First impressions are important, which is why Amp ASU had a lot riding on its debut show. On January 13, the Arizona State University-based collective held their inaugural event:
Formerly a staple of the Tempe house show scene, the hip-hop trio moved to Pasadena, California, in early 2017 to push their career further. Which made that homecoming set at Secretfest all the more exciting.
There was an atmosphere of love, appreciation, and, most importantly,
Things have changed a lot since then.
Now, Injury Reserve
That undertaking is a testament to the group's hard work.
At live shows, producer Parker Corey sets up at the back of the stage, controlling the group’s inventive, often experimental, beats. Rappers Ritchie with a T and Stepa J. Groggs bring their own flare. Groggs, almost a decade Ritchie and Corey’s senior, raps with a relaxed maturity. Ritchie isn’t afraid to jump around and play characters, bringing an element of slackened, even-tempered chill. The music is loud and heavy, with something unidentifiably fresh.
They’ve been on a prolific streak since the 2015 release of Live from the Dentist Office. Floss and Drive It Like It’s Stolen followed.
On March 31, Injury Reserve will return to Phoenix and play Crescent Ballroom. It’ll be the group’s first show at Crescent since they played Floss there from front-to-back in January 2017.
If you haven’t caught up with them since their days playing living rooms, the group’s newer sound is quite a departure from their more subdued roots. Here’s a look back at Injury Reserve’s discography released on the group’s Las Fuegas label, founded by the group’s manager (and Live from the Dentist Office cover model) Nick Herbert.
Live from the Dentist Office
The oldest project that Injury Reserve still plays tracks from, Live from the Dentist Office dropped in July 2015. With “Oh Shit!!!,” the group references their early reception, and Ritchie with a
Despite vernacular reservations, this album mostly adheres to that genre. The track that most epitomizes the jazziness is “Friday,” where Ritchie sings on top of a subdued piano and electronic horns. In the middle, the instrumental switches to a more downtrodden melody with a noodling saxophone.
The rest of the album has a similarly relaxed feeling that never hints at the grunge-punkiness that developed when the group was playing house shows. The divisive music critic Anthony Fantano positively reviewed Dentist Office and helped catapult the trio to blogosphere fame.
Tempe musician Jeff Habgood played house shows with Injury Reserve for years. Back then, he started a chant to coincide with Ritchie’s repeated “baby” lyric in the song "
“I don't know exactly when it started but I think one time I just started yelling along with the ‘baby’ line and [Ritchie] really liked it, so I just started to do it every time I would see them,” Habgood says. “It’s a cool reminder of both their roots in the house show scene and their ties to playing with punk bands and raw energy."
By the time they dropped Floss in December 2016, the trio's sound had evolved into a more brash and abrasive project. The album’s lead single and perhaps the group’s most popular track, “Oh Shit!!!,” was released the summer before with a music video. The track was inspired by Travis Scott’s DJ, Chase B, who yells the title as his staple ad-lib.
“There's something about "Oh Shit!!!" that just makes me feel like you can do anything and not give a fuck about it,” Amp ASU co-founder and president Tyler Clark says. “It's a song about growing up and telling people that, yes, you can do it, and shoving it in their face ... It so eloquently says, ‘We're here and we're not going anywhere.’”
The track opens Floss with a jazz piano introduction with shades of Live from the Dentist Office. But then it distorts and Ritchie shouts the "Oh shit!' hook with a rough voice. And things don't really calm down from there.
In fact, it gets more aggressive. “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe” sees Injury Reserve at their most industrial, Death Grips-sounding. The braggy song tackles short-lived, manufactured hip-hop careers. Over an electronic beat and intermittent, toneless yells, Ritchie raps about blank enfranchisement in the industry: “They created your ass with a plan, bro / From clothes to the pics to the fans, yo / See they love what you make, not what you stand for / Got they black Pinocchio with the round nose.”
Drive It Like It’s Stolen
With this 2017 EP, Injury Reserve once again subverted expectations. The six-track,
That track served as the EP’s first single and is markedly more honest than the bravado heard on the previous two albums. Groggs' verse deals with alcohol abuse, while Ritchie's speaks of the loss of his father and a close friend.
And people took notice. The track earned Injury Reserve a "staff pick" spot on the front page of Jay-Z's rap-heavy music streaming service Tidal.
“It's such a soulful beat and they build such an atmosphere with it,” Amp vice president Nicholas Rennemann says.
The rest of the album serves up party-ready, raucous Injury Reserve fare. In “Boom (X3),” the group raps about their influence on the genre, fronting as braggadocious superstars. The song opens with a virtuosic piano solo and then two different piano tracks atop a minimalist, bizarre percussion beat.
Groggs raps, “Created a sound, they started
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.