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Everyone Should Listen To: Injury Reserve - Floss

By: Cameron Rogers

A segment on Eklectish that bigs up the unbigged and shouts out the unshouted within the music world. “Everyone Should Listen To” explores criminally underrated albums that need more love in the hopes that those with Spotify will give them a shot.

Injury Reserve are one of my favourite bands. They topped my “Spotify Wrapped” for 2020, and have been a consistent feature in my music library for about five or so years now. For a group that are as talented as they are, they have very little clout. Most hip-hop fans have never come across them, and are always shocked they’ve “slept on them” as long as they have whenever I pop on a song of theirs. The Arizona-based band was initially made up of a trio - rappers Ritchie With a T and Stepa J. Groggs, alongside producer Parker Corey. Tragically, Stepa passed away last year, leaving the group’s future in considerable doubt. As a result, their near-flawless discography needs more of a shoutout, as these might be the only records that us consumers ever have the pleasure of listening to. Arguably, the pinnacle of their discography in terms of quality is their 2016 banger album, “Floss”.

My inherent bias has thus led me to open the “Everyone Should Listen To” series with this versatile album. The bands second “mixtape” (a terminological exercise that basically means the same thing as “album”) diverts quite noticeably from its more jazz-influenced predecessor, “Live from the Dentist Office”. The smooth guitar and trumpet samples are ditched for a more industrial production style that would not sound out of place on Kanye West’s Yeezus or a Death Grips album.

That’s not to say the trio ditched their roots entirely. The warmly uplifting “sunny morning commute” sounding “S on Ya Chest”, and heartbreakingly repentant “Keep on Slippin”, both take influence from the band’s jazzy beginnings. It is somewhat appropriate that these two songs, tonal opposites, are the two songs seasoned with horn and sax samples. These cuts are also evidence of the fact that this album is an evolution of the band’s sound as opposed to a complete shift.

The rest of the album relies heavily on the aforementioned industrial sound, which Parker Corey seemingly perfected over just one year (the time between this project and their last). This incarnation of the industrial hip-hop sound works especially well on the more in-your-face cuts. The no bullshit opener “Oh Shit!!!”, cultural reference heavy “Bay Boys 3”, and unrelentingly energetic “What’s Goodie” (my personal favourite) are where this style comes into its own. That being said - elation is also an auspicious emotion for this production. The two closing tunes, “Back Then” and “Look Mama I Did It”, make me feel as if I am performing to a Wembley sized stadium of rabid fans while simultaneously receiving a Nobel Prize. These two closers are the perfect accompaniment to a day of small successes.

This album also gets a shoutout for having (arguably) the most poorly aged song of all time. “2016 Interlude” - a light-hearted tune about how people need to wake up and become more tolerant because “it’s 2016” - could not have come out in a worse year politically. Despite the timing, the sentiment of this song is agreeable and the beat slaps, so it gets an upvote from me.

The album is more or less Injury Reserve from back to front, with a feature from Cakes da Killa on “What’s Goodie” (which he nails) and Vic Mensa on “Keep on Slippin” (which he doesn’t nail) being the only two to appear. This is unusual for a rap album, and is also testament to the raw talent of the group itself. Parker’s production is sublime, diverse yet simultaneously distinct. Stepa J. Groggs consistently delivers quality, celebrating his success whilst also offering introspective reflections on alcoholism and responsibility - these being the more sobering verses on the record. His performances across the board are clear evidence of what is now unrealized entelechy. However, my man of the match award goes to Ritchie with a T. Ritchie has always been (in my opinion) the strongest member of the group. He is incredible lyrically, and tonally versatile; on this album more so than on any of Injury Reserve’s others. He brings aggression (Oh Shit!!!; All This Money; Eeny Meeny Miny Moe), excitement (What’s Goodie; Look Mama I Did It) and wise introspection (S on Ya Chest; Keep on Slippin) in equal measure.

Perhaps it is self-serving to open the “Everyone Should Listen To” section with one of my favourite albums. However, that does not detract from the point that this album is little-appreciated and little-known. Injury Reserve managed to create one of the best albums of the decade with their sophomore effort. If their journey has sadly come to an end now, considering what has happened, at least Injury Reserve can pack it in knowing that they created top quality material. Hopefully in due time more people can be made aware of their work, and they can be appreciated more than they were at their peak.

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