Chicago hip-hop had a tremendous year in 2016, but despite all the attention local artists got, plenty of great material didn’t see the spotlight. Among those unfairly overlooked releases was Free the Fall, the second mixtape from Bolingbrook-based rapper Jayaire Woods. He put it out through Quality Control, the Atlanta indie label that’s worked with Migos, Rich the Kid, and Lil Yachty. Woods opened Yachty’s solo tour last summer, and I wish he could’ve benefited even more from the rapid rise of the King of the Teens. On Friday, Woods releases his third mixtape, Big Wood, and its first single, “Off the Clock,” came out Monday
“Off the Clock” is an easygoing number built on a lightweight piano melody and delicate, plinking percussion. Sean Deaux of local hip-hop collective ThemPeople lends his golden voice to the track, but Woods could carry it alone with his effortless half-sung vocals. He’s a gifted rapper, and one of his strengths is knowing when a languid touch on the microphone can do more than a hard 16-bar assault.