What does June mean to you? No school? Cold drinks and barbecues til 2AM? Titties everywhere? I know that whenever June comes around it means one thing: I start hearing the GREATEST SUMMER SONG EVER!
In 1974 Kool & The Gang released their seventh album, Light of Worlds. Suprisingly the stand out track was one with no vocals whatsoever: Summer Madness. I take it this was a conceptual piece and man they executed it to perfection. From the moment the song begins, you can't help but imagine the coldest pool on the hottest day you can remember. The sheer mellowness of the song is incomprehensible. For 4:28 your entire life is in slow motion and you love it. The song went on to be featured in Rocky but it would take nearly 20 years for it to make a real impact on my life and Hip-Hop.
In 1989 I was really hitting my stride in Hip-Hop. I was buying albums on tape and vinyl and getting into DJ'ing and the art of mixing. When I purchased Gang Starr's No More Mr. Nice Guy, I remember putting it in the boom box at school and letting everyone listen, THEY LAUGHED. One dude even said: "Who the fuck is that rappin', Special Fred?". Kane and the Juice Crew ruled my school and maybe N.W.A. but nobody wanted to hear these "jazz rappin' cats." My favorite song on the album was DJ Premier in Deep Concentration an instrumental track that asked the listener to "give the man behind the wheels some credit.". The Summer Madness sample was utilized by Premier who took the song and cut up just about anything he could over the relaxing beat even taking the distinct synthesizer and "transformer scratching" the hell out of it. The song was a B-side to the Manifest single but it never achieved the notoriety it should have. The average rap fan has probably never heard it. It wasn't the end though and the Kool & The Gang sample would leave a mark...nah, a BOOT PRINT in the game that will never be erased.
Spring of 1991, I was watching the Fresh Prince season finale and through several commercial breaks the announcer said: "Stay tuned for a special video from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince!" I thought: "Oh god, not another Mike Tyson song from this corny dude!" I was wrong. I've never been more wrong in my entire life, that "corny song" turned out to be Summertime. They had me at "Drums please..." Once that beat dropped, it was a WRAP! I was shocked that not only did they freak the K&TG break but Will's vocals seemed like they were made for that beat and nothing else.
Homebase was the duo's fourth album and it achieved platinum status(I think on the strength of Summertime alone.) That summer you couldn't hear a car pass without that song bumpin out of their system. The video is burned into my mind as well with the barbecues, dancing, girls and driving around with your friends. That's what summer was and is still about, CHILLIN'. There has never been a song, a rap song for that matter that has ever made me nostalgic for my youth as much as this. I'm in my early 30's now and it still resonates with me today and brings a feeling of calm over me. About a year ago I was in a bar and they had it in the jukebox, I selected it and the minute it came on, all the older heads had this look of "Awwww, shiiiiiit!" and the head nodding didn't stop until the song was over. There will never be a song that relays the feelings of a moment like this and that's why I say that Sumemertime is THE GREATEST SUMMER SONG EVER!
So let's give props and thanks to Kool and the Gang for creating an amazing song. Gang Starr for dusting it off and DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince for making it an indellible mark in Hip-Hop history. If you get the chance, please support these artists and all of their fine works.
Kool & The Gang-Summer Madness
Gang Starr-DJ Premier In Deep Concentration
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince -Summertime