[Editor's note: Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. Be sure to also check out the archives.]
This is the city and the season for the summer jam. You only have to turn on your radio to reap the rewards of 50 years of pop music and propitious weather. Put on K-EARTH 101 and The Beach Boys remain ready to raise serotonin levels. On KROQ, Sublime stay “Doing Time,” with “Bradley on the microphone with Ras M.G.” Power 106 pumps this year's contenders, with blunt cruise-worthy bangers from Tyga, Kendrick Lamar, YG and ratchet man Joe Moses.
But my dial inevitably gravitates toward the classic hip-hop of KDAY, 93.5 FM, the subject of Ben Westhoff's feature story last week. It's partially an age thing. Science has proven that music never sounds better than when you're 13 years old (hasn't it?). And that was my age in the summer of 1995, when The Dove Shack dropped “Summertime in the LBC,” my favorite homegrown summer jam of the last two decades.
That's not to say there aren't dozens of worthy rivals. The G-funk era alone produced Domino's “Ghetto Jam,” DJ Quik's “Pitch in on a Party,” Ice Cube's “Today Was a Good Day,” Warren G's “Regulate” and singles galore from Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. But those songs sound right any time of year. Whereas listening to “Summertime in the LBC” — The Dove Shack's lone hit — in the winter feels like an elaborate ruse.
The Dove Shack made their debut on Warren G's multiplatinum debut, Regulate … The G-Funk Era. The following year, the Long Beach rapper-producer put his neighborhood homies on via a distribution deal between Def Jam and his own G-Funk Entertainment records. With poor strategic planning, Warren G's first two artists, The Twinz and The Dove Shack, released their debut records on the same day, 17 years ago this month.
Despite placement on the soundtrack to hip-hop documentary The Show, “Summertime in the LBC” got lost in the estival deluge. It scarcely earned radio play outside of California, stalling at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, the song rarely escapes rotation in car stereos and cookouts from Long Beach to Lancaster. The secret is simple: a blissed-out sample from Midnight Star's “Feel So Good,” a Nate Dogg-worthy hook from crooner Bo Roc and a timeless ability to distill summer into four scorching minutes.
Like the greatest summer jams, “Summertime in the LBC” blends a sense of infinity with seasonal evanescence. The premise is straightforward: The Dove Shack and their crew kick it at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Long Beach. Grilling ribs smothered in BBQ sauce. Drinking 40s and Coke and Hennessy. Smoking weed. Acting the fool. Or, as C-Knight describes it, “Three months of pleasure/How can I measure/the relaxation/all the fun I'm facing.” It's a madeleine-style triggering memory of being young and unburdened from adult responsibilities, with your only obligation to pack as much fun as possible into the 90-day vacation.
The Dove Shack essentially disappeared after the single fell off the charts; they didn't release a sophomore record until 2006. Meanwhile, due to budget cutbacks, King Park currently is closed on the weekends. But “Summertime in the LBC” remains an eternal gift, a song that still sounds as perfect as it did in the summer of '95.