Off the back of one of the most praised underground rap records in recent years, it didn’t take long for Injury Reserve to build on their successes. While most would take a year or two out, it has become abundantly clear that maybe the Arizona trio wouldn’t need a gap year. Instead only ten months after the release of acclaimed debut ‘Floss’, ‘Drive It Like It’s Stolen’ is a unique EP that signals the variety this group have to offer.
‘Floss’ consistently carried a distinct sound; it was confident, loud and very slick. It removed a large portion of the jazz inspiration that dominated previous releases and traded it for a more conventional, production-focused project. On ‘DILIS’, Injury Reserve takes yet another side-step and instead introduces a furtive, unpredictable take on their sound.
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Despite the implication of the project’s title, ‘Drive It Like It’s Stolen’ is a patient, dark and very slow album. Swapping bangers for brooding tracks, Injury Reserve treads the line between sombre and boredom very carefully throughout. Instead of raging rap anthems like ‘Oh Shit!!!’ or ‘All This Money’, the highlights on this record are the moments when they dig deep into the depths of their enigma. The disfigured rhythmic structure of opener ‘TenTenths’ sets the tone while ’91’ Cadillac Deville’ confronts how in all the mad hysteria in life, everything would be so much easier if love was everywhere.
‘North Pole’ is the most emotional song Injury Reserve have penned to date. With an acoustic guitar lead, it is a stand-out moment on the EP with it’s desolate chorus and verses that pour out harboured feelings. On the first verse, Stepa J Groggs asks why old friends only started talking to him again after his rap career took off (“Songs start going up and I get hit with “Oh, I missed you”s / Same number since ’04, so you can miss me with the excuse“). In all its despondent misery, it is sincere and honest which is something the group are getting well established for.
Apart from the unashamed ‘Boom (X3)’ – a brutal, if slightly irritating reminder of what Injury Reserve can offer – the EP is simply too tonally unvaried. Despite their lyrical prowess on show, the EP plods along and changes so minutely over the course of its 24-minute run-time. The production is powerful and consistently solid but its inability to offer different sounding songs forces itself into a box where not one song could be defined as the Lead Single. Obviously ‘See You Sweat’ has the potential to be a classic circa 2006 but Injury Reserve‘s determination to keep it consistent sonically with the EP instructs the song to restrain itself from fully exercising its potential.
While there certainly aren’t any bad songs, there is only one truly great song on this project which, compared to their previous efforts, is disappointing. Nonetheless, Injury Reserve have proven why they are one of the next big names in rap and have established a new sound which has the potential to be one of their best.