Tempe hip-hop legends Injury Reserve have dropped their first new music since the death of Jordan Alexander Groggs AKA Stepa J. Groggs in June of 2020, a single called “Knees.”
The single is from a forthcoming album due Sept 15, titled “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
Groggs was 32.
The single features rapper Ritchie With a T laying down an emotionally devastating vocal track about “knees hurting when I grow” over a suitably haunting bed of experimental hip-hop production courtesy of Parker Corey.
It’s hard to say if the song is meant to sound as melancholy as it does or if that sense of sadness is a side effect of knowing it’s their first release since losing Groggs.
Either way, the feels are unavoidable.
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Album title is based on an Isaac Hayes classic
Stereogum praised the song as “a bleary thing, built on sharp stop-starts that, rather than create angularity, give the song an atmosphere of loopy head fog.”
Ritchie With a T and Corey shared the news on social media, saying one of their last conversations with Groggs was a phone call in which he talked about how he much loved repurposing the title of the Isaac Hayes recording of the Jimmy Webb Song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
“Shortly thereafter, we were struck with his loss and of course everything was put on hold,” they tweeted.
“But eventually we regathered and felt most comfortable finishing this album we had made as it still resonated fully (in some respects even taking on what felt like haunting pre-echoes) and above all else stayed true to his constant insistence while recording to simply ‘make some weird (expletive).'”
The album is “obviously” dedicated to Groggs, they tweeted.
Work began on the album before Groggs death
“Typing here feels small in the space of your real physical absence but you, your voice and your words continue to echo around us all thru these recordings and so many others and everything else. Thank you for your time, we love you and miss you of course of course.”
Work began on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” while on tour in Europe in 2019 with a board recording of a set in Stockholm that “became the grounding” for the album.
“Over the next few months we locked in and put together the 11 songs that that album would eventually become,” they tweeted.
“Those early months of 2020 had about as much turmoil for us as one could expect last year, and between the general social upheaval, loss of livelihoods and family tragedy, the record we made carried these weights.”
According to Stereogum, the new album will “feature the work Groggs completed before his death.”
How Injury Reserve broke out of Tempe
Formed in 2013, the trio first made a name for themselves with a self-released debut titled “Live From the Dentist Office.”
Released in 2015, the album was named in honor of the fact that the tracks had been recorded in an actual Valley dentist office when Corey’s grandpa was done seeing patients.
Anthony Fantano — “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” as he’s been known to call himself — hyped their “Dentist Office” mixtape on the Needle Drop as “a really cool modern spin on an old classic” and “one of the most impressive hip-hop debuts I’ve heard.”
The initially Tempe-based trio delivered on that promise with an even better second album, “Floss,” before a move to California in early 2017.
As Corey explained the move to The Republic at the time, “We started to hit that ceiling in Phoenix where the people that we needed to be talking to, the people we needed to set up meetings with, the industry, it just was not in Phoenix.”
They ended up landing a deal with Loma Vista Recordings, a label whose roster includes St. Vincent, Iggy Pop and Common, releasing an acclaimed self-titled album in May of 2019.
Sputnikmusic had nothing but praise for the album, saying it was “as cohesive a hip-hop album as one can hope” and citing Groggs’ and Ritchie’s “growing skepticism with modern hip-hop culture, and a heightened awareness of its pretensions” as one of the reasons for that.”
‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ tracklist
- “Superman That”
- “SS San Francisco [ft. Zelooperz]”
- “Footwork in a Forest Fire”
- “Ground Zero”
- “Smoke Don’t Clear”
- “Top Picks For You”
- “Wild Wild West”
- “Bye Storm”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.
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