Injury Reserve are one of those groups that you want to root for. As they’ll tell you on their latest effort Floss, their music careers began in a Dentist’s office where three friends who were all “sick of wishin” cooped up for a couple weeks to put together a rap tape. Floss is their second tape from that office and again they’ve compiled some ruthless material with titles like “Oh Shit!!!” (that’s three exclamation marks) and “All This Money.” Besides the banger-worthy hits, however, the group’s heart shows loud and clear on the more emotionally moving material making for a fantastic collection of songs.
The first half of the record packs the most heat. “Oh Shit” rides in on a dramatic piano melody before the shouting, 00s rap hook comes into play. It’s clear that Ritchie and Stepa are just settling in as they pack the tune with creative, fun rhymes to get things going: “I say this ain’t jazz rap/This that-this that spazz Rap.” “Bad Boys 3” follows, showcasing Parker Corey’s production chops. Sampling a gospel choir, Corey paints a rather dark sonic picture with a bubbling bass line to compliment the slew of chopped up vocals. The group is still crafting danceable material with the Beastie Boys-tinged “All This Money,” but Corey’s production grows up a bit on “S on Ya Chest,” utilizing a Terrace Martin sounding horn line before the violent “What’s Goodie” attacks the listener once again.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of fair comparisons when describing the group’s sound, which can be a bit harmful; it’s hard to say what the signature Injury Reserve sound is when they channel other eras and artists so often. Corey certainly does enough to make every beat interesting, but their next project could likely benefit from a bit more effort on finding a signature sound.
The second half of the record is much more emotionally driven. “All Quiet on the West Side” is the group’s ode to the DIY rap show. Besides the tongue in cheek talk about setting up the PA and “trying to hear some “Hey Ya,” Andre 3k,” Ritchie mentions the focus that these venues place on music, as opposed to the violence that sometimes runs through underprivileged communities: “And my ni**a with the strap: please don’t spray it/Matter a fact, ni**a please don’t bring it/And if you know the words ni**a please go sing it.” Despite only being able to agree on “fuck cancer,” the people of the underground rap show are able to come together for the occasion. Sonically speaking, “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe” is a bit out of place. As opposed to the aquatic ambiance of the previous track, the listener is hit with some abrasive, raw material. Luckily the lyrics keep up somewhat of a theme, again discussing underground hip hop: “catch a rapper at a show/couple dollars let him go/whose up next I don’t know.”
“Keep on Slippin” returns to the understated sound of “All Quiet on the West Side.” A distant trumpet melody yearns to compliment the intimate hook from Ritchie. Stepa and feature artist Vic Mensa both talk about mental health. Both assure their audience that their spirits are high enough to warrant a sense of humor: “My mental issues going on and on, I feel like Badu,” but some heavy, sad material also comes into play: “then the homie josh od-ed/then I’m thinking to myself that coulda been me/just turned 28 but my livers probably 73.” “Look Mama I Did it” rounds out the album nicely with some heartfelt material. Again, Corey splits the ears between a potent bass line and an abundance of chopped up gospel vocals. Ritchie offers a rather sad narrative, first thanking his mother before delving into his complex relationship with his father. Stepa sounds triumphant in his final verse with some words about their inspiring rise to fame.
The project is of a quality not often achieved by such an underground crew. Whether it be a standardized trap beat or a dated boom-bap effort, many new rappers don’t find a solid overall aesthetic until they sign to a larger label. Injury Reserve seems to have skipped this step and although they’re still somewhat searching for a signature sound, the many sides of Floss showcase a group ready to hit the national stage.