Summer wouldn’t be complete without a few things: backyard barbecues, trips to the neighborhood pools, and definitely, definitely music.
With that in mind, HipHopDX has a few suggestions for your playlist this season. Whether you’re cruisin’ in the car, headed on a night out, or just relaxing at the pad, each of these songs is bound to get you feelin’ right. Not all of them mention the summer season directly, but all of them embody the feeling of many people’s favorite time of year. From Kendrick to Daft Punk, from New York to Long Beach, we bring you 13 great Hip Hop songs for the summer—some vintage, some new. And if you’ve got your own suggestions, be sure to leave them in the comments.
By: Martin Connor
Kendrick Lamar - "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe"
“I can feel your energy from two planets away / I got my drink / I got my music / I would share it but today I'm yelling / Bitch don't kill my vibe…” — Kendrick Lamar
With voice modulation that even Andre 3K could be jealous of, Kendrick Lamar gives us his directions on how to kick back and cool out. His DGAF elements perfectly fit the mood of the season: forget school, forget work, forget anybody who don’t say so. Threaded throughout these lighter lyrics is deep, searching introspection, which is nothing new from Kendrick. What is new is its marriage to lighter material, similar to the fellow good kid, m.A.A.d city track “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and the sweet sampling of Section.80’s “Rigamortis.” Kendrick gives you lines like, “I can feel the changes, I can feel a new life / I always knew life can be dangerous…You don't know what pain is.” Perhaps summer isn’t just a season to kill time however we want. Maybe with those extra hours we have on our hands we can think more about what’s really important in our lives. With everything we can learn from Kendrick’s poetry, that might be some of his best advice.
213 - "Another Summer"
“It's an affair that every state can relate to / And if you do what I do, then go on and follow suit / From Chi-Town to Diego, all the way back to NY / Stay fly, and never miss a piece of sunshine” — Warren G
This track has all the necessary ingredients for a great summer song: relaxed flows from Snoop Dogg and Warren G, a smooth hook from Nate Dogg, and a soul sample from Kanye West that takes us back in the day. Maybe even right back to the afternoon poolside barbecues that the Long Beach crew describes so swimmingly. Their description is so on point, we can smell the burgers and hot dogs grilling on Memorial Day already.
Chance The Rapper - "Cocoa Butter Kisses"
“Cigarettes on cigarettes, my mama think I stank / I got burn holes in my memories, all my homies think it's dank / I miss my cocoa butter kisses” — Chance The Rapper
If you want to have a unique and different summer from one you’ve ever had before, definitely make “Cocoa Butter Kisses” part of your seasonal soundtrack. It comes from Chance The Rapper’s excellent 2013 mixtape, “Acid Rap,” a fitting term to describe this song’s far-out beat. Chance’s wandering lyrical subjects match it well, as he talks about everything from the Norse god Thor to Chuck E. Cheese. Chance’s upbeat tone, when coupled with his melodic delivery, somehow turns the quoted lines above from an insult into not just a compliment, but a mark of pride as well. With Twista and Vic Mensa delivering verses after that, this is an all-Chicago affair. You’re getting different flavors all over, starting from the slower Chance and blowing out of the gate with Twista’s quick flow to wrap things up. Perfect for a summertime ride through The Chi.
Kanye West - "Power"
“I’m living in that 21st Century, doing something mean to it /Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it / Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it / I guess every superhero need his theme music” — Kanye West
But the summer isn’t all about barbecues and hanging out by the pool. It’s also a great time to let loose and do whatever you want (responsibly, of course). If you’re trying to get pumped up for a night out, throw on this track that features Detroit songwriter and producer Dwele. By now, we might have been able to predict a Kanye West song that samples a 1969 prog rock song from genre royalty King Crimson. But he lets it all ride with a musical wedding that only Kanye would have the outlandishness to dream up – and the gumption to pull off – when he sets a quasi-tribal chant against a symphonic orchestra of guitars, synths, and heavily processed drums. With the me-against-the-world approach, Kanye doesn't just rap to you – he raps at you. The perfect attitude for when you want to make this summer one that you’ll remember.
Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride"
“So on and so on / Why don’t you let me roll on? / I remember back in the days when I used to have to get my stroll on / Didn’t nobody wanna speak / Now everybody peeping out the window when they hear me beating up the street / Is it Dre? / Is it Dre? / That’s what they say / Every single motherfuckin’ day” — Dr. Dre
From Dr. Dre’s G-funk era beats, we had too many choices to easily pick just one for this list. Which should we go with: “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” from The Chronic? “Doggy Dogg World” from the Doggfather’s Doggystyle? How about the more recent “Xxplosive”, from The Chronic: 2001?
But the perfect combination of what’s best about each of those songs is what has “Let Me Ride” winning out: the funky instrumentation with flutes and guitars, the old school drum breaks, and the Motown-esque hook sung by Ruben and frequent Dr. Dre collaborator Jewell. Are you impressed by the Aftermath CEO’s tight raps? You should be – they were ghostwritten by RBX, who would go on to contribute to many Dre projects. The track is also one of the most acclaimed of the good Doctor’s career, having won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo performance in 1994 and selling over 3 million copies itself. Now if he ever drops Detox, that would be the best summer present of all.
OutKast - "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”
“Step up in my shoes you crews sitting on Trues / And Vogues for the hoes only when we rolling through / Atlanta skies be blue / The sun is beaming it seeming / That I glisten, rather gleaming” — Andre 3000
With this easy beat, the Atlanta production crew Organized Noize, (consisting of Rico Wade, Ray Murray, and Sleepy Brown) shows why they are the best in the game when cut with the special sauce of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Three Stacks dials back the complex flow and political messaging enough on this joint for you to bob your head to, and Big Boi is always gonna keep it swinging while talking cars and girls. Their nicknames aren’t the only multitudinous elements of OutKast—so are their sales, as Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik went platinum only a few months after release. These musical brothers turned out to have more staying power than good summer memories. While everyone eagerly awaits Andre 3000’s official return to the music world, Big Boi is rocking across the USA this summer in support of his recent album Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors. Sounds like a good opportunity to make more of those lasting summer memories.
Daft Punk f. Pharrell & Nile Rogers - "Lose Yourself To Dance"
“I know you don't get a chance to take a break this often / I know your life is speeding and it isn't stopping / Here, take my shirt and just go ahead and wipe up all the / Sweat, sweat, sweat” — Pharrell
When this comes on in the club, it is damn near impossible not to do as Daft Punk and Pharrell command. The latter finally makes good on his dance music influences, teaming up with the all chrome everything French electronic music duo to keep you moving. Pharrell slides dreamily through his upper registers in a shining falsetto, while the pitched vocoder samples and funky rhythm guitar only make the beat that much more irresistible. If this is the result of Virginia Beach meeting Paris, we can only hope for more trans-Atlantic genre mixing. They keep the lyrical content light, as the song’s words consist of little more than Pharrell’s strong suggestion to “Lose yourself to dance.” That’s more than fine with us—we’re just trying to lose ourselves, not do rocket science.
Souls Of Mischief - "93 ‘Til Infinity"
“Flip the flyer attire females desire / Baby, you can step to this if you admire / The extraordinary dapper rapper / Keep tabs on your main squeeze before I tap her” — Opio
Souls of Mischief’s “’93 ‘Til Infinity” is one of the great warm weather anthems. The smooth beat fits the finest season so well, it almost seems as if they made it specifically to be bumped from June through August. Another group on this list from California, Souls of Mischief may not be the stereotypical warm weather farers of CA, but they still know a thing or two about how to enjoy themselves. As the quote shows, only three things are on the mind for a lot of people when it’s time to cool out: girls, girls, and girls (or dudes, dudes, and dudes).
This song’s album, 93 ‘til Infinity, has widely been critically acclaimed since its release and comfortably stands shoulder to shoulder with fellow West Coast classics from the same era, such as the Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde or Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. If you liked this one, check out another joint that hits a little harder from the same album, called “What A Way To Go Out.” It was produced by the same beat-maker ans another entry on our list, A-Plus.
French Montana - "We Go Wherever We Want"
“Get money with my people / Then we never divide / It's for the love and the money” —
Fresh off of French Montana’s Bad Boy debut—Excuse My French—this entry comes strong with an all-star line-up, including verses from the uptown NYC-emcee, Raekwon, a writing credit from RZA, and a hook from Ne-Yo, among still others. It also includes a Ghostface reference—all we’re missing Wu-wise is a posse chorus. The beat is also a family affair, featuring work from Vinylz, Allen Ritter, and Reefa. The quoted lines fit the same kind of feeling as the writing of the song, as French spreads the love while quoting two major goals of summer for a lot of people—love and cash.
We also experience the international summer with this track: Frenchy lived the first 12 years of his life in Morocco…no, not France. This beat hits a little harder than most summer jams, but it’s perfect for the summer days when you’re gettin’ active.
Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "Summertime"
“And think of the summers of the past / Adjust the bass and let the Alpine blast / Pop in my CD let me run a rhyme / Put your car on cruise and lay back because it’s summertime” — Will Smith
This is a little story all about how to make a great summertime beat. You take a sing-along chorus, combine it with lyricism that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and add some easygoing drums that don’t work too hard. All these elements come together perfectly in this song’s music video, which you can look to if you need a little inspiration for summertime activities. It features Jazzy Jeff & Will Smith at a block party, shooting hoops, and busting a move or two at a dance-off, which all fits the obligation-free nature of summer perfectly. And if you’re from Philly like Will, you might recognize city landmarks such as the Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“Summertime” comes from his fourth studio album with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Homebase, released in 1991. Having gone certified platinum, over a million people have known since then that this is a great track to set just the right mood for a summer day.
J. Cole - "Cole Summer"
“’Cause really I am just a born sinner, the opposite of a winner / Cole summer, I predict another winter / Cause I'm finna drop knowledge like a Five Percenter” — J. Cole
Summer isn’t always sunshine and warm weather—there are some rainy days too. One of Kanye West’s few rivals for picking the perfect soul sample, J. Cole’s summery beat will have you snappin’ along to the Lauryn Hill sample in no time, even if his subject matter is rather deep. In fact, J. Cole has made the friendly rivalry with his label-mate real, moving up the release of his long-awaited second studio album—Born Sinner— to fall on the same date as Kanye’s next album, Yeezus. Although “Cole Summer” hasn’t been officially confirmed for that album, you can get more J. Cole when his sophomore release comes out on June 18, only a few days after the official first day of summer. That date has been making plenty moves as of late though, so make sure you keep up to date with HipHopDX’s coverage.
Ludacris & DJ Quik - "Spur Of The Moment"
“It's just one of those days, without a care in the world / You ain't gotta look mean, I know you care for your girl / But she's lookin' this way and I'm gonna come get her / Fresh haircut, so I'm feelin' quite kipper / Can't nothin' go wrong” — Ludacris
The South can do summer with the best of them, including the West Coast—just with a little more humidity. On this 2004 track from Ludacris’ double platinum album The Red Light District, the South and West meet to bring together the best of both worlds. Compton emcee and producer Quik has passed the production duties to LT Moe for this track, but he still holds it down on the mic. Ludacris’ low-key flow balances out Quik’s more energetic delivery well, while he thinks back to summer days of old and just what makes summer so special. The clap snare will probably have you applauding along soon as you hear it. If you dig this, check out another jam from the same album called “Pimpin’ All Over The World,” with production from Polow da Don and Donnie Scantz.
Rick Ross - "Super High"
“Pop the Giuseppe tags like it's American Apparel / $20,000 up in Barneys, haters will never harm me / Rick Owens on me, bombers for my whole army” — Rick Ross
This super hot “Super High” track comes from Ross’ fourth studio album, Teflon Don, released (unsurprisingly) in the middle of summer, on July 20, 2010. The track was the first single off the album, and features a sample mixed by another member of this list, Dr. Dre. Although on this one Ross is talking about being at the height of the game, he would go on to get even more mileage out of this awesome Clark Kent beat. The Teflon Don and his smoking crew, Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa, run the beat back on a remix of this dank joint and hold court on a different kind of super high.
However you get your kicks, you can enjoy the musical counterpoint between Ross’ mellow bass voice and Ne-Yo’s creamy baritone. The requisite soul sample is there as well, along with warm synths and organs. Ne-Yo’s lyrics and the beat fit together so well Ross could be talking about anything, and we’d still dig it.