Image via Patrick Driscoll

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Five years ago, Miguel Otárola cried watching A STAR IS BORN in theaters for the first time.

With just a few hours before his flight to Chicago, Nathaniel Ritchie looks preoccupied.

The Windy City is the fourth stop in a tour supporting Triple Digits [112], his solo debut following the natural conclusion of Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve. Not only would he be alone on stage – unobscured by the fog and haze of the Injury Reserve experience – he’d have to compete with NYC rapper MIKE, also in town and sharing a bill with upstarts 454 and Niontay.

At the same time he’s explaining this to me over Zoom from the room where he recorded Triple Digits, he’s on his phone, posting photos of merch he designed and was releasing online in a few days.

“I had just never thought about doing something like this,” he says. “Whenever you’re in a group, people always will ask you if you’re going to do solo stuff, and it just was never in my mind.”

Injury Reserve, which he formed with rapper Stepa J. Groggs and producer Parker Corey, had built their following with a string of rowdy and energetic releases starting with 2015’s Live from the Dentist Office. After Groggs’ death in 2020 and the release of the fiery By the Time I Get to Phoenix the following year, its surviving members rebanded under the name By Storm.

In the lead-up to the first By Storm album, RiTchie found a window to work on a solo project. The title of Triple Digits [112] refers to the summer temperatures in Phoenix, a “suffocating, dry heat” that crept into his home each time he turned the AC off to record.

RiTchie can stand the heat. He sounds invigorated by the album’s assortment of instrumentals and features. Lead track “WYTD?!?!” captures the sweaty energy of those early IR mixtapes, with RiTchie contorting his voice over melik’s rumbling beat. He gasps over moody drill production in “The Keepers” and “How?!”, the latter finding an exasperated Niontay asking, “Why you trynna tell me war stories around white bitches?” On “Dizzy,” he and Aminé roast unserious rappers over a stomping reggae beat that would sound right at home on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

In our interview, which took place in late April, RiTchie shares the meaning behind Triple Digits, his approach to performing solo, and what it’s like to live life at 112 degrees – Fahrenheit. (Sorry, everyone else who uses Celsius.)

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

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