Staff pick: Injury Reserve and Armand Hammer at Skully’s

Two of hip-hop’s most warped duos bring their stacked double-headlining show to Columbus.

Kevin J. Elliott
Injury Reserve

"I’m at the Injury Reserve show, 

I’m at the Armand Hammer show, 

I’m at the combination Injury Reserve/Armand Hammer show."

That’s a tweet I saw last weekend, but the callback to the 2010 Das Racist viral smash seems apt when addressing a tour of this magnitude. Both Arizona’s Injury Reserve and Brooklyn’s Armand Hammer released 2021 albums that were frequently at the top of many year-end lists. For heads looking to eschew the traditional trappings of modern hip-hop, this show seems to be a smorgasbord of rhymes atop shards of harsh, claustrophobic soundscapes and zany sampling vérité. It’s a celebration of the cathartic and absurd.

Trying to compartmentalize Injury Reserve into any sort of genre box, especially after hearing last year’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix for the first time, will fall short given the group's “make some weird shit” mantra. Coming off of a tumultuous set of circumstances, not least of which was the devastating loss of founding member Stepa J. Groggs, the duo of Ritchie with a T and producer Parker Corey manage to pick up the pieces, if only to scatter them all over their sonic universe again. While the lyrics of Ritchie with a T and Groggs find discernable flows throughout songs like “Superman That” and the frenetic “Footwork in a Forest Fire,” Corey’s disorienting blend of glitch electronics, hyper-pop, and chopped and screwed field recordings defy any true classification. A track as soulfully drenched as “Knees” shows Injury Reserve refusing to retreat in the face of hardship, instead pushing forward into a post-underground playground all their own, with little regard for form or function.

Armand Hammer, on the other hand, revels in the grit and grime of Wu-Tang histrionics. The combined forces of Elucid and Billy Woods teamed with the famed Alchemist (Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Boldl James) on Haram, culminating in the most accessible Armand Hammer release to date. The title (a reference to everything forbidden by Islam) and cover (two bloody pig heads) reflect the grinding darkness that penetrates every nook and cranny of the music. “Falling Out of the Sky,” a feature with Earl Sweatshirt, lightens the mood with a space-inflected synth, but the anti-capitalist tales and the depressed malaise evoke a soundtrack to our current wave of dystopia. There's something potent in the quick delivery of album highlight “Roaches Don’t Fly,” wherein the old-school, Def Jux-inspired textures and hypnotic glooming can do serious psychic damage.

Akai Solo, another Brooklyn eccentric, opens the show.

Injury Reserve and Armand Hammer

8 p.m. Saturday, May 28

Skully's Music-Diner

1151 N. High St., Short North

Also performing: Akai Solo