For the last three years, my SXSW experience has consisted of seeking out strong DJ sets, good solo rappers, and live bands that grab my attention. New artists to listen to once I'm home. Strong talents that bring a steady show.
While that is often the case, rarely do I find a hip-hop group that really blows me away. Two-9 in 2014 is the only other exception I can think of, but this year I was able to catch a set by Arizona trio Injury Reserve. They were one of the initial acts at the Brownies & Lemonade showcase and they were incredibly caffeinated (either naturally or they were chugging coffee backstage), jumping into the crowd and starting mosh pits as they blended smooth singles (listen to "Yo") with thick, bouncing bass (listen to "Everybody Knows"). Comparing to other acts is weak, but think Cool Kids meets Odd Future with a sprinkle of Ratking.
Made up of two vocalists (Ritchie with a T and Steppa J. Groggs) and a producer (Parker Corey), their energy is undeniable, their output is undeniable, and if you visit any of their websites (or social media pages), you will see that their look is clean as hell.
Looping into Chicago a little bit, photographer Jake Osmun has actually shot for them in the past while out in L.A., and the group's manager assists with Vic Mensa.
Although these guys didn't arrive on my radar until the beginning of this year, Injury Reserve released their debut full-length, Live from the Dentist Office, last year. The Needle Drop adored it and I didn't get into it until months down the road, but it still impresses me with every listen. I'm still blasting it as the rain falls down in this Chicago April. With features from Chuck Inglish and Curtis Williams (of Two-9), the album maintains cohesion and represents a new sound, one both old school and modern as hell. Retrofuturistic, full of creativity and appeal. A personal favorite of mine is their track “ttktv”, which clocks in at over six minutes, and which was the first song of theirs that I heard. It played after a Knox Fortune song and I've been listening ever since, even including it in my DJ set the other week. The experimental (see also: tropical) song flows like a hip-hop waterfall, a soulful stream of grooves, of distorted vocals and slapping instrumentation. Something to play when you want to fall asleep with your head still bobbing.
Alongside their powerful music, Injury Reserve add an extra layer to their craft with the group strongly focused on photography, on clean and vibrant imagery, and even a limited run zine. They have two drops so far, with t-shirts, physical copies of their album, a dorm poster, and a photo book. Almost all of these are sold out, and rightfully so; Injury Reserve is a trio that will continue to grow and gain attention, within Arizona and miles beyond. They seem to just be getting started.