Summer is just around the corner, a perfect time for playlist perfectionists to dust off the compilations of last year, keep a select few not-overplayed tracks and shuffle in a new set of party-starters for those upcoming picnics/barbecues/rooftop get-togethers/block parties/stoop sit-ins that will surely be needing soundtracks. Brooklynites of every stripe and section seem to take particular pleasure in this rite of summer, as we all try to impress and overpower the next sound system over. Here are some hot, homegrown hip-hop hits to help you win those sonic showdowns and move the crowd to their feet.
Gang Starr featuring Nice & Smooth: "DWYCK"
Just like last summer in Brooklyn was all about Michael Jackson, so this year we should be hearing Guru (RIP) and Gang Starr burners like this one blaring from car stereos and club speakers hourly. Also, look how awesome and summery Coney Island looks in the music video!
De La Soul: "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"
Sure, nobody goes to the roller disco anymore (do they?!), but the Long Island trio's summer party anthem hasn't lost any of its appeal—and since they're headlining this summer's Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, we'll gladly claim them for Kings County. Not to mention summertime lyrics like: "Oh Mr. Sprinkler, Mr. Sprinkler/wet me for one, Mr. Sprinkler/I'm heatin' high-five in a daze, no split... Sun is on thick and the cheese is rollin' quick/come on, there's no time to hide/season is twist, spinning and winning." Roller skates, sprinklers and cheeseburgers: three summer staples that are best enjoyed together.
Public Enemy: "Fight the Power"
Now, admittedly, Chuck D, Terminator X and their boooooooooyyyyeee Flavor Flav are from Long Island, but in light of it being forever tied to that ultimate Brooklyn summer movie, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, no Brooklyn Summer Mixtape could be complete without P.E.'s anthem for activism. Plus you can't really argue when Chuck opens the track, in his strong, masterful tone, with: "1989 the number/another summer/sound of the funky drummer."
3rd Bass: "Brooklyn-Queens"
Don't let the title fool you, this classic from the only credible (American) white rappers before B-Real is all about BK. The Queens are just those lovely ladies one chills with on a Friday in June, the last day of school.
Notorious B.I.G.: "Juicy"
We put a lot of thought into this one, and for a while "Hypnotize" was going to be the mixtape's Biggie entry, but between the summery feel of this song, and its pool party video, we just couldn't keep from picking the most obvious Notorious track. But in trying to pick a soundtrack for a Brooklyn summer, this is probably the song you would actually hear the most often just riding around town, so what the choice lacks in originality it makes up for in accuracy.
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Busta Rhymes: "Turn It Up"
Remember when Busta was the most exciting rapper in the game? You probably know the Afro-futurist remix of this track better than the original, which might be Busta's funkiest and most warm weather-appropriate track to date. Aside from repeatedly likening himself to a heat wave, there's this passage: "So hot baby body heat bubble your skin/everytime I flow speak/I caress the whole beach/Just like the body guard Les straight walkin' the street."
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Masta Ace: "Take a Walk"
Though Ace has a whole really outstanding record called A Long Hot Summer that plays like a pretty spectacular score for your summer in Brooklyn, his previous record, Disposable Arts, features this perfect stand-alone track about summer in the borough. Ideal for strutting down brownstone blocks, Ace even says: "Hey this is going out to your hood straight from mine/let's take a walk in blue skies and sunshine, come on." Yes, let's do that.
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Jean Grae: "Supa Luv"
So, obviously we needed to include our favorite BK feMC since MC Lyte, and since this mixtape is otherwise lacking an ode to summer romance we figured we'd include the best such song ever (seriously, wherever 9th Wonder found this sample, it's perfect).
RZA featuring Allah Real and Masta Killa: "Grits"
Sure, when RZA raps about it being really hot he's referring to his momma's grits, but Masta Killa provides some seasonal imagery: "Girls skippin' rope in the street/the summer heat, left the jelly prints stuck to they feet." Sounds familiar.
Talib Kweli featuring Bilal: "Waiting for the DJ"
We can't tell exactly what he's saying because Talib is just so quick and smooth, but there's definitely some talk of sun and summertime in the second verse. Plus, isn't that pretty much all anyone does in Brooklyn during the summer: wait for the DJ to make their body rock? Look no further.
Little Jackie: "The Stoop"
No matter the decade, temperature, or degree of gentrification, it wouldn't be summer in Broolkyn (or, more specifically, Bed-Stuy) without a stoop to sip paper-bagged beers on, now would it? Another important lesson to take from this jazzy jaunt: proper front stoop etiquette ("I don't mess with you/you don't mess with me," Stella over Corona, and more).
Fabo and beatsmith Just Blaze will forever be living down the absurd awesomeness of this song, which reminds us of those suffocatingly hot summer days in Brooklyn, when you really can't breathe, the concrete radiates heat and the thick air won't budge. Those days are kind of what summer is all about though, ya know?
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Jay-Z: "Dear Summer"
Though there are other, more obvious choices ("Big Pimpin'", for instance) than this random a cappella intro to his protegé Memphis Bleek's album 534, no Jigga track quite encapsulates all the wonderful things about summer in the evocative, melancholic way Jay does on this beautiful song. Also, coming when it did (2005), it seemed like the perfect heartfelt goodbye to the game... But we're glad that he didn't actually retire.
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Mos Def: "Brooklyn"
An epic love letter to his home planet off his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, Mos's triptych is full of neighborhood shout-outs and local allusions. He raps repeatedly about Biggie, whose track "Who Shot Ya?" provides the final instrumental section, wherein Mos describes Brooklyn thusly: "It's where my fam is at, the summertime jam is at/they play Big and get you open like a sandal back/hotter than candle wax, hustlin' you can't relax." That pretty much sums it all up. Have a great, awesomely-scored summer!
(Thanks to Paulie D., Hank-N-Dank, MC Ka$ch and Diamond Grillz for your helpful suggestions.)