Chicago native Willie Lee McIntyre Jr., who raps as Skech185, relies on vivid, thoughtful bars, not on big, repetitive hooks. Skech can plant a flag in your memory the same way a hook would just by thickening his verses with detail. On “Nights and Weekends” he applies his rich, husky voice to a seesawing monologue that catalogs the thoughts of a bartender worn down by the routines of the job; I keep returning to his novelistic descriptions to marinate in them. (“A thousand hangovers disguised as a doorframe” is one of the many great lines that dot the song as densely as poppy seeds on a hot dog bun.) “Nights and Weekends” appears on the January release He Left Nothing for the Swim Back (Backwoodz Studioz), Skech’s first full-length collaboration with Brooklyn-based producer Jeff Markey. Markey likes smooth, voluptuous samples, but the beats he builds with them feel lived-in and rickety in a way that complements Skech’s raw-knuckled sensibilities. Skech emphasizes nearly every line like he’s trying to convert wallflowers into fans, even though his distinctive turns of phrase will likely sound like a hard-to-crack code to anyone who’s just dipping their toes into underground hip-hop. These days Skech lives in New York, but Chicago shows up strong on He Left Nothing for the Swim Back, whose guest MCs include three of his former crewmates from local supergroup Tomorrow Kings: I.B. Fokuz, Collasoul Structure, and Lamon Manuel. The year is young, but the steamy soul keys and feet-on-the-ground localism of “East Side Summer”—with its fleeting references to hanging out on Constance Avenue in Pill Hill and getting braids put in on 79th and Escanaba—seem likely to make it one of my favorite Chicago hip-hop songs of 2023.
Skech185 Jyroscope, Defcee, Rich Jones, and Fess Grandiose open. Thu 3/9, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $12, 21+