Screenshot via YouTube
If you pay attention to a certain swath of more cerebral hip-hop, especially coming out of Chicago, you've probably noticed the name theMIND creep into the occasional song credit. The artist has been one of Mick Jenkins's closest collaborators, appearing on both The Water[s] and Wave[s], as well as collaborating on the two-song joint release Sip earlier this year. The name has also cropped up on releases from Kirk Knight, G Herbo, and a number of other Chicago artists. But theMIND himself has been, so far, mostly a name for liner note junkies to wonder over.
"People started questioning ‘who the hell is theMIND?’ It was like the ‘who is Mike Jones?’ type shit," 26-year-old Zarif Wilder tells me, laughing. Wilder is part of the Chicago production collective Them People, who are basically the house band for all the good shit coming out of the city—they've been active on everything from Chance the Rapper's breakout project 10 Day to the bulk of The Water[s]. He moved from Philadelphia to go to Columbia College in Chicago—Kanye had just released Graduation, which seemed auspicious—and he started recording under the name theMIND when he was looking to try out some new sounds under a more elusive guise. He really stumbled into singing on Mick's tracks after casually humming a melody to "Shipwrecked" in the studio.
“I got an email probably two weeks later, which was a DJ Dahi beat, which was ‘Dehydration,’” he says, laughing. “And it was like—I think the subject title in the email was ‘DJ Dahi, Mick Jenkins, featuring YOU nigga,’ and I was like ‘who the hell is You Nigga?’ And then my dumb ass finally figured it out like ‘oh, he’s talking about me, he wants me to get on this joint.’”
By now that that is all ancient history and everyone is very stoked to hear new music from theMIND, which is convenient because he's about to release a full project called Summer Camp. It's set for May, and it's a concept album about "this cool little adventure that I created between me and this girl," he explains. "I think throughout the project, it seems like she’s a love interest and then it turns into something else. But primarily it’s this whole adventure that I felt like I went on last year."
From that project, we're excited to premiere the video for "Pale Rose," directed by Nathan Smith and Sebastian Sdaigui, the follow-up to his first song, "Mercury Rising." The song, produced by Them People, premiered on BBC Radio 1 last night, but now it's available on the internet for the first time. A bombastic, almost cacophonous cut, it hurtles abrasively through synthesizers and vocal distortion, uneasily asking "hey you, who you love?" over and over. It's a song for moments when you don't quite have all the answers and maybe things aren't looking so good. In the video, the protagonists turn their backs on their troubles to have debauched fun—a philosophy that got Wilder to invoke Timon and Pumba from The Lion King in describing it—that maybe gets a little too real.
"That’s kind of when theMIND steps in," Wilder says. "I don’t think my character is supposed to be real. I think it’s supposed to be like a figment of all of our imaginations. It’s supposed to be like the music that’s playing in the background."
See if you can figure out this dreamscape for yourself, and get pumped for new music from theMIND. Summer Camp is on the way for summer, naturally.
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