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RiTchie's Re-introduction

One of the most fascinating albums we’ve listened to this year, RiTchie’s debut solo record ‘Triple Digits [112]’ demands attention right from the get go. Self-assured and ambitious, the album ushers in an exciting new era for the prolific Phoenix MC - and acts as a perfect introduction to RiTchie’s solo endeavour.



Photography by Patrick Driscoll

Written by Oli Spencer


During his time as one third of eclectic rap collective Injury Reserve, RiTchie has proven himself to be a remarkably talented MC with a unique style, always flexing his profound and electrifying vocal delivery. Full of mind-melting production, experimental risk taking, and an undeniable lyrical prowess - RiTchie’s debut solo work is jam-packed with that same energy, but feels even more potent. The album came along as a happy accident initially just making music to massage the mind, and acting as a cathartic removal from his other musical projects - the groundbreaking rap group Injury Reserve, and the raw emotional project By Storm with band-mate Parker Corey. On this album, he not only breaks free from the pressure of matching the standards set by these projects, but showcases the quality he holds as an individual artist. 

 

‘Wings’ introduces the album, with glitched-out production and delightfully bizarre vocals setting the tone of the experience ahead. There’s a brief moment of quiet, while he says “Oh my god it’s 112” before being abruptly cut off by a blasting guitar and dense drum beats as “WYTD” starts. Fusing together an almost industrial-sounding hip hop with blaring rock - you really feel like you’ve taken a nosedive into this album. 

 

Created during a 31 day streak of the temperature hitting at least 110°F (that’s going to and above 44°C) and you can feel it in his voice. His delivery is charged with raw emotion, ranging from aggressive outbursts to introspective moments, giving a sense of intenseness to the first half of the album. RiTchie’s vocal array is in full swing as he flexes his malleable vocals across the 14 songs. Tracks like 'Ritchie Valens' feature punchy rap performances, brashly clashing with glistening trap inspired beats - whereas tracks like 'Get a Fade' features heavy auto-tuned vocals cutting through distorted synths. His delivery is unpredictable, making for a really engaging listen, and adds a fever dream-feel to the whole experience. A definite highlight on the album is ‘Dizzy’ featuring the vibrant rapper Aminé, as the pair trade quick-witted bars about clout chasing, losing sight of the important things in life and fake friends.

 

As well as aiding his own production across the album, RiTchie invites a few production collaborators into his world. The album pushes the boundaries of traditional rap music, with production that truly feels mind-melting at times. Collaborations with underground artists and producers like the boundary pushing AJ Radico, budding 17-year old producer and rapper FearDorian, and IR collaborator MelikXYZ all add a newfound depth, diversity and futurism to RiTchie’s palette, and opens an exciting new territory for him to explore.

 

Despite its abrasive exterior, the album does reveal its moments of vulnerability and introspection. Themes of existential angst, escapism, and ignorance imbue the album - as he reflects the realities of modern life all while living in bone dry heat. It inspires introspection as the album’s credits slowly fade out, and leaves us wanting to throw it right back on without hesitation. 

 

While sonically, RiTchie’s latest expertly-chaotic collection of songs inspired by “damn near uninhabitable” heat steers clear of being an Injury Reserve record - it’s interesting pace, bursts of fired up energy and dips of eerie and emotive deliveries all make it a record that hits that same incredible high from hearing an Injury Reserve record. It’s wonderful to see him not only stay true to himself, but also match and develop that same pioneering instinct when working solo, cementing himself into a whole new scene of music. Coming to you on one of rap’s most exciting Friday of releases this year, RiTchie's "Triple Digits" is a record that I can see getting overlooked among some larger releases; J. Cole’s surprise album, the new group project from Concrete Boys, Bryson Tiller’s new album - but it's one that I think people should certainly dive right into.

 

We caught up with RiTchie a little before the album’s release to chat through his creative process, inviting collaborators into his new solo world, and handling the bone-dry heat of Phoenix.




Firstly, how have you been? Not just as an artist, but as Nathaniel Ritchie?


I’ve been great, we are in April now which is insane… but last year was a big year for me. I got married, got a house, and just really settled in. The first big thing I did really was start working on music in general, and this record. It’s been kind of fun feeling almost like a professional musician… because the Injury Reserve stuff is a luxury, we do it whenever we want to do it, and don’t if we don’t… and we sorta stumble into these albums you know? But this project has been really really hands-on because it's just my project. I’ve really felt like a professional musician, especially on the logistics side because every day I have something to do and that's been a cool new feeling. But yeah, good! Just been living life, I’m enjoying it here, we are officially settled in Phoenix. 



It’s exciting to hear you get more into your rap bag again! I’m sure it felt almost like a mental retreat to be making this music?


Facts. That’s how it started, and then it turned into a record. It was definitely refreshing, it was more of a therapeutic thing, and then I ended up realising it was interesting enough to release. Then it was like okay how am I going to make this more interesting to something I’m happier with. 



How would you describe the album as a texture?


This one in particular… I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m trying to think… that’s hard. The album has this continuing theme of the weather… without it getting too contextual, there's no storyline or anything like that - but it’s about trying to live everyday life in peak Phoenix summer. So the album is all these songs I made while it’s 112°F outside. When recording this album, right before I’m about to hit record I go on my phone and turn the AC off - and as soon as I’m finished I turn the AC machine right back on. A texture? If I said dry heat that would be me leaning into the concept a bit more, but I wouldn’t say the record feels like that at all. I don’t know if I could confidently answer that question with a texture! 



Can you dive into the meaning of 112?


It’s a double entendre, the first thing is the weather. Phoenix hits this point where it goes from 110 to 118. But the 112 number specifically is because the group 112 has a song called ‘Only You’, the remix of the song is popular. One of the main parts of the song is “where do I go and what do I do?” - and that was something that I felt was cool, pushing towards this narrative of living this everyday life. 



I actually can’t even comprehend living in that kind of heat. I just opened a Fahrenheit to Celsius converter, the summer high here is 86°F (30°C). That’s nuts to think it hits into the 110s.


Yeah, so… 44°C. Hold up, this is worth the extra effort… 

Okay! Last year while I was making this record, there was a 31 day streak of hitting at least 110°F everyday. It is a bit different here compared to there. There it's more humid, here it is bone dry. That’s what they call it. If I were to be outside in the heat, and walk inside to the AC I wouldn't feel it. Dry heat is a totally different feeling. It’s really weird, it’s more melty and less sticky.



What was something new you learned about yourself during the time making this album? 


I think it's less of learning something about myself as if it's brand new, and more trying to regain certain approaches that I thought I outgrew, but I didn't outgrow, I was just doing something different. The previous record, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ is so deconstructed, the song structures were a lot less predictable. When I started making ‘Dizzy’ I had the hook as you hear it now, but the hook kind of just continued on, and the verse was more of just an extension of the hook and it was cool! It sounded really cool. But when I heard it, I knew it wasn't reaching its full potential as an individual song. So then I’m trying to take steps backwards and ask how I can approach this as a very traditional straightforward rap verse. For this album in particular, if I were to go down the path that I’ve been going down in the past couple of years, it's not going to reach its potential. So it's like trying to bring myself into the mindset of like “okay I’m 21 now… I’m 21 again and I just want to rap.” and that's really hard for me, it’s an art honestly.   



I love the collaborators across the album so far as well - like AJ Radico on production and obviously Aminé. What was it like introducing this side of your artistry to them?


That was the most fun part about it for sure. It’s not as collaborative as people might think, like I’m not in the lab with them and stuff like that. But a big part of this record has been getting young producers that I really like, and that I love listening to their music, trying to find how I can get what they do, and combine it with what I do. There is this producer on the record called FearDorian, he’s 17-years-old and from Atlanta and doing very very well. The world that he lives in is a bit more internet-y than what I live in, but something that I like to listen to on a daily basis. So when we reached out to each other and we were starting to work, it was really exciting because it felt like I was bringing in this fresh new  production in, but I was still doing me on top of it and bringing something new to that sub-genre - something I would feel like doesn't exist in that sub-genre. That was the most exciting thing, it can be very challenging, and very liberating.  



You’re also heading out on tour later this year, how are you feeling about that?


That’s the thing I’m most nervous about. The live show was always a massive element of Injury Reserve, and we were always pushing to be the best live show that we could possibly be. That is by no means going to be my goal for this record. It’s impossible to do without Parker, and it just wasn't what I was wanting to do. But it will be fun, I think it will open up a lot of new opportunities. This live show will be closer to my day to day personality, so that’ll be fun. 



What song reminds you of Phoenix the most right now?


There is a title track on my album that is very much that, and that’s the whole point of it. It’s just having fun and laughing at these people that I know that… and I get it, but they’re so insistent on getting their instagrams off even though it's damn near uninhabitable outside. So I think that part reminds me of the city the most. Outside of the album, oooh… that’s really difficult. Hmmm… There are REALLY Phoenix songs from a lot of legendary Phoenix bands. I’d probably say something by MC Magic, he was from a very particular era and that is probably as Phoenix as you can get. If I were to hear him, that’s probably the only thing I would even think about, like damn this is some Phoenix shit. 



Thanks again for taking the time to chat, it’s been awesome seeing your evolution over the years. I remember listening to Floss on the beach on New Year's Day in 2017. I met you before the pandemic as Injury Reserve, then interviewed you and Parker for the last IR album - and now I’m here chatting about your solo project. So again, thank you so much for taking the time over the years!


That’s really cool, it has been crazy for us as well. It’s been cool having people experience a lot of this with us, so I’m just hoping to keep bringing people along with what we’ve got going on and with what I’ve got going on. Hopefully we can all grow old!



Hitting the road soon, RiTchie will be taking Triple Digits [112] on tour - kicking things off with a hometown show in Phoenix, before heading through North America, Europe and the UK. 


Dive into the debut record from RiTchie below:



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