Injury Reserve’s set began with a simple, sad piano line. Those familiar with the song whispered excitedly or shouted in anticipation. The Friday night crowd in Olde Club wouldn’t be left waiting long as the explosive drums and vocals kicked “Oh Shit!!!,” the single from the group’s 2016 album “Floss,” into gear. MC Ritchie with a T growled the titular chorus like a junkyard dog, demanding the crowd’s energy. Even those new to Injury Reserve were soon chanting along: “Oh Shit! They said, “Man we want some more hits… What that sound, like man, that’s some cold shit…’”
Originally from Arizona, Injury Reserve is a California-based hip hop trio featuring MCs Stepa T Groggs, Ritchie with a T, and producer Parker Corey. Striking while the iron was hot, their most recent project, the brief EP “Drive It Like It’s Stolen” was released less than a year after the critically acclaimed “Floss.” It’s clear from their work ethic and from their lyrics that Injury Reserve feels they’re being underrated. Injury Reserve has put out a project every year since 2013, consistently gaining momentum since their debut “Live From the Dentist’s Office.” Despite their undeniable growth, a true commercial breakout has proven elusive. In their song “Eeny Meenie Miney Moe” Groggs muses: “It’s way more than a catchy ass hook / Don’t know the right people, you ain’t getting no looks / If it was that easy, we’d be getting more looks.” However, it seems unlikely that Injury Reserve will compromise their sound in an effort to chart higher. Parker Corey draws from an eclectic sonic palette, making beats that range from aggressive, industrial cuts like “Eeny Meenie Miney Moe”, to the jazzy saxophones of “S On Ya Chest,” and the more contemplative ballad “ttktv,” which evokes James Blake more than many contemporary hip hop artists. With such a versatile sound, Injury Reserve has never been shy about naming influences like Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and The Cool Kids. The beat to “See You Sweat” in particular evokes Pharrell’s production style and Ritchie with a T’s constant repetition would have fit right in on a N.E.R.D. record.
Much of the personality in Injury Reserve’s music carried over into their live set as well, as Ritchie with a T took the role of making fun of the crowd or cracking the occasional sarcastic joke and then jumping back into a passionate verse about feeling unable to trust those around him. “Washed Up.” Their live performance, just as their recorded music, was characterized by great range. Songs like “Eeny Meenie Miney Moe” had the Olde Club crowd shoving each other whilst screaming along with Ritchie “Ah! We made it!” However, the more vulnerable moments featured Groggs and Ritchie reflecting on inner demons and the gravity of personal loss on the somber “North Pole.” While significant attention thus far has been given to Ritchie with a T’s performance, Groggs would not be outdone. At one point the beat cut out due to technical issues, but Groggs rapped his entire verse until the song’s conclusion without missing a beat. Another standout moment was the performance of “What’s Goodie,” where Ritchie and Groggs showed off their lyrical chemistry, trading the odd bar throughout the course of the track. Also important to note were the production tweaks made by Parker Corey for the live set: most of the beats were louder and more distorted. This decision allowed the trio to turn songs such as “Washed Up,” which might otherwise not move a crowd, into climactic, high energy moments. In this way, the group didn’t box themselves into a sonic corner. In fact, their set was a relatively even spread of songs from their three most recent projects. Their performance certainly benefited from the intimate setting, as Ritchie’s nasty, growling delivery kept the energy near the stage high.
After an encore performance of “Oh Shit!!!,” Ritchie with a T left the stage, saying: “We are Injury Reserve aka Brockhampton aka Run the Jewels aka whatever other rap group you wanna compare us to.” This was a playful jab at the hip hop community’s need to compare indie rap outfits, but there was serious ambition in his voice. Injury Reserve feels as if they’ve been underrated and overlooked in hip hop, but with a new album confirmed to be releasing this year, the trio appear determined to reach new levels of exposure and success.