Damn the iPod.
It will not now and nor will it ever be the cassette tape. Sure, it's fancy and plays music with a clarity that has yet to be surpassed. But a pod-mix just doesn't sound right. There is an art to making a mixtape, an ebb and flow. The beauty of it is that it makes the common man a composer. It blends the music and forces the listener to find the intended groove and see the musical vision.
My dad made mixes all the time. It wasn't so much a hobby as a carefully crafted surgical procedure. So this is my ode to the summer mixtape and to cassette tapes everywhere buried in boxes behind old times that spoke of restlessness and resilience. This is for the flowers that grow every year without insistence, and the breeze that moves without command. This is for summers gone by and the summers to come. This is my all-time summer listening list. Now press Play.
TOP 5 SUMMER RAP JOINTS
Summertime (the season) just called me and said this is the official anthem of its life.
(mix with Summer Madness—Kool and the Gang)
Mama cooked the breakfast with no hog…
This is Ice Cube at his best, telling the story of a day where everything just seems to fall into place, which summer, in theory at least, is all about. The potential of summer is one long, endless day when everything works out, when the sun and the shade provide the yin and the yang.
This song holds in it the potential of an endless forever and foreshadows a kinder, gentler Ice Cube who would shift from hardcore gangsta rapper to comedic movie dad.
(mix with "Footsteps in the Dark"—Isley Brothers)
An ode to roller-skating and the relief of Saturdays after a long work week. It is the carefree playfulness that summer embodies. This song makes you want to dig out your rollerskates (real roller skates, not those ice skates with wheels) and Walkman and go bobbing down the sidewalk.
(Mix with "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" by Vaughn Mason and Crew)
"Thinking of a master plan/cuz ain't nuthing but sweat inside my hand/So I dig into my pocket all my money is spent/So I dig deeper still coming up with lint"
The best ode to brokeness with a plan. This song is everything that a broke summer can been. It is the inner vision of a one-time stick-up kid who has renounced the seedy side of life to try to come up with arguably the best one-verse rap in the history of rap while managing to stretch this mix to seven minutes long.
(Mix with "Don't Look Any Further"—Dennis Edwards)
A girl with extensions in her hair…
This is an anthem to the quintessential summer lady who exists in theory. She is the woman who has a "Fendi bag and a bad attitude" and "Bamboo earrings, at least two pair." All while she is standing at the bus stop (hood rich!). She is not ghetto but she is quite ghetto-ish—maybe boughetto? She will get dressed up to walk around her neighborhood. And isn't this what lazy summer is really all about? Being dressed up with nowhere to go.
(Mix with "All Night Long"—Mary Jane Girls)
"Still Not a Playa"—Big Pun
"Beautiful"—Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell, Uncle Charlie Wilson
"Flava in Ya Ear" (Remix)—Craig Mack
TOP 5 SUMMER CRUISIN' SONGS
Away from here…
Easily the best summer driving song of all time. This song goes back to an era when music helped men get women not brag about how many women they got. This is the kind of song that can change a rainy day to a sunny day because singers like Smokey have it like that.
Be careful when playing this song while driving. There is a good chance that you will think your 2001 Toyota Camry is a 2008 Porsche Carrera and you will try to weave in and out of traffic with reckless abandon and that's because a flute has never, ever sounded this good.
Donald Byrd aka Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II, created this little jazz gem that is perfect for a summer drive. So throw the top down or open the sunroof or roll all the windows down and hit 45 mph downhill and let the trumpet take you "places and spaces."
This song is the soundtrack to a summer of contentment. A chance to sit back and reflect on exactly what isn't missing. So "though you may not drive a great big Cadillac/gangster white walls/T.V. antennas in the back" Hell "you may not have a car at all/just remember brothers and sisters/ You can still stand tall."
Summer dreaming about getting away from it all is what this cut provides. An audio outlet, about "greeting the sun and walking amongst the stars at night and knowing the taste of honey in life." It is the idea that one day it will all be easy and "people can be who they want to be." This is what summer driving is all about, not so much the destination but the journey.
TOP 3 SUMMER DANCE SONGS
1. "Hey Mr. DJ"
Whatever happened to this duo? I guess they made this one great summer dance song and then felt like their work was done. This is also one of those songs where people will start an Electric Slide line and don't try to deny it. It is better to ride this wave out. Some tides cannot be stopped. Summer is like that, one strong tide that washes you back into shore all drenched and exhausted. Thanks, Zhane wherever you are!
The video alone solidifies this as a summer classic. A scantily clad Amerie walking through neighborhood, USA as little children ride by on bikes followed by the classic basketball shot that must be in every summer video. Not to mention the nondescript guy in spitting game to a shorty – or shawty depending on your dialect – which quickly cuts to some old guy shaving a block of ice. This video reads like a typical summer typed out into script format.
3. "Square Biz"
The opening yell at the beginning of this track is really a warning cry to all small children and old people to get out of the way. When women hear this song it moves them back to younger years when their limbs were looser. And then as if the yell isn't enough, she sings, "Everybody get up!" Teena Marie even shouts-out Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou into one of her two rapped verses!
TOP 5 BARBECUE SONGS
Whether all of your family is here or not, this song embodies all that the barbecues and summer are meant to integrate: good food, good people and good times, and always someone cheating at cards. Plus halfway through this song they have one of those smooth R&B lectures:
You know the family is the solution to the world's problems today/Now let's take a look at the family./In the family the father is like the head, the leader, the director/Not domineering, but showing love, guidance/For everyone else in the family/Now if we could get all the fathers of the world/To stand up and be fathers/That would be great…
The song is almost seven minutes long and half of it is talking. Truly a classic.
"Doing it in the park/Doing it after dark, oh, yeah/Rock Creek Park, oh, yeah/Rock Creek Park"
[Repeat 5 times]
"Do it, do it, do it…."
[Repeat 8 times]
Spades. Tonk. Bid Whist. Rummie. 21. I Declare War. Go fish. Hearts.
This song makes me want to put on a bathing suit and break open a fire hydrant and run through the water shoeless. This song makes me want to be 12 again when my two biggest worries were whether we were going to Kings Dominion that summer and if my mother was going to force me to go to the Boy Scouts. This is the best of summer, the nostalgia of summers gone by and the potential of summers to come.
TOP 5 SUMMER GROUPS: Isley Brothers, Earth Wind and Fire, War, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, Kool and the Gang.
These are the top five groups whose music illustrates all of the wonderfulness of summer. Put on any CD in any of these top five catalogs and it's timeless. Not to mention your uncle with the silk short set, wicker baseball hat with the long brim, dress socks, sandals and pinky ring that he uses to clink against his beer bottle to keep time with the rhythm will talk you to death but its worth it.
TOP 5 SUMMER SLOW JAMS
Once this song starts I imagine myself on a beach in a mesh tank top with a beautiful woman, a coconut and a machete. Then I take the machete and slice the coconut and hand half of the freshly sliced coconut to the beautiful woman who is impressed by my machete skills. This should have been in the video.
If summer had a pageant Sade would be the summer princess with this song alone. She is what I would imagine summer looks like, radiant, glowing and her voice is soft and light like it has a contract with the wind.
This summer love song is all about finding someone who understands and accepts you for who you are. And that's summer love, embracing and warm.
Now that everyone has swagger-jacked Roger Trotman's voice changing plastic tube thing (see, T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Kanye West to name a few), I thought it might be nice to throw some love back to the originator and the first song about finding love on the computer, which is summer love if you don't get out much.
This is all we hope for all summer, lovely days. Because summer like lovers has the ability to change moods, alter feelings, and spread happiness.
Did I miss anything?
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a Washington writer.