The hellish, miserable cold of winter is finally letting loose its grasp on most of the U.S. Thank everything holy that it’s about to be summer. And so after seeing a request from a reader that we shine a light on some great up-and-coming artists with a playlist of warm weather songs best suited for cruising with the windows down, we couldn't say no.
Welcome to your go-to summer 2016 playlist, made up of songs released over the last year or so; the world doesn't need another post saying that "Summertime" is a classic warm-weather jam. While we steered clear of any huge hits, what you’ll find is the perfect mix to blast next time you find yourself at the beach.
Innanet James - “Summer”
We’ll kick off this list with an obvious choice, a song accurately titled “Summer.” Innanet James, Maryland rapper and one of our latest crop of Top Prospects, is making waves despite having just three solo songs publicly available. While all are certainly good enough to have caught our ear, “Summer” is the highlight among highlights. Production from The Kount is sun-kissed, James’ unique vocals are commanding but relaxed, and the record oozes warmth and free-spiritedness.
SPZRKT - “Hesitate” ft. Masego
SPZRKT, pronounced Spazzy Rocket, is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter who earlier this year dropped off a gem inspired by, and sampling, Sampha’s “Hesitant Oath” interlude. The result is “Hesitate,” a laid-back ballad that manages to inject plenty of soul without ever feeling overbearingly serious. Virginia-bred trap house jazz virtuoso Masego is fittingly credited as MaSAXgo, taking the record from great to phenomenal with his work on the saxophone. Has adding more sax ever NOT improved anything? I dare you to find a single example proving otherwise.
Anderson .Paak - “Am I Wrong” ft. ScHoolboy Q
Oxnard, CA native Anderson .Paak is quickly moving from best-kept secret to certified star, having gone from DJBooth Top Prospect to Dr. Dre protegé and Aftermath signee in the span of about a year. While his profile is certainly much higher these days, I’d be hard-pressed to present a summer-ready playlist that didn’t include anything from Malibu, so far the 2016 release best-suited for beaming sun and days off work despite being released in January. “Am I Wrong” simply floats, lodged somewhere between nostalgic and futuristic with an easygoing groove, the ultra-cool of .Paak and a shot of energy from ScHoolboy.
KR - “Play My Shit”
Though Los Angeles singer/rapper KR just dropped off a new EP, for our purposes here we travel back to an effort from last year. “Play My Shit” recently surpassed a million plays on SoundCloud, and considering how perfectly suited it is for relaxing poolside it could very well double that in the coming months. KR’s light and breezy vocals are a draw, but with no offense to the L.A. native, it’s the production from PYRMDPLAZA, originally released as an instrumental named “Glassss,” that commands your attention. You better play this shit, and you better play it loud.
Jaalid - “Paradox”
Sometimes an artist is forced to grind for years before coming up with anything that deserves the general public’s attention, and sometimes the stars align and magic is made from the jump. Consider Jaalid, whose debut single “Paradox” was released earlier this year. Helmed by bouncy, light production from BNJMN, the Boston native flexes acutely infectious melodies centered on the grind necessary to make it in music, curious considering the relative newness of the artist’s career. It’s the kind of motivational push you need, but nonchalant enough to garner summertime anthem consideration.
D.R.A.M. - “Broccoli” ft. Lil Yachty
I challenge you to find another song in recent memory coming anywhere close to rivaling the level of pure joy contained in D.R.A.M. and Yachty’s “Broccoli.” The Virginia-reared rapper/singer of “Cha Cha” fame and the polarizing bubblegum trap buzzmaker joined forces for an ode to smoking weed and stealing your girl, but despite a sneaky superb verse from D.R.A.M. the draw here is not lyrical content. This is about having a shit-ton of fun, and the moment you first hear “ain’t…no…telling…what…I’m….finna….BE…ONNNNNNN” it’s nearly impossible to resist singing along with the same ear-to-ear grin D.R.A.M. seems to sport on a constant basis.
Lauren DeClasse - “Ride”
There is something magical in the combination of driving and summer, and there are few things in life that top a windows-down cruise in perfect weather. Brooklyn upstart Lauren DeClasse manages to not only do justice to a Mariah Carey sample but knock it out of the park with a carefree love song that balances sharp lyrics with breezy melody. DeClasse promises to be “riding out, no matter the weather, we swing in the breezes without a doubt,” which is exactly what you should do while listening.
Krs. x Masego x Jahkoy - “Still In Love (Remix)”
“Still In Love,” the single from recent Def Jam signee Jahkoy, is perfectly suited for late-night hours. Toronto producer Krs. and Masego (making his second appearance on this list) take the handoff and rework the original jam into its daytime counterpart. A sleek sexiness permeates the jazzy record, propelled by a groovy bassline and set off by sax-work and skat vocals from Masego added to Jahkoy’s addictive chorus.
Zacari - “Foggy Windows”
If you aren’t already familiar with Zacari, you best get familiar now. The Los Angeles-based artist has the vocal talent of a star in the making, and could easily blow up provided he adds to his still-sparse collection of released music. “Foggy Windows” was his debut single, a record that once again speaks to the power of the car ride. Zacari’s voice shines atop house-infused production from J-Louis and NGHTMRE, which provides enough funk to stand out but never works to outshine the vocals. Consider this your transition into the evening hours.
starRo - “I Will” ft. Jay Prince
If you were lucky enough to hear Tokyo-born, LA-based producer starRo’s epic instrumental “California,” then you might never again be able to think of summer without conjuring up the sounds of that record. If you have never before heard “California,” you’re in luc; last year starRo added buzzing UK emcee Jay Prince to the record, named it “I Will” and brought new life to a timeless sound.
(Bonus) Ramriddlz - “Call Me” ft. Nemesis
I’ll probably catch some flak for this one, as there’s some considerable backlash to Ramriddlz in the DJBooth writer squad. For good reason, as even while I’ve been higher on Young Riddlz than others, he often makes it difficult to take him seriously with the overtly juvenile, SMH-inducing lyrics he loves so dearly. Fuck it though, because “Call Me” is a banger and in case you haven’t realized, there’s a huge demand for sultry, dancehall-inspired songs with Canadians on them (cough “Work” cough “One Dance” cough). So yes, I will champion this collaboration from Ramriddlz and Nemesis, whose vocals offset each other’s perfectly, until the end of time.
Next time the weather is incredible and you're at the beach, or a pool or you get thrown the aux cord on a road trip, you'll know exactly what to throw on shuffle. Have a nice summer, folks.