‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’: Injury Reserve’s chaotic, painful tribute to Stepa J. Groggs
15.09.2021

‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’: Injury Reserve’s chaotic, painful tribute to Stepa J. Groggs

Words by Kate Streader

Injury Reserve’s second studio album honours their late member’s constant insistence to “make some weird shit”.

After the sudden death of co-founding member Jordan “Stepa J.” Groggs last year, Arizonan hip hop outfit Injury Reserve have returned with their highly-anticipated second studio album, By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

Predominantly recorded before Groggs’ death, the album is as an abstract, chaotic collage of mourning peppered with “what felt like haunting pre-echoes” from Injury Reserve’s late member.

A culmination of the pain, anxiety, anger, confusion and loss that defined 2020, By The Time I Get To Phoenix is marked with jarring tonal shifts and mounting tension, struggling to catch its breath as it jumps between stages of grief.

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Ain’t no savin’ me, ain’t no savin’ me or you“, repeats an auto-tuned Ritchie With a T on the disorienting ‘Superman This’. It’s one of many gut-wrenching, sobering moments that remind us this album is an epitaph.

Injury Reserve have never been known to favour convention, but By The Time I Get To Phoenix is undoubtedly their most unhinged effort yet. It’s abrasive, sometimes to the point of discomfort, as it assaults the ears with sonic strobing, cacophonous melodies and tinges of trap. But, somehow, it all works.

Perhaps the record’s tamest and rawest moments comes in ‘Top Picks For You’. “I felt loss but a hole like this I never coulda imagined“, laments Ritchie amidst a candid, grumbled monologue. It would offer reprieve from the discordance if it weren’t so painful.

It’s difficult to imagine an Injury Reserve without Groggs. Not only is the chemistry and balance of the trio’s contrasting sounds and strengths central to their appeal, but Groggs is largely to thank for their unrelenting experimentation.

In a statement introducing the album and dedicating it to their lost friend, Ritchie With a T and Parker Corey spoke of the importance of finishing the album in a way that “stayed true to [Groggs’] constant insistence while recording to simply “make some weird shit”.

And though they unequivocally honoured his wishes, By The Time I Get To Phoenix is still fucking heartbreaking.

8.5

By The Time I Get To Phoenix is out now.