The era of civic pride in Hip-Hop is very slowly coming to an end. The art form that thrived off of the grimy street culture it was conceived in has transformed into a medium that can survive without deep roots in a specific place. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago have dozens of legendary Hip-Hop artists each. Even places like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida have produced successful Hip-Hop acts.
Cities like Phoenix, AZ, however, have had little mainstream representation. But thanks to the Phoenix-based trio Injury Reserve, combined with their apt manipulation of the internet, that may be about to change.
Rappers Ritchie with a T, Steppa J Groggs, and producer Parker Corey make up the group that has been making waves in the underground since their first project, Live From the Dentist’s Office, in mid 2015. Since then, the group has been releasing music and playing around the country, but the ironically named “The Arena Tour,” which landed at the DC9 Nightclub in Washington, D.C., on March 5, marks the group’s first headlining tour.
Opening the show that night was a Portland-based rapper named Maze Koroma, whose music relies on the strength of his lyrics and hooks, with a number of his lyrical gems obtaining reactions from parts of the crowd. The rapper took a little while to win the crowd over, but eventually had the dozens in the audience bouncing to his beats. The mostly teenage crowd, however, was ready for their headliner.
Upon entry to the small, upstairs venue that is DC9, it becomes immediately apparent how much effort the group had put in to the tour’s aesthetic. Small TV screens lined the side of the venue, as well as a projected image on the wall next to the stage. Throughout the night, these screens played visual representations of the song the group was performing, a notable example being the emoji representation of the lyrics to “S On Ya Chest” that flashed as the group rapped. On the stage was also an office-style desk covered in stickers and marker, on top of which were Corey’s computer and sampler, which he used throughout the night.
The stage was also covered in plastic wrap, which the venue seems to have put there on purpose. Upon taking the stage, however, Injury Reserve threw it into the audience. Too bad for the venue, who likely came up with this as an inelegant solution for cleaning the fake snow (shredded Styrofoam) that the group blows onto the stage and audience during their performance of “North Pole.” The most impressive moment of the night was definitely the glass box that stood in the corner of the stage for most of the show, until near the end, when it was revealed to be a one-way mirror, inside of which Ritchie sang and rapped part of the 2015 track “ttktv.”
Injury Reserve have some ravenous fans and aggressively catchy music, as evidenced by the fact that the group’s first song had the crowd going crazy without the group even taking the stage, opting to rap the song offstage. IR’s set was so long and involved, it even featured a brief intermission. After leaving the stage for a second time, the crowd chanted “One more song!”, to which Injury Reserve complied, playing their hit song “Oh Shit!!!” for a second time that night, but at a much faster tempo, throwing the crowd into the biggest hysteria of an already frenetic night.
Injury Reserve has been on the come-up for a few years now, with endorsements from publications such as Mass Appeal, Pigeons and Planes, and, of course, the Internet’s busiest music nerd, Anthony Fantano, a.k.a. TheNeedleDrop. There seems to be no sign of slowing for the group, and the world is better off for it. Do not miss this tour, especially if you live near a venue on the leg of the tour where Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA opens the show. Missing out on this new wave of hip-hop is a mistake no one needs to make.
These incredible photos from Injury Reserve’s performance at the DC9 Nightclub, in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2018, were taken by StayUp.News senior content producer and photographer Jack M. Angelo:
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