There may not be a more affirming happening for a hip-hop group than to get press from The Source magazine, and following the release of their newest video, "Washed Up," Tempe-based three-piece Injury Reserve attained that milestone.
Like all of Injury Reserve's previous music videos, "Washed Up" is intelligent and high-concept, and it goes right along with the lyrical content of the song without being a word-for-word show-and-tell. But unlike all their previous work, the group seemingly has abandoned the boom-bap style of their first release Cooler Colors, going in favor of a far more alt hip-hop vibe with the yet-to-be-released follow-up Live at the Dentist Office.
"Washed Up" is the group's second single off the upcoming album. The first was the February release "Whatever Dude." Both songs provide a look into the groups thoughts on the cookie cutter culture that the Valley of the Sun is so often accused of cultivating. Will Neibergall, a.k.a. GlassPopcorn, sent out a press release about the video saying:
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"Enclosed: epic character studies of rap group Injury Reserve as jaded antiheroes, deeply symbolic images of faceless throngs of people dressed completely in black, and a spectral image of white shoes on a wire against a black sky. All this cinematic overture in the service of one simple idea: Phoenix, Arizona fucking suuuucks. Forget Chance the Rapper and his fatherly advice; Injury Reserve spit bars for the Xanax generation, kids who lash out at a world (town, neighborhood) full of lifeless drones by becoming lifeless drones themselves. These guys are up next, so if anyone finds Ritchie With A T, please let me know. Last spotted in bed, with cold sweats. Wishy wishy wishy wishy wishy wishy wishy wishy"
At first, both rapper Nathaniel Ritchie, a.k.a. Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey somewhat skirted the issue of Phoenix sucking, keeping the jabs at the copper state somewhat light.
"I'm not going to sit here and act like I love it here. It's not home to me," Ritchie says. "At the end of the day, I don't love it here. But if I didn't move out here, none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have met any of the people who are helping me with what I'm doing now, and I love the people we are affiliated with, and I love a lot of the bands here. But I don't think Phoenix has an influence on that. I think it's a lot of kids that care but not because of Phoenix."
But after a few more questions, the gloves came off and real feelings were revealed.
Corey elaborated on his feelings about Arizona with a Hunter S. Thompson quote, which he thought would have made a good preamble to "Washed Up."
"Who knows? If there is, in fact, a Heaven and a Hell, all we know for sure is that Hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix -- a clean, well-lit place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing . . . And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there. Missing. Back-ordered. No tengo. Vaya con dios. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get."
Corey added that "everything feels like a facade" in Phoenix. Ritchie brought the whole conversation around the crux of Injury Reserve's problem with Phoenix.
"There's more opportunities somewhere else," he says. "At first, you would think being the only good rap act in Arizona would be a benefit of yours. But at the same time, you only get get so much respect being out of Arizona."
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The song and especially the video are about more than just the group's feelings about Arizona, however. An equally important theme in the song, according to the group, is the willingness with which they perceive their peers have embraced mediocrity.
"For me the big point is more so the general aspect of people being oaky with mediocrity in their lives. Me and Nate [Ritchie] more specifically are at that point where we are young college-aged kids seeing people we grew up with accept being average," Corey says.
Ritchie added, "It's a big reflection of my peers around me, and me graduating high school and me looking at some of my friends not doing what they were talking about doing moving forward. I just hear people lying to themselves in a college atmosphere, whether it's some kids that graduated high school and went straight to college and are doing some major they have no passion about, Or if's kids that graduated high school and moved out of their parents house just to be "independent" and are now working a really average job for 40 hours a week because they have too much pride to live with their parents for two years while they get on their feet."
Earlier in the year, Ritchie told New Times he wants his group to "blow up and be Kanye West." While they may not be balling with the Louis Vuitton Don quite yet, all of the lights of the big time may not be so far out.