We’re now knee-deep in July, submerged in a hot summer full of BBQ, beach blankets and beats. But over Fourth of July weekend, did you already run all of your favorite hip-hop summer jams into the ground? Fear not — here are some end-to-end-(sun)burners to keep the breezes cool in your summer travels. These are the five best summer rap albums you've probably never heard.
5. Y’all So Stupid – A Van Full of Pakistans (1993)
In a post-Pharcyde world, there was a random rash of signings and regional acts shuffled into early-'90s video circulation (remember the Boogiemonsters?) for the burgeoning “alternative rap” marketing ploy. One I'm still fond of at this time of year is Atlanta group Y’all So Stupid. Their best-known track is probably “85 South,” but for summertime chilling I reach first for the mellow sounds and quirky humor of the title track from their only album, A Van Full of Pakistans. The whole album makes perfect BBQ music.
4. Odd Squad – Fadanuf Fa Erybody (1994)
Before Devin the Dude became hip-hop’s most endearing pothead, he was part of a group that shared his enthusiasm for “the marijuana pot,” Odd Squad. Their one and only album, Fadanuf Fa Erybody on Rap-A-Lot Records, featured Devin alongside Jugg Mugg and Blind Rob Quest, exploring numerous facets of relationships and trying to make their way in the world, all with weed as the recurring theme. It's a fantastic record to relax or do hard yard work to, even if mowing the lawn is your preferred form of greenery.
3. Poppa LQ – Your Entertainment, My Reality (1995)
Speaking of Rap-A-Lot, one of the unheralded great releases from the label came on its short-lived Rap-A-Lot West imprint from Poppa LQ. Early conscious hip-hop fans may remember him as Laquan, and post-hyphy hip-hoppers might know him best now as Kenny Kingpin, but during his time as Poppa LQ he cut one of the funkiest records to ever come out of Los Angeles. Your Entertainment, My Reality just has such a cool groove pulsating through it, making it perfect for late-night drives.
2. Fiend – Street Life (1999)
The late '90s were a strong time for Master P’s No Limit Records, and discerning Soldiers often point to the label’s 1999 output as its peak. Fiend had been one of the more visible MCs on the No Limit roster, delivering standout performances on Master P's “Make ‘Em Say Uhh” and his own “Only a Few.” His 1999 album Street Life was a sleeper hit that summer, channeling a New Orleans influence largely unheard on nationwide rap releases at the time. There’s a lot going on sonically in the production, and Fiend’s aggressive pen game really showed his range in terms of both flows and concepts.
1. Atmosphere – Sad Clown Bad Summer 9 (2007)
OK, maybe this one is cheating, since (a) it's an EP, not an album and (b) you’ve probably heard Atmosphere’s song “Sunshine” at some point. But school’s out for summer, so who cares? “Sunshine” is such a stellar track, it overshadows how excellent the rest of Sad Clown Bad Summer is. Every song is perfect for a different element of the season: “The Number One” captures young summer love; “Mattress” explores young summer lust; “R.F.T.C.” is one of the most compelling graffiti narratives ever committed to wax; and “Don’t Forget” takes a more subtle approach to treasuring important memories without succumbing to the easy nostalgia checklists that plague most “back in the day” songs. Short as it may be, the perfect sequencing and structure makes this EP an ideal joint to have on repeat all summer long.