Music Spotlight: September 2021

While there were many highly anticipated albums released in September, a few of them stand out as the best, and are worth covering.


Graphic created by Cameron Smutz and Hailey Cordell

September album releases: Arts & Entertainment Editor Cameron Smutz is bringing a music review column to the Valhalla in which he will talk about his thoughts on new albums each month. Smutz describes and praises some of his favorite releases of September such as Injury reserve and Little Simz. Regarding By The Time I Get To Phoenix by Injury reserve, junior Caleb Cumberledge said, “I definitely think that it can also bring a lot of emotion in a weird sense too in the album because it’s able to compel a bunch of emotional feeling in such a unique and different way than most other music has been able to in a long time.”

Injury ReserveBy The Time I Get To Phoenix (Experimental hip-hop / Post-rap)

Injury Reserve • 2021

The second studio album from Arizona rap-trio Injury Reserve is nothing quite like they have done in the past. The context and inspiration of this album is the recent passing of one of the three group members Jordan Groggs.

The consuming grief from the loss of a talent, friend, and teammate permeates this record to the core. While not all of the lyrical content specifically addresses this loss, rapper Ritchie With A T explores and creates monologues about the central ideas of the deep and heavy emotions that come from the bittersweet acceptance of an unexpected tragedy. “What’s the elephant in the room?/Let’s talk to ’em,” Ritchie exclaims on the opener track Outside, transcribing his thoughts toward the heavy situation.

The production from Parker Corey and the rapping/singing from Ritchie With A T fuse together to create a hellscape of anger, loss, and confusion, as the group members eulogize a fallen brother in the most gut-punching way. Production-wise, it sounds very unique in a way that makes it almost impossible to think of any music that sounds similar. The dense soundscapes of the production create rich walls of noise that go into areas of experimental hip-hop, glitch, noise, industrial, post-punk, and neo-psychedelia. They really tilt the borders of hip-hop, and the unpredictable production perfectly represents the tug-o-war of feelings of confusion, anger, and sadness.

Throughout the record, verses from the late Groggs can be heard placed distantly into the mix, creating an effect to make it sound almost as if he is speaking from the afterlife. These additions make the album much more substantial emotionally, for example on the track Knees, where he delivers introspective lines about how his lifestyle choices and alcoholism would impact him in the long-run and how he dealt with these self-realizations in a revelation of piercing honesty, as if he could foresee his eventual tragic fate.

Junior Caleb Cumberledge said that By The Time I Get To Phoenix was his favorite album of September. He had previously listened to Injury Reserve’s self-titled project when it came out two years ago and loved it. After not listening to them for a while, Cumberledge was not disappointed in their newest release. “By far I think it was the most complex and interesting out of the bunch and was definitely definitely the most experimental album in my opinion of the year so far it’s able to compel a bunch of emotional feeling in such a unique and different way than most other music has been able to in a long time,” Cumberledge said.

“I would recommend it to people that appreciate music that extends the boundaries of almost what music is, as an art form. Because that’s exactly what this album does,” he said.

By The Time I get To Phoenix by Injury Reserve is the most notable album of the whole year so far, and everyone who likes to listen to music on a deeper level should definitely hear it.


Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert (Conscious Hip-Hop / Neo-Soul)

AGE 101 Records • 2021

With an ambitious tracklist of 19 songs, UK rapper Little Simz wastes no time voicing her inner conflicts regarding the split between her public and private self through emotional trauma in a way that is quite beautiful and expressive, all presented with a strong and concise narrative.

The sound Simz creates on the album pulls influence from the folk music of her west-african roots, putting a pleasant twist on the hip-hop production.

The opener track Introvert is an epic and theatrical intro which sets the tone for the rest of the album, which consists of braggadocious bars about her come-up delivered with razor-sharp flows on songs like Speed and Rolling Stone, counterbalanced by introspective and thought provoking words about her trauma and personal struggles on other songs like I Love You, I Hate You and Little Q Pt. 2.

Little Simz comes off as the sharpest she’s ever been on this record and proves that she is no longer next up, she is up right now.


JMSNHeals Me (Neo-Soul / Alternative R&B)

White Room Records • 2021

Being less extravagantly produced as his previous album, JMSN goes for a more raw and acoustic sound on Heals Me.

JMSN introduces the sound of the Spanish guitar, and even the language itself on the song Dónde Estás, as well as other Spanish musical influences, and it goes over very smoothly and tastefully.

The pitched-up vocals that he is known for on some of his songs returns on some of the tracks here, notably Love 2 U and Act Like I’m Not Here, and it sounds just as great in this new musical style as it did previously. JMSN’s very expressive and eccentric vocal delivery takes more of a leading role in this album, as the production and instrumentation take a more stripped-down and raw approach.

The mix of laid-back grooves on tracks like Rolling Stone and Don’t Make Me Change, and the smooth piano ballads on others such as the title track Heals Me sound great in the context of the record, being backed up by expressive vocal delivery. As always, JMSN delivers some of the smoothest, sexiest, and grooviest music you will hear. This album is a great chapter in JMSN’s discography, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.


Westside GunnHitler Wears Hermès 8: Side B (East Coast Hip-Hop)

Griselda Records • 2021

Marking the end of a legendary mixtape series, Hitler Wears Hermes 8 goes out with a bang. It is a chilling reminder that Westside Gunn is an artist belonging to the highest echelon in hip hop currently. Gunn might only go a minute without telling you that, but the entire 64 minutes of this mixtape will make you never forget it.

His very distinguishable rapping style with stone-cold delivery and boisterous flexing of a luxurious lifestyle is simultaneously grimy and extravagant; It perfectly compliments the production of the album which comes from the likes of Madlib and The Alchemist, to name a few.

The selection of features on the album is also very tasteful. The regulars, such as Benny The Butcher, Conway The Machine, Mach-Hommy, and Stove God Cooks appear as usual, while still leaving room for surprises like Tyler The Creator, 2 Chainz, and Jay Electronica.

Gunn’s influence in defining the underground scene has made him a trail-blazer for the mainstream, and this mixtape is the best measurement of that in his career thus far.