The Break Presents: Injury Reserve
Injury Reserve—a Phoenix-based trio comprised of rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey—don't look like your typical modern day rappers but they're making some of the freshest sounds in hip-hop right now. These DIY upstarts have been steadily getting bolder and better on their come up and pride themselves on doing things their way. Just look at how they got their group name.
"The name came up from a rap line from the first song I made with my friend," Ritchie explains to XXL while in New York. "It's corny because the song is so bad but if anything came from it, it was that."
Since their beginnings in 2014, the group has been gradually making waves in the underground hip-hop world, initially with their bridge of hip-hop and jazz. But don't pigeonhole them to just that. With each new project, their sound expands.
They recorded their debut EP, Live From the Dentist Office (2015), in Parker's grandfather’s dental office after work hours. The project built them an underground following and they continued that momentum by shifting gears for Floss, a 12-track album, which dropped in 2016. The project showed off Ritchie and Stepa's wordplay and chemistry paired with crispy production from Parker. By the time Drive It Like It’s Stolen released in September, their music seemed primed to make them household names.
The goal for Injury Reserve is to keep evolving. "We just want to just really keeping people on their toes and having something fresh whenever we dropped something," says Stepa. With a great body of work out and shows lined up for the rest of the year, get to know more about Ritchie, Stepa and Parker here for The Break.
Name: Injury Reserve (rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey)
Age: Parker, 21; Ritchie, 22; Stepa 29
Hometown: Parker Corey, Phoenix; Stepa J. Groggs, The Bay Area; Ritchie With A T, San Diego
I grew up listening to:
Parker Corey: "I didn't grow up [listening] to anything. My family was not a musical family. They listened to country and pop country radio. but then when I was in high school, I liked this one Lupe Fiasco song, and I saw something about how My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had good reviews and I was like, That's cool. He's this guy who everyone says is an asshole but he comes out with this music that's great. So I downloaded the album and that was the first full album I ever listened to, which was a good start.
"So you ever seen those YouTube videos where it's like every song Kanye sampled for blah, blah? They show the original samples and then it switches to the song that did the sample. So I saw that and thought that was really cool. How can I do that? So I got [the music program] Logic and was really bad for months. This was around sophomore year in high school."
Stepa J. Groggs: "When I first started really digging into hip-hop, before I was just listening to what's on the radio. But when I really started to get into it, it was the early Roc-A-Fella, G-Unit, Slim Shady kind of era. I got a little bit older and one of my jobs, every Friday I hit up this huge record store and I would just buy CDs—some old, some new. I started listening to [A] Tribe [Called Quest], started doing a little history and yeah.
"In eighth grade it was a group of boys who always freestyled and pressured me to. I finally started and I was surprisedly better than all of them, which was cool. I did the whole little high school battle thing but I didn't really start writing songs until my best friend and I started making music together. He bought a mic and a mixer and we just stayed up getting high as hell and made songs. Then I met these guys when I moved to Arizona and that's when I really started to take things serious."
Ritchie With a T: "My dad was Rastafarian basically so I grew up listening to a lot of reggae but that's when I was over at his house. My mom, she listened to a lot of stuff like Tony Toni Tone and Earth, Wild & Fire. What's crazy though is I never really gone back and listened to that stuff. Like it's something I grew up listening to, but I don't really listen to right now. Its not like I don't mess with it. I dove so deep into hip-hop. I've been into hip-hop for 10, 12 years. It takes that many years to learn about everything. I grew up on a bunch of different stuff but once Limewire happened, [Kanye West's The] College Dropout happened and that's when it was like, woah. Once Limewire happening and I started to just basically get anything I wanted to get. Then I got really into a lot of The Bay Area rap music and that's basically it.
"I started dabbling with it in music in high school. Actually, no, I always been really into hip-hop and after College Dropout, I remember I was in seventh grade, for Christmas my grandpa got me a drum machine and I never learned how to use it. I always knew what I wanted to do and I always recorded stuff from my phone but I never actually knew how to do it. It was so confusing. It was only just for drum sounds. It's funny, two, three years ago I sold it for like $40 on Craiglist. That's a true story [laughs]. But that was the first time I tried to do anything with hip-hop. I wanted to be a dancer, I was into dancing. But fast-forward to high school and my friend made a rap song and everyone was fucking with it. He got all this attention and I thought, i can do that. You always freestyle with your friends but that's different than actually making a song. We eventually made a song together and it was big in our little school district. That was the first time.
"So right after I did this, I started taking rap real serious. That song was kind of big for the area and I was camping out for some shoes with a friend of mine, who was on the rival basketball team. But he told me that he knows I rap and his best friend makes beats. His best friend was Parker. Fast-forward and I did a mixtape and Parker did the whole thing. I met Groggs during the first week I moved to Phoenix because my mom opened a couple of Vans stores out there and Groggs was working at the first door. And we kind of built a relationship because he would give my mom CDs and be like, 'You should give this to your son to listen to.' And I always knew he raps and was really into hip-hop. So finally by the time I was doing a project and Parker was producing the majority, I just asked Groggs, 'Hey, do you want to be on this?' It was the first time we worked together."
My style’s been compared to:
Parker: "Our sound is basically just doing whatever we think is cool within the world of people who try to experiment and do stuff that's still pop-oriented; the Pharrells and the Kanyes. Kind of falling in that footsteps."
Ritchie: "Being experimental but be accessible. Pushing the genre's soundscape and the content but while also a bunch of different people can like it. You can actually play it for your mom; it's not super jarring shit or very niche to listen to it. It's very easy to consume but it also brings something to the table. Like when you heard [Kanye West's] "Love Lockdown" on the radio for the first time."
Parker: "It's just finding that sweet spot."
Most people don’t know:
Parker: "I was the captain of my high school swim team."
Ritchie: "He was a very serious swimmer and the reason why all of this got started is during his junior year of high school. He fell off the back of a truck and shattered his collarbone. He couldn't swim so he started to get into music seriously. He couldn't go with us to see Kendrick Lamar show when he was on Section.80 tour too."
Parker: "I just had surgery. I had the ticket and I had to sell it."
My standout moment to date:
Stepa: "I definitely think the sold-out show at Crescent for our album release of Floss was a very big moment. It was kind of cool to sell out a venue like that in Arizona and people really responding well to."
Parker: "My favorite moment with a song is when we first dropped 'Oh Shit.' That was the firs time people realized we're not going to be this underground jazz rap group. When we put out our first mixtape, it got good reviews. So we had like a little cult following then. But when we dropped 'Oh Shit,' one of the first lines was, 'This ain't that jazz rap shit.' It was the first time we told people this is going to be an evolving thing."
My goal in hip-hop is:
Parker: "To play stadiums."
Ritchie: "To leave a stamp where when you hear something 20 years from now and say, 'That sounds like a Injury Reserve song.' It's real simple but to actually have an impact and not be some type of place holder."
Parker: "I want it to be every time an Injury Reserve album comes out it's not, 'I know I'm going to get this,' but rather a 'What the fuck are we going to get?'"
Ritchie: "When a Kanye album drops you don't know what to expect. That's how we approach music."
I’m going to be the next:
Ritchie: "We're not fans of being the next of anything. You remember how for like two months every rapper said they're the reincarnation of Tupac? Why would you want to be? Tupac is amazing but don't you want to leave your own stamp? Obviously it's easy for us to say a good avenue for us is something like OutKast, critically acclaimed but they're still pop, rap stars. But at the same time, we don't want to be the next OutKast."
Follow Injury Reserve on Twitter and SoundCloud.
Standouts: Drive It Like It's Stolen
Live From the Dentist Office
See New Music Releases for October 2017