The idea of a collective “song of summer” is a myth. Once a year, the media conspiratorially anoints the most infectious June-to-August anthem. But little feels more personal than what you bump during the hottest months. School’s out, days are longer, and Nate Dogg’s eternal spirit haunts every cookout from Long Beach to La Cañada.
I’ve been traveling for most of this summer, which warped my tastes in predictable ways. As Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell taught, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Being away, I constantly replayed songs that reminded me of home. My personal songs of summer are governed by nostalgia, the thrill of the new and the patently absurd.
A decade from now, when I re-examine this blurred, scorched-lung season, my memories will be inextricable from these classic melodies.
YG — “Twist My Fingaz”
Keenon Jackson put Bompton on the map but secured his legacy long before. An underground king since the jerkin’ era, he ushered ratchet into nationwide vogue, and came out blasting in 2015 with this, his first single following last year’s classic, My Krazy Life.
He burnishes his mythology, boasting about how he was the only one to make it “out the West without Dre,” and getting shot and walking out of the hospital the same day. Most throwback West Coast tracks get stuck in the Chronic 2001 era, but YG and producer Terrace Martin wisely return to low-riding, talkbox funk, Suge Knight references and a “Buffalo Gals” interpolation. Once and for all, YG proves that he doesn’t need DJ Mustard.
A week ago, I shattered two speakers as I played this driving down Venice Boulevard. I almost stopped into the Army Surplus store to cop high socks, a Ben Davis button-up and Dickies.
Vince Staples — “Norf Norf”
If YG’s single soundtracks the party, Vince Staples’ operates in the grim hours after it’s been shot up. Watch the brilliant video, where he’s stoically bound, shackled and booked in the North Long Beach police station. The Clams Casino beat offers anxiety as Staples spits out the small details: creole-colored cocaine, the brown 2NGC Crip bandanna, the shoutouts to the Long Beach public schools, where it “wasn’t no fun, couldn’t bring my gun.”
It might not be a conventional summer party track, but it’s a reminder that summer is the time when tensions are highest, the most body bags are filled and the #100Days100Nights hashtag exists. Just in case you didn’t already have the votive lit, Staples also shouts out the memory of Nate Dogg.
Future — “The Percocet & Stripper Joint”
I spent most of the summer worshipping at the shrine of Future, the Atlanta rapper whose Dirty Sprite 2 somehow made for better acid trips than those 50th-anniversary Grateful Dead concerts. The album is an argument for hedonism and hell over heaven and happiness. My favorite song flips a Jake One whining synth sample into essentially Warren G’s “This DJ” set in the trap. Nihilism never sounded so nice.
Jidenna — “Classic Man (Remix)” featuring Kendrick Lamar
At this point, you’re either #JidennaHive or you’ve never even owned a single ascot. The Janelle Monáe protégé conscripted Kendrick to help the world better understand his sharp-dressed definition of a classic man — an odd choice, considering K. Dot never met a white tee he didn’t like. But Jidenna went to Stanford, so he’s probably smarter than I am. “The Classic Man is a distinguished gentleman,” reads his manifesto. “He keeps his gloves dirty but his hands clean.” Who are we to question his wisdom?
An L.A. native, L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com, follow him on Twitter and also check out his archives.