Review Summary: Drive It Like It's Stolen displays Injury Reserve retracting heavy hitting bangers in favour of a more serious and dramatic tone
Ever since the release of Cooler Colors
back in 2014, a release from Injury Reserve
has become like a holiday for fans: it comes once a year, everyone gets excited as it comes closer to the event, and it's a reason to celebrate. On September 4th, Injury Reserve
announced their fourth project, Drive It Like It's Stolen!
, and dropped a new single the very next day. After hearing Injury Reserve
's past two singles leading up to Floss
, Oh Sh*t!!!
and All This Money
, fans expected to hear another hard-hitting banger from the trio. However, the group presented a dreary, tearjerker that would foreshadow the tone of this new EP.
was the first track dropped from this project and it is easily their gloomiest track yet. The track starts with a quiet acoustic guitar that slowly gets louder, playing four simple chords. Alongside those bleak chords is a chopped up, heavily autotuned vocal snippet that adds a melody to the track. The bleak tone is set for a full 45 seconds before any rapping is heard. Then finally, Steppa J Groggs steps in and delivers his most emotional verse yet about his loss of direction and personal problems with alcoholism. The second verse, rapped by second MC, Ritchie with a T, drains all the remaining happiness out of the listener as he leaves a voicemail for a friend who died of an overdose. Halfway through his verse, he even steps up the depressive value by asking his friend to pass the phone to his father, who he's previously mentioned on Look Mama I Did It
as having passed away earlier in his life. The track also features a monotone chorus delivered by Slow Hollows
' Austin Feinstein (the only feature on the EP) that perfectly pulls the dreariness of the track together without being too over the top or lifeless. Finally, the outro is an overly autotuned, almost robotic sounding, verse sung by the group's silent producer Parker Corey that brings the powerful depth and despair of the track fully together. The lyrics on this cut are incredible, the performances are excellent, and the production is astounding; this single comes together as one of Injury Reserve
's most beautiful and best tracks yet.
Though that song may feature Corey's only vocal contribution on this EP, the producer has really advanced his skill since the group's last release. Corey brings glitchy, industrial, and experimental instrumentals to the table that audiences have never heard before. The EP kicks off with a booming bass for the opener TenTenths
that quickly reels in this short, clicky snippet that sounds like it could be in a movie like Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream. This beat illustrates a flashy club scene in the viewers mind that has been created in movies so many times before but without sounding overdone or unoriginal. See You Sweat
is this subtle party anthem with samples of audiences roaring, blaring police sirens, heavy bass, and, unusually enough, a quiet splash of water. The instrumental hits a high point at the beginning of Groggs' verse as it becomes more stripped back and tension building. Boom X3
could be seen as the sequel to Floss
's Oh Sh*t!!!
with it's thundering bass and dark piano chords, easily making it the heaviest track of the project. The track Colors
features the glitchiest, most experimental instrumental that Corey's ever created as it comes in extremely choppy. It starts as a short high-pitched tone being repeated rapidly with a shrill sample recurring throughout. The beat creates an immensely dark tone for the song, sounding like it could belong in a tense horror movie. As the song furthers, the piece grows and grows featuring a melody that rings of a SOPHIE
influence. Corey has clearly been delving into industrial, electronic, and ambient music and pays off amazingly.
Groggs and Ritchie also bring their routinely excellent performances to the table, delivering both ear-capturing verses and their usual, intelligent lyricism. While some tracks deliver on stereotypical braggadocios rap tropes, others bring entirely serious subject matter; as previously mentioned on North Pole
. On Boom X3
, Ritchie bursts into the song bringing his aggressive roaring with him in full effect as he compares their raps to various crimes such as murder and robbery. Groggs enters the track with a low-pitched effect on his vocals continuing the top dog act but it's Ritchie's verse that really steals the show as he debunks all critiques of modern hip-hop. He negates the idea of rapping about drug use and guns as being a negative, saying that all subject matter can be performed well. He continues by counterpointing the thought that ghostwriting is a new concept with the ingenious line, "Isn't Ice Cube writing 64' a known fact"". The topic of racial inequality is discussed heavily on the track Colors
while taking two different approaches. The first view being a bleak view of the topic as they watch white privilege continue to prosper. On the other hand, they're hopeful that things will eventually even out with the continuous repetition of the saying "the grass gets greener". And on See You Sweat
, the group prove that they write more than just surface level lyrics. The song plays out like a sexy, intimate anthem with the chorus repeatedly saying to keep the lights on so Ritchie can "see you sweat". However, Corey claims the lyrics go deeper than that and quotes the song as being a political song with the point being enforced by the raging police sirens. His thoughts completely changing the tone of the song to a chase down of police brutality; just another way Injury Reserve
continues to be one of the most clever rap groups today.
The project, unfortunately, is not without it's flaws, which come in the form of two major tracks: '91 Cadillac DeVille
and Chin Up (Outro)
. The former is kicked off by it's ambient beat, playing the reversal of a melody in a really interesting way. Disappointingly, the rest of the track isn't nearly as interesting. The energy from both MCs is consistently low, the lyrics are too vague to give audiences a grasp, and it offers very little in the form of a chorus. The instrumental is static throughout with almost no change and the chorus appears to be the dullest on the project with Ritchie and Groggs delivering these exhausted performances that only become worse when it transports into a cliché counting game. The latter, on the other hand, plays out very well for the most part. Chin Up (Outro)
immediately bursts in with a fun, pumping beat, giving listeners tons of energy right from the get go. Ritchie chimes in with some of his highest energy on the whole project, shouting endearing and inspirational phrases to listeners. As the song furthers, the track becomes stronger and stronger as the two rappers swap short verses consistently in traditional rap group fashion. The two discuss their come up in the hip-hop game and confidently pass a message of following your dreams and having fun to the audience. However, with 40 seconds left in the track, the song starts to fade out as listeners strain to decipher the remainder of the lyrics. Audiences are left desperately hoping for more as a weakened ending ruins a great song; a weak ending for both the outro and EP.
Overall, this is a solid project from Injury Reserve
, it may not be their best release but it's certainly not a bad project either. For starters to the group, this is not the best point to start but listeners likely won't be turned away either as the highlights on this EP surely outdo the tape's shortcomings. This is definitely a project fans are not going to want to miss out on and a nice addition to their quickly building, impressive discography.
Strengths - North Pole
- Original and experimental production
- Powerful performances and lyrical subject matter
- Success in capturing dreary atmospheres
Weaknesses - Lack of Injury Reserve
- '91 Cadillac DeVille
- Fade out ending