For the past few years, The Mind, born Zarif Wilder, has played a significant role on numerous releases as both a producer and a singer. Features on Mick Jenkins’ The Waters and Waves, Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, Kirk Knight’s Late Knight Special and more litter his impressive résumé. The only thing lacking from that résumé was a solo project. Enter Summer Camp. The project finds him taking his first dominant role through 11 tracks and executing flawlessly.
Wilder sticks to his guns on Summer Camp, recruiting a slew of other Chicago artists. Frequent collaborator THEMpeople handle half of the production, while Towkio, Donnie Trumpet, Knox Fortune and Noname Gypsy assist with features. The features mesh perfectly with the sounds and themes of the project, providing just enough to spice up their respective tracks while allowing Wilder to shine. The tape loosely follows a romantic relationship that has taken a turn for the worst. Dialogue of two lovers, presumably Wilder and a nameless female, is dispersed throughout.
The title track, “Summer Camp,” is also the first song on the project. Heavy Synths start the song off but are quickly replaced by a soft bass and a beachy vibe that is perfect for a warm morning on Lake Michigan. Clouds roll in quickly, however. The next song, “Pale Rose,” opens with a small argument between two lovers about “direction,” in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. An urgent bass line is paired with an attention demanding snare. “Hey you, right over there. Who do you love? I mean who even cares,” Wilder croons on the hook in an almost pleading manner. He’s a lover lacking direction, unsure of what really matters.
The mood continues to somber as the project progresses. On the third to last song, “Only The Beginning,” featuring Noname Gypsy, Wilder switches up flows and raps slowly and deliberately about the worries he has for his girl and his insecurities. Wilder’s ability to rap and sing is on full display throughout this project showing listeners that there isn’t much he can’t do. After a short verse from Noname, he closes out the song on a somber, yet hopeful note. “This is the beginning for you and I. This is only the beginning,” he murmurs.
Hopefully it’s just the beginning for Wilder. Summer Camp showed that he has what it takes to be a success in Chicago as a solo artist. In the future it would be interesting to see him step out of his comfort zone (Chicago) and experiment more with his own sound and with artists from other regions.