Records like 2016’s Floss was one of the first looks that injury Reserve received as attention from a mainstream audience. For the Arizona-based natives, Injury Reserve was headed by Parker Corey, Nathaniel Ritchie, and the now recently passed Jordan Groggs a.k.a. Stepa J. Groggs. While the loss of the triple-headed monster crew was an immense surprise to pretty much anyone that liked hip-hop, their 2021 record By The Time I Get To Phoenix feels as if it was a beautiful timestamp for Injury Reserve in a new direction without forgetting their roots.
Opening with “Outside,” much of this record is reflective of a black mirror, filled to the brim with static and distorted images of apparitional damage to come. While there are beautiful melodies placed into the layering of the piece, “Outside” is ultimately much of a contorted body that Injury Reserve sinks into.
They mangle and crumple the synths here and while the abstraction is there, the loose rigging of wires on “Outside” is drenched with anxiety and this looming presence of uneasiness. Their other records had some minute independence from straight-forward hip-hop on production or lyricism, By The Time I Get To Phoenix is about the farthest from left-field that could come from Injury Reserve.
The album becomes this grower, not something that is initially loved from the jump. There are some tracks present, like “SS San Francisco” where the feature from Zelooperz is engaging and has some truly quotable lines. He describes, “Know my body mad at me because it’s going through it, scared to have some kids because the world be goin’ through it.”
While the production is folding under the weight of itself and hitting stutter-steps, Injury Reserve is a desperado here and covered in ashes and dust. Rising more like a phoenix of sound, By The Time I Get To Phoenix plays with the audience and pushes that border on what creates an attractive style.
By The Time I Get To Phoenix is a record that needs to be played as one solid piece with little distractions on the mind. It is not a club record, nor will it be attractive to the same audience that Floss or even their self-titled of Injury Reserve could gravitate towards.
Instead; Injury Reserve loses a head on the hydra but gains steps into a musically challenging direction. As the blistering sun warps and cuts into the audience, By The Time I Get To Phoenix is empty feelings over a fulfilling record.