Injury Reserve release second studio album, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’
The new project is the group's follow-up to their 2019 self-titled album.
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Injury Reserve began their career in 2013, forming in Tempe, Arizona. A trio, the lineup was composed of rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, joined by producer Parker Corey.
Early on, the trio released two mixtapes and an EP: 2015’s Live from the Dentist Office, 2016’s Floss, and 2017’s Drive It Like It’s Stolen.
These records weren't albums, but still, the three formative projects felt more like full-length LPs in concept and execution than anything.
Throughout the three projects, Injury Reserve released consistently thought-provoking, often witty, and wholly original hip-hop.
There is no limit to potent lyrics from the trio, such as on “North Pole” off Drive It Like It’s Stolen, where Ritchie With a T delivers a written dialogue between people he has lost:
“Was going through my phone and I still got you in my contacts / I wish that I could call and you could call back / Maybe pass my pops the phone, yeah, so I can hear him / Everyone says I sound just like him, but shit, man, I don’t hear it,” he raps.
Always conscious, often thought-provoking, the group also never failed to make listeners laugh. Many moments of humor were delivered by the group on these earlier tapes:
“Remember momma told me that I need to get my act together / 10 years passed, the only difference is I'm rapping better,” joked Stepa J. Groggs on “Oh Shit!!!” from Floss.
Their evolution was logical, yet unpredictable. In 2019, after two years spent working, the group released Injury Reserve, their self-titled debut LP. Later the next year, founding member Stepa J. Groggs passed away.
On Aug. 10, 2021, Injury Reserve announced their second full length album, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. The next day, they released the record’s lead single, “Knees.”
“Knees” was released with a music video that honors the trio’s late member.
The music video’s visuals immortalize Groggs, framing him on a stage with Ritchie and Corey, highlighted only by a silhouette during select moments.
“Superman That” depicts member Ritchie pleading with someone, attempting to communicate that there is no chance to save either of them.
By the Time I Get to Phoenix is a distinctly darker record than any of Injury Reserve’s earlier releases.
An 11-track album, the sophomore LP wastes no time establishing its themes of time, progress, growth, and the acknowledgment of the things most difficult to confront.
On “Knees,” the group takes a hard look at the hurdles they have overcome, and the obstacles to face in the future:
“My knees hurtin' when I grow / And that's a tough pill to swallow / Because I'm not gettin' taller,” sings Ritchie, meditating on personal development and relating it to physical growth.
Other moments on the new LP, such as the entirety of “Top Picks for You,” feature ruminations on the hardship the group has had to endure.
A more experimental attempt than any of the trio’s prior releases, By the Time I Get to Phoenix is an album that any listener of experimental music, or story-driven hip-hop, may appreciate.
The album was first conceived and later conceptualized after the group played a Stockholm show in 2019, where they played in the back of an Italian restaurant instead of a traditional venue and utilized an improvisational DJ set.
They played an improvised song whose board recording served as the grounding for the album.
In an announcement prior to the record’s release, the group offered context for the project:
“...one of the last phone conversations we had with Groggs was over his love for the repurposing of Isaac Haye’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix to title the album. Shortly thereafter we were struck with his loss and of course everything was put on hold...” the group said.
The Issac Hayes song in question was originally released in 1969 on the album Hot Buttered Soul, and is a remake of a Glen Campbell song.
“...but eventually we regathered and felt most comfortable finishing this album we had made as it still resonated fully (in some respects even taking on what felt like haunting pre-echoes) and above all else stayed true to his constant insistence while recording to simply “make some weird shit,” the group continued.
Injury Reserve will be touring their latest LP this year. They will make their way to Philadelphia on Oct. 10, 2021, and play their set in the First Unitarian Church.
By the Time I Get to Phoenix is available now.