Interest | Art & Culture

One Perfect Song: North Pole

Minggu, 21 Apr 2024 17:00 WIB
One Perfect Song: North Pole
Foto: Injury Reserve
Jakarta -

While sometimes tangled between one another, the experience of loss and feeling lost are noticeably distinct. Processing loss might lead to feeling lost, yet the two come from a different place. What's certain is that they are both universal experiences that all of us went through at some point in our lives, and "North Pole" by Injury Reserve encapsulates them perfectly.

Released as the first single for the group's sophomore EP, Drive it Like it's Stolen, "North Pole" marks a stark departure from the singles of their recent mixtapes. Often boisterous, most times experimental, "North Pole" defies expectations by presenting Injury Reserve at their most somber and introspective. As per usual, the group's sound is shaped by producer Parker Corey's soundscape, which traded in far-reaching sample curation and maximalist production for subdued production.

Quiet acoustic guitar chords lay the foundation for a heavily pitched vocal sample to set in, chopped up in a way that makes it sound more atmospheric than it does a human voice. It was only after the 45-second mark that rapper Stepa J. Groggs begins amplifying the somberness. Within seconds, he managed to tackle his loss of direction, alcoholism, isolation, and loneliness. As there's still a touch of estrangement in his words, we're made to wonder: how much of the isolation is of his own making? Times were misused and regrets settle later, and Groggs' closer for the verse remains one of his most poignant, asking for reassurance that any progress gained is better than nothing—"A couple yards is better than a loss, right?/I can't be the only one that's feeling lost, right?"

The verse that follows is a phone call between Ritchie with a T with an unnamed friend, one who Ritchie stated was a much more proficient rapper than he is, and loved the rap game much more than he does. We only hear one side of the conversation, as Ritchie's friend doesn't provide any response—he couldn't. It didn't take long to conclude from the tone that said friend has passed away, as made clear by the lines where he reminisced the drop of Kendrick Lamar's fourth mixtape. "That was round when Kendrick had dropped OD/Man, I wish them pills ain't make you fuckin'-hold up", rapped Ritchie, evidently still shaken up. He then asked his friend to pass the phone over to his father, a figure he previously mentioned as having passed away as well. "Ask him if he heard the outro, even though I know he know it/He was prolly watching over me in that car when I had wrote it/My mom was there watching me in the crowd when I performed it/And you were watching over me when I wrote this, yeah".

The sole feature of the EP appears in the track as well, courtesy of guitarist/singer Austin Feinstein of the band Slow Hollows, who sang a moody, understated chorus. The last piece of spoken voice in the song is Parker Corey's, delivering the outro in a manner so distorted it feels somewhat robotic. The reserved deliveries of both Feinstein and Corey's parts contrast the confessional nature of Groggs and Ritchie's verses, bringing together the track piece-by piece into an introspective whole.

The stripped-back, bare bones soundscape emphasizes the vulnerability of the track, which unfortunately gained a substantial extra weight after Groggs' untimely passing in 2020. The tragedy is not lost that after singing about losing a rapping partner in "North Pole", Ritchie had to lose another one—his bandmate this time. While the song might be too heavy of an everyday listen, its depth and fragility remains a high point in Injury Reserve's exceptional discography. Rest in peace Jordan Groggs, it's been so long since you been home.