TheMIND celebrates the deluxe version of Don’t Let It Go to Your Head with his first Chicago headlining gig

Chicago singer and producer Zarif Wilder, aka theMIND, has lent his gilded vocals and carefully crafted instrumentals to more hip-hop and R&B releases than I could possibly list here. He’s worked with practically every important rapper to emerge from the city in the past decade, including the three in the supergroup Ghetto Sage: Smino, Noname, and Saba. So I’m a little surprised to learn that this is Wilder’s first local headlining show, since he’s long been capable of drawing a crowd around here. This gig celebrates a new deluxe edition of his 2020 album, Don’t Let It Go to Your Head (TheMIND/Cinq). Wilder recently told Revolt he thought the original release wasn’t complete. “There were a lot of songs we couldn’t put on there due to time,” he said.

The album’s sumptuous, casually sophisticated R&B is already enriched by Wilder’s autobiographical touches and restrained vulnerability. As Tara C. Mahadevan detailed in a 2020 Reader profile of Wilder, Don’t Let It Go to Your Head is as much about the challenges faced by disenfranchised communities as it is about Wilder’s own struggles navigating a system stacked against him. His down-to-earth warmth prevents these clean, polished-sounding songs from feeling disconnected from reality, like background music at a chic boutique. Much of that warmth comes through in his singing: he can contort his downy voice into an expressive rasp or sweeten it till it bursts out of the song like light through a stained glass window. The five new tracks on the album’s deluxe version further extend comfort to the afflicted. On the dramatic “Sacrilegious,” Wilder sings about finding romantic love amid oppression and despair, offering solace with his soft, supple vocals. Even when society leaves you out of its plans and freedom seems beyond reach, he seems to say, love can get you through the day.

TheMIND Qari and Moyana Olivia open. Fri 11/25, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, $25, $20 in advance, 18+

Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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