Asking music writers to agree on one thing is an impossible task. Some think Young Thug’s otherworldly yelps ruled the summer while others would prefer he return to his home planet. One thing you can depend on is most of these tunes will inspire unrestrained dancing all the way into autumn. See below for our varied picks from the sunny season– Jimmy Ness
By Jimmy Ness
Migos: “Handsome and Wealthy”
Based on which Migos track has infiltrated more clubs and white family minivans, you might assume I would choose “Fight Night” as my favourite song of the summer. However as someone well versed in Versace connoisseurs rapping in triplets, I prefer the karaoke-inducing chorus of “Handsome and Wealthy.” Quavo, Takeoff and Offset released their crowded “No Label 2” mixtape earlier this year, which featured 25 tracks of Pyrex kitchen cookware references and shout raps. This tune sees the group pushing their sound into more melodic territory while continuing their ascent to overthrow ZZ Top as the world’s best power trio. The three amigos from Atlanta have also perfected novelty ad-libs, if you’ve never chanted “handsome” “professor” and “can you tell me” in quick succession you’re missing out.
Runner Up: iloveMakonnen- “Tuesday”
It’s a rare skill to make partying on a weeknight sound melancholic and Makonnen’s pitch shifting wail delivers. I’m not convinced the 25 year old who feels guilty about the good times will live up to his current hype, but along with this and “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” he’s got two unique jams in the chamber.
Shy Glizzy: “Awwsome”
Shy Glizzy’s breakout mixtape, Young Jefe, may not have been his strongest work, but it certainly was his loudest. This summer, the Southeast D.C. rapper made waves in his hometown with his now-signature song, “Awwsome.” The record became a fixture on many a DJs pre-show setlists, particularly at Howard Theatre and U Street Music Hall, where it would often draw a bigger response than the headliners. The infectious street single eventually sent ripples through the national rap scene as well, in no small part due to a semi-viral Instragram video of Chris Brown dancing on the bow of a yacht, jamming out to Glizzy’s ode to Glizzy. If nothing else, “Awwsome” is proof positive that Washingtonian street rap still has a pulse.
Runner Up: Curren$y – “M.P.R.”
It’s easy to take Curren$y for granted. He’s sanctioned more projects than your local housing authority. But his upteenth mixtape, Drive In Theatre, was a cut above what we’ve come to expect. The mixtape’s foremost acronym, “M.P.R.,” doesn’t sound like a smoker’s anthem; it sounds like a smoky jazz lounge.
Rich Gang: “Lifestyle”
Like all the best summer songs from rap history, “Lifestyle” sells you a dream. The truth is that summer never quite delivers on its promise of endless BBQs and MTV Cribs garden parties, so we need these songs to create false memories. You probably heard “Lifestyle” when you were sweating liquor through your Hawaiian in an unglamorous basement bar, but for five minutes you felt like you’d snuck onto the “Big Pimpin” yacht with UGK. That shitty media job you work sure isn’t gonna buy your membership to the yacht club, but Young Thug is rap’s Jordan Belfort and Rich Homie Quan is Jonah Hill with the voice of an angel. As far as I can tell only 50% of the lyrics are in English, but it hardly matters – Thugger is a master stylist and his chemistry with Quan is yet to produce a dud. That’s as good an excuse as any for a Birdman hand rub.
Runner up: Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”
Vince Staples has impressed plenty so far without really demanding attention of a wider audience. In a fair world “Blue Suede” would be his “Yonkers,” as the Long Beach rapper at last finds a beat to make his bars rattle.
Mr Black El Presidente – “El Serrucho”
A friend, Ryan, recently returned from a year of teaching English in Colombia with stories about his time abroad. Ryan had his patience purposefully tested by a rural paramilitary soldier, whose compatriot was wielding a covert machete, ready to use it when given the sign. His underage female students would rub up against him in blithe attempts to improve their grades. He was, obligatorily, a victim of muggings, and purchased incredibly cheap cocaine. Ryan also returned to Los Angeles with news of “El Serrucho,” by Mr. Black El Presidente, the dominant club hit in Medellin. “Serrucho,” which translates to “saw,” is an obvious sexual metaphor, with Mr. Black declaring “Yo soy su carpintero.” The video shows Mr. Black and his chubby accordion player in No Limit-worthy, neon camouflage pants, surrounded by buxom women barely clad in bikinis, all doing the easily mimicked Serrucho dance. “El Serrucho” is where folkloric tropes meet 21st century dance and rap culture, a severe earworm not entirely enjoyable so much as it’s difficult to forget the accordion refrain. 28 million YouTube views hint at its popularity in South America, but after a couple listens you may find yourself exclaiming “Yo soy su carpintero!” for no good reason.
Runner Up: Bobby Shmurda – “Hot Nigga”
The real song of the summer is “Hot Nigga,” the song that launched a million Vines and an inconclusive FBI investigation into the location of a hat. Bobby Shmurda, East Flatbush’s preeminent dance instructor, may not have another hit, but “Hot Nigga” will live in infamy as the song that got Rhianna and Beyonce to dance like unselfconscious Caribbean grandfathers.
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea – “Problem”
You might say “Problem” was preordained to become a hit. It reminds me of those Hollywood blockbusters where the buzzed-about cast, the famous executive producer, the five screenwriters, etc. etc., are working to ensure that every last detail guarantees mass appeal. Of course, big-budget operations don’t often equal great art, but “Problem”—in its smaller, more readily accessible sonic form—is like Pixar’s innovative/irresistible Toy Story to Michael Bay’s artless/insufferable TMNT reboot. The song has clever twists, hip-hop elements (di rigueur for any smash hit of the moment), and of course Grande’s brassy, spiralling vocals. But for me it’s all about the little details—like the flirty snares that come in during the pre-chorus, setting up the song’s butterflies-in-stomach tension. No lie: If those snares were human, I would totally try and make out with them.
Runner Up: Rustie feat. Danny Brown – “Attak”
I came for the hilariously unreadable lyric video, I stayed for the intoxicating, neon-scorched synth hook. This is straight bruiser music for the future. Listening to “Attak” makes me wish I had one of those flying cars from Blade Runner, so I could take it on a late-night joyride and crash it against a tree.