In an October 2015 interview with hip-hop site WatchLoud, local rapper Jayaire Woods, who grew up in suburban Bellwood, talked about landing a gig he’d long wanted: “This was my dream job, too, being a mailman. This is a career I wanted, but music was the dream dream.” Less than two months later, Woods announced that he’d signed to Quality Control, an Atlanta indie founded in 2013 by Pierre “Pee” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee—the latter had previously managed southern rap heroes Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Quality Control has since signed some of the biggest up-and-comers out of Atlanta, including Migos, OG Maco, Rich the Kid, and lightning rod of the moment Lil Yachty. Lee spelled out his plans for the fledgling label’s future in a January 2015 Billboard feature:
Despite the label’s intimacy with Atlanta—its whole roster hails from the city—Quality Control’s ambitions lie beyond the Southern capital. Coach says he wants the brand to be a “world label”—recognizing that in today’s industry climate, agility is more essential than global growth.
By December, Quality Control had come one step closer to being a “world label” by signing Woods. On Tuesday he dropped his second mixtape, Free the Fall, his first full-length since joining the label’s roster. Woods doesn’t have the name recognition of labelmates such as Lil Yachty (who’s touring with him and also adds the only guest vocals to Free the Fall), but he wastes no time bringing listeners up to speed. On “PSA,” which rides a dour piano melody reminiscent of Drake and Future’s “Jumpman,” Woods somberly sing-raps through his autobiography.
He includes a few specifics—dropping out of Columbia College, getting laid off from a warehouse job after just two months—but his voice conveys the real detail. He’ll hold onto a certain phrase a little longer, or melodically slur his way through otherwise hard-edged syllables. Though he sounds at ease behind the microphone, Woods infuses his performance on “PSA” with the psychic weight of having spent years working minimum-wage jobs while struggling at his craft. Despite the success he’s achieved, he strains his voice just enough to hint at how fraught his journey had been.
Woods raps with maturity and gravitas that help set him apart from all the other young MCs who blur the lines between rapping and singing. He’ll likely get compared to them anyway, and I get the sense that he’s aware of that but doesn’t care too much. At the end of “PSA” he raps, “I won’t buy designer just to fit in / I might buy designer because I like it / But for now I’m on these Nikes.”