What makes a summer song? It's sweaty but never sad about it. The right summer smash makes you put the double-decker barbecue plate on your lawn chair, pour out something cool and get close to the speakers. It's naked and unashamed, of course. The song's gotta be loud. Not volume-wise either. You need to be able to open that sunroof, lower the windows on the highway and still annoy passersby with the bass drop. They're great songs because they're disposable songs. A summer jam is the wet wipe of music: refreshing as it is fleeting and oh so useful at the right time.
Load these songs into your playlist and be the DJ you always wanted for the weekend.
9. Waka Flocka Flame - "Blatlanta"
Waka brings his newly swift lyrics to the Drill sound from Lil Herb's "Chi-raq." His I Can't Rap Vol. 1 is one of the best beat-jacking tapes of the summer, eclipsing G-Unit's solid comeback effort mainly because Waka has never shown this level of versatility. He can definitely pick a beat and does that to good effect here, something that should outpace him becomes his home very quickly. Always something cooking in the A.
9. Rae Sremmurd - "No Flex Zone"
Granted, these kids are, like, still emptying out their lockers for the summer in 9th period homeroom. They still get excited at the ice cream truck, the young'uns. But that's the only way to make a song about not entering gang turf sound "fun" comparatively. MikeWillMadeIt is the architect and the builder, so capable at making his sound come through that he could put schoolkids in a studio with wooden blocks and sweat out a summer hit. Can we just loop this hook a million times, sing them a night-night and forget lyrics?
8. Future - "I Won" Feat. Kanye West
There is no irony to this. It's explicitly about having a trophy wife, an object of desire. It's shallow while attempting to sound and look like the Pacific Ocean in the video. In reality, Kanye and Future are very very happy to have pretty companions, Kardashian and Ciara respectively. Mr. West, comedian that he is, name-checks Kim in his verse, all of her sisters, the NBA and NFL players he beat to the spot and generally basks in his glory. It's only right they hate, he says, and we agree. Check please!
7. Kevin Gates - "Posed To Be In Love"
Kevin Gates is thoughtful. That won't be the image or the language around him at first but he is. "Posed To Be In Love" is structured like a ballad, and like the typical male complaints about a long-gone sweet thang. The difference is it's much darker, and reels with the voice of a creepy and depressed lover. Love & Hip Hop Atlanta supporting cast member, Erica Pinkett, enacts the role of an abused woman trying to pry herself away. That's where the familiarity stops though, as it takes an Eminem "Stan" turn by the second verse. That beat and the Gates flow make it a consistent replay knocker.
6. Quavo - "Tommy Gun"
Never did get over that Migos flow. Quavo is a high-screech trap boy with burning vocals and hoppy tracks. His voice makes it seem like he's loading the "Tommy Gun" or whatever with water so he can spray down his cousins at the pool party. The dope spot throws the best shin-digs anyway.
5. Young Thug - "1017 Lifestyle"
I'd like to thank Cee-lo and Goodie Mob for introducing country and folk-singing as a staple in Southern rap music. I'd like to thank Young Thug for continuing that legacy. Who else could say "git along lil doggy" with such swag? Not Toby Keith, bruh.
4. Young Jeezy "Seen It All" Feat. Jay Z
When have these two teamed up for a bad song? Summer brings out the best in them both. They have a Bron and Wade kind of magic when they come together. It formed after they were both famous in their own right and it seemed like it could help everyone, Jay with the streets, Jeezy with the radio. Since then, it's been all gravy and grits. "Seen It All" is probably the one mind-blowing Jay-Z verse we'll get all year, so go ahead and be grateful now so you won't be annoyed later. Nothing like hearing a front-runner describe when he was an underdog -- perspective y'all.
3. Wiz Khalifa - "We Dem Boyz"
At this point, Wiz Khalifa has no recognizable or predictable form. "We Dem Boyz" is of the times, distinctive mainly for the shout he does through the whole thing. The summer sticking point is that it's catchy and that's the sum of it. The crashing cymbals and video cameos are the window dressing to make you forget this was ever real.
2. Bobby Shmurda - "Hot N*gga"
The Shmoney Dance. A Brooklyn kid. Jahlil Beatz. There go all the necessary ingredients for a lights-out, spasm-inducing hit. Like many of the songs on this list, it's ostensibly about murder, laundering money and lawyer-client confidentiality. But once that drops rattles, you'll never say "corrections officer" again! Bobby Shmurda -- our best guess -- won't be around longer than Hurricane Chris, Trinidad James, Rich Boy and other summer one-hit casualties. This is what makes him ready: he's fine flashing his charisma and his new slang and letting us interpret it and dance. Not bad for a newbie. Also, has Jahlil Beatz quietly become an institution of web beat-making?
1. Drake - "0 to 100/The Catch Up"
Drake is global warming. We know he's coming every summer and songs will be just a little hotter than last year's but it all feels so excessive and wrong and like the planet is crumbling. Pop champagne to the death of substance. Give it up for the best flow-adopter since Jay-Z. This kid is the fucking Summer League and the pre-season rolled in one because it all hints at a grand album coming from the steady, careful development of his sound.
"Trophies" is a terrific slow burn that's taken most of a year to really sink in with listeners. "0 to 100" needed no such nurturing. Now we're showering in it, the inevitable Drake storm that puts other artists in his periphery. And if young Aubrey ain't your cup of Joe, find the instrumental on a Friday night and go kill the club with all the motivation you absorbed from it.