cuts. Groggs tackles heavier topics like ODs and managing being a father while still using with an honest twinge of hurt in his voice. He manages to be vulnerable without sounding self-involved. Vic brings a solid feature performance, getting into the discussions of mental health that he alluded to on his EP earlier this year.
The trio carry that somber mood into closing track “Look Mama I Did It.” This cut sounds like the perfect bow to put on top of this project. A little gloomy, a little gospel, the beat has a beautiful simplicity. Both Groggs and Ritchie flesh out their earlier allusions to fatherhood and family on their verses. There are some definite tear-jerking lines on this final track as Ritchie describes being at his dad’s funeral: “Just sucks when I’m at your funeral and no one know I existed/ But I ain’t really tripping man, that’s family business/ Had the same outfit on I graduated in.” The message to Ritchie’s dad ends on a hopeful note when he promises him the last time he’ll wear the shoes he wore to the service will be at Injury Reserve’s Grammy nomination.
Grogg’s verse follows a similar format at first discussing self-doubt and the pressure of suddenly being a role model. He alludes to worrying about his health and wanting to be a good father. Groggs is really an effortless storyteller on this final verse of the album. Every emotion he lays into the verse is authentic and he brings one of the best closing lines of the year: “Took you to the dentist office now we took you to church.”
Injury Reserve have updated themselves on this project. Every track is solid, every track can be argued as a standout track. The only aspect this album was missing was a stronger push into those darker tones. Another cut like “Keep On Slippin,” would have diversified this album perfectly. That being said, this project is a promise that the trio refuses to tie themselves down or play it safe. Floss is a level up if only for the fact that the group refused to play around in the same sound that brought them success last year. These guys are not to be slept on, especially since their sophomore effort is two steps shy of a perfect album. Wherever Injury Reserve branches off to next, you’re going to want to be there to hear the magic happen.