Music is dope. It’s almost an entirely universal emotional conductor. It can help you amplify whatever you’re feeling inside or it can help you break free from a feeling just with a few notes. It can also say a lot about a person depending on what they’re preferred listening habits are. For example, if you like Pitbull I’m assuming you’re either from Miami or have strong and overwhelmingly positive feelings about Axe Body Spray. That kind of thing.
2016 has been a somewhat kind year for music. We’re only halfway through and already there is no shortage of things you can listen to to help you feel some type of way. So here I thought, what would be the perfect summer playlist from 2016? And before you start, my, my summer playlist. I went together constructing a strong list of candidates and then listening to all options ad nauseam until I put together a solid compilation I am proud to call my own. Here is how it works: all songs had to either be released in 2016 or be on a 2016 released album. That’s it, those are the rules. Now I get to go through and make a meticulous case for why each song belongs on this list. This should be fun.
To reiterate, this is my playlist so there may be some quirkiness here. For example, I really like Chance the Rapper so we’ll probably listen to at least 6 of his songs. For a slightly different example, I am from Toronto so we are legally required to include at least 3 Drake songs in anything that we do that even remotely relates to music lest we go to 6ix-jail. Oh, and the best part? I mixed it (poorly), so you can sing along as you read along.
Chance the Rapper: Summer Friends
Didn’t I tell you there will be a lot of Chance? I mean, it just felt wrong to not include a song called “Summer Friends” on the playlist called Summer 16 (please dear lord disregard the Drake intro). Summer Friends makes you want to dive head first in the pool and float around for about two hours. If you don’t have a pool, then you can probably just smash a water hydrant and run through it. That’s what most of Colouring Book feels like. It coos you into a summer lull and Summer Friends does it best. It whispers to your ear like a breeze.
Flume: Never Be Without You
There’s something about Flume. There is also something about a melodic female voice singing the words “fucked up.” I mean, it seems like a top 40 pop song when it first starts but then it swears at you and that’s kind of fucked up. Never Be Without You is your summer “ride your bike to the store, but then maybe detour for 2 hours in the park (presumably to play Pokemon Go) and then explain to your mom why you’re late for dinner” anthem. It takes itself lightly and opens you up and that’s just an incredible feeling at the end of the day.
Lil’ Yachty and D.R.A.M.: Broccoli
Remember your childhood summers? The ones where you ran barefoot outside, rode the bike into the darkness and played retro-video games at night? That’s what Broccoli feels like. It’s so fucking innocent that I can’t help but wonder why no one has went back in time and filmed a whole separate 80s feel-good summertime kids camp movie around it. Yachty’s ability to not as much rap as to prance up and down on the beat really frees up playful piano chords to make you want to kick back on a sunny day. Making lines like “beat that pussy like Hulk Hogan” innocent is actually a skill that I think should be included on the resume.
Young Thug: Hercules
Young Thug does not rap. Young Thug reverberates sounds with his mouth and occasionally those sonic phenomena sound like words. Something strange happens to a human body when accompanied by Young Thug lyrics. It begins to convulse in a series of rhythmic jerks, it just can’t help itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the Desiigner type of “please put down my expensive vase” flailing. This is a coordinated ballet of seemingly random movements that melt into the indiscernible lyrics. Hercules is your summer “I can go for a 100 more miles” song. It dares you to try and not enjoy yourself and then it makes you do it anyways. If there was any time to start “fucking Martians” that would be right here and right now.
Welcome to the summer road-trip bitches, please strap in. By all measures Panda is not. a. good. song. For one, trying to figure out what it is Desiigner is saying is a trick all of its own. There is however, an undeniable energy to this and your body wants to react. Never mind that he’s talking about a budget BMW. Never mind that every time I see Desiigner dance I am low key terrified his body will fold in on itself. Panda makes you want to run outside and scream at the world, like you just drank 1,000 Redbuls and your heart wants to despearately escape your chest to explore the world. Maybe in a different car though.
Baauer ft. Pusha T/Future: Kung Fu
I wonder if drug sales go up in the summer. I don’t because I’m not really into that kind of thing and Pusha T seems to be doing good all year round. I just wonder if he does better in the summer. Terrence Thornton is a modern day bard when it comes to eloquently composing ballads about selling narcotics. Normally a slower and more measured rapper, here he is given a lot to do with the upbeat production and a speedy hook by Future. Summer is not just all fun and games, there is also some need for work. But it doesn’t mean you have to do it in silence, Kung Fu decides you shouldn’t. Just be careful not to smash things around the office when the song comes on.
Kaytranada: Got It Good
Kaytranada really exploded onto the scene in 2016. Well, he’s been around for a while in the Montreal scene, but the mainstream may only have become aware recently when he dropped his 99.9% album earlier this year. Got it Good is that perfect summer BBQ joint that you can sip a beer too while wondering who painted the sunset in watercolour. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a summer love anthem, but it has the sound of the song you want to take a summer road trip or lie by the pool to with your significant other.
Beyonce: Hold Up
When Beyonce set the whole world in general (and Shawn Carter’s world in particular) with one album, Queen Bey proved to the world that she wasn’t out of marketing tricks to build around her releases. Hold Up is basically the summer love song if you were to write a 2016 summer love song. In the world of social media options, saturation and copious other bullshit it hits you that sometimes you need to hold on to a good thing. This song is not as much a plea for someone to stay as it is a declaration of “don’t fuck up” because “you have a really good thing right here and I guarantee you that Becky over there does not carry those Instagram filters with her everywhere she goes.”
Kanye West: Famous
If there is a song that perhaps defines 2016 it’s Kanye’s Famous. Not necessarily the best of his album, definitely not the best of the summer, but bumpy and assaultive in a way only Swizz Beats has figured out. Furthermore, it’s typical of the summer and our infatuation with celebrity culture and story of unusual triumph. From the moment Kim K schemed out her now “famous” revelation, Famous became more than just a song, it became an anthem of triumph, a screaming poem yelled at the top of your lungs about one’s unequivocal success. And isn’t that what summer is all about? Ambition?
Whoever Wins the Swift-West Stand-Off, We All Lost
As I was sleeping soundly on my memory foam pillow (which is the best way to sleep and if you disagree you can catch…
Drake: U With Me? (#1, documented for legal purposes)
The best visual representation of Views is Drake sitting in an empty room in front of his Macbook, reading all of the messenger conversations he ever had with his exes, highlighting key phrases meticulously and trying to figure out where it all went wrong. But he’s also wearing a Hawaiian shirt because he recorded Controlla (see later). U With Me is my stand out track because it follows the standard Drake formula that makes his tracks easy to listen to and hard to stop. It’s like he’s the Good Will Hunting of his own sound and he just solved the formula. From the DMX sample in the middle to the monochromatic dialogue with himself throughout and a few soft notes thrown in lest we forget Aubrey can sing. It’s a melodic experience you want on a quiet summer evening.
Chance: Same Drugs
You start your summer evening with Drake and then you let Chance tell you about drugs. In many ways, this song is symbolic. Summer is the one season when we start to feel either how far we’ve wandered away from our childhood or try restlessly to recapture it through a myriad of activities. Chance tells you right away that we indeed don’t do the same drugs. If you want to take it a step further, it’s almost a metaphor for music. With Colouring Book, Chancellor Bennet from 79th broke away from meticulously scripted melancholy of Drake and poetic struggle-rap of Kendrick Lamar. He wants you to be happy. He wants you to dance. He wants you to stare into the sunset and think about the child you once were and how to make that child happy again. When was the last time you saw Peter Pan?!
When did you change?
Wendy, you’ve aged
I thought you’d never grow up
I thought you’d never…
Window closed, Wendy got old
I was too late, I was too late
A shadow of what I once was
Drake: Too Good (#2)
Now we enter the Drake & Rhianna tour portion of the summer playlist. If you think of Views as the album Drake made to get Rhianna back it all starts to make a little too much sense. He has all of the necessary “I miss you, so here is the voicemail from my other 3 exes and how I feel about them, but it doesn’t compare to you” songs, while also managing to sprinkle in at least 4 island songs to please his new girl. Too Good is a confidence booster on a bright day. It’s a shot of freshly squeezed juice in the morning after a big fight. It’s a bumpy bike ride to the park alone reminding yourself of your self worth. It’s summer…
But it’s also work. Playing both songs back to back it gets somewhat difficult to distinguish between them. Like many top 40 dance tracks defining of our generation we probably won’t remember the words to this next summer no matter how hard we try or how many overwhelmingly positive memories they generate. Summer is about gaining something back in your life. So is Work. Now go out there and get back your own Rhianna.
YG: Why You Always Hating
Don’t hate on other people enjoying the summer around you. YG always had this ability to capture the recklessness of modern California rap. This is your Anti-FOMO summer song. Just admit it already. Don’t be like you, be like Drake and YG do everything you need to do before they do it, focus on your own summer and stop hating. Figure it out. And if the words weren’t enough, the thunderous clap that annotates the beat and emphasizes the lyrics should kick you into summer overdrive.
Anderson .Paak: Heart Don’t Stand a Chance
Oooh, summer romance, ain’t it grand. Sometimes the heart just wants what the heart wants. Sometimes you just find the right person that you want to spend every sunny summer day with and every day not doing that feels like a full year and you arrive in August feeling like 130 years old. Every time you see them it feels like it’s been far too long and every time you have to say goodbye is a little bit gut wrenching. What I just described may sound somewhat sad and a bit desperate admittedly, but on the contrary, it’s one of the most amazing things ever, as you open up to someone, with someone, like that. That’s a great feeling to capture, especially in the summer, and now that feeling has its very own theme song.
Drake: Controlla (#3)
Say “Controlla.” No, liker really say it. Don’t say it like you sing it at 1am at a club with more slur. Say it like Drake. Let it roll off your tongue and into the world. Let it go, unchain it. I have no clue what a Controlla is, but I’ve never had this much fun screaming one word into the abyss of the summer dance floor.
This is your runaway song. This is your mid-July “I’ve had enough of this so I’m going to coast on the open road for a weekend” anthem. This is your encouragement to break away and get away. The best part of this song is the way Rhianna’s delivery goes up and down, from the highs to the lows making this escape as instinctual as it is emotional. I want to vibe with her. I want to ride with her. I want to get away to this song because there really is nothing left after she’s done here.
Kamaiyah: How Does It Feel To Be Rich
Ambition! This is what we’re about. You gotta love Kamaiyah. If you’re looking for a bouncy feel-good summer melody, you found it with Kamaiyah. The new comer who managed to light it up with Drake and YG on Why You Always Hatin’ now bumps you into the summer. It’s a song of high energy, ambition and accomplishment. The best part about it is how effortless she is on the beat, wrapping all of your dreams and summer activities into a snuggy blanket of two verses consisting of pure happiness and fascination. You don’t need summer drugs when you have Kamaiyah.
Anderson .Paak: Come Down
If you’re looking to spend your summer on a high, you should probably listen to all of Anderson .Paak. While I lack scientific proof for what I am about to say, there is a strong correlation between happiness and listening to Malibu, his second album. Drink liquor. Smoke marijuana. Party. Don’t come down. And do it all upbeat.
DJ Khaled (really Drake though): For Free (#4) // Drake: Once Dance (#5)
Every summer needs a dance tune and we got two basically interchangeable ones. If nothing else, Drake has the inherent ability to not only capture your imagination, but the mass mood at any given moment. When he’s not trying to break through with his sensitive side he gives you instantly quotable dance-floor tunes. Something happens on both For Free and One Dance. Aubrey’s voice seemingly melts into the beat as two become one. At that point, words become irrelevant. You’ll recognize words, sure. Lines even. Maybe a full half a verse, but none of that matters in the end because you’ve been moving and sweating for the past five minutes and all you need is more.
Ty Dolla $ign: Wavy
Every evening needs a you can have a beach party too and that’s what you get. TD$ brings you back to the beach (even though we never really left with One Dance) and asks you to get Wavy one more time. The background clap pushes through everything injecting energy into every word. There’s one word to rap about it (see Graham, Aubrey) and it’s entirely another to line up your lines with the beat so much that your whole body literally wants to get wavy with every line.
Chance: All Night
No one wants to be out drunk at 3am in the winter. It’s cold, your feet are freezing and you definitely can’t feel upwards of 3 of your fingers. Not a pleasant situation in the slightest. Yet in the summer you want nothing more than to see that sunrise as you finish the very last of your champagne and start figuring out how to get home in your condition. Really though, this is about the summer independence to do whatever you want in this world, to let everything go and run through your last paycheck just having fun. All night.
Kanye West: Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1
Beautiful morning. This is just a natural follow through to All Night. The songs almost mirror each other in energy, but also in their reckless advice giving for burning through the night like a rocket fuelled by human emotions and alcohol. You just want to be free to do what you want to this summer.
ScHoolboy Q: THat Part
Every summer needs one night of recklessness. ScHoolboy Q raps as if he’s riding through the desert in Mad Max: Fury Road on a bike blasting Metal and fire spewing out of his exhaust. His rhymes may have given way to pure human emotion, but the delivery is still there. Parts of THat Part make you want to break shit, party until the sun comes up and nod your head until you break your neck. Kanye’s part makes you just want to not care and listen senselessly.
Anderson .Paak: Am I Wrong?
One at a time, that’s how you need to take summer. The high tempo and effortless lyrics want you to focus on the moments that matter, not the ones that will get lost in the background. He brings you onto this journey with him. You get to ride through the coast and take in the view and really not care about the consequences. You’re told to just enjoy the summer, no matter what it may bring to you. Let your instincts take over and just vibe into the sunset with Anderson and ScHoolboy Q.
Young Thug: My People
If Am I Wrong is telling you to let go of logic and trust your instincts, My People basically pushes you into the pull of human emotion and lets it take over. The human body is incapable of interacting with Young Thug lyrics without erupting into a million of convulsions of happiness. With Desiigner, you need to see him to feel it, with Young Thug you can be at the North Pole and hear only the faint echo of My People and yet your hands will start to wiggle in ways you never thought anatomically possible to begin with.
Well, common, we had to. Given everything that has been going on in 2016, this is as much a summer of rebellion as it is of anything else and Formation is basically the anthem. Yes, its a commercialized anthem, but it possess your body like every summer anthem should. Try it:
My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that ***** with that Creole make a Texas…
Yeah, you’re yelling. Shhhh.
A$AP Ferg ft. Rick Ross: Swipe Life
I will state an unpopular opinion: Always Strive and Prosper is one of the best albums of 2016 right now. Between the melodies of Chance and Anderson .Paak, the voicemail self-induced sonic suffering of Drake, the rebellion of Rhianna and TDE power of ScHoolboy, Ferg did what he did best. Gave you trap anthems that you just want to break dishes too while jumping around your living room in pure joy.
Gucci Mane ft. Young Thug: Guwap Home
I got nothing here, I just wanted to include this on here because it’s Gucci Mane who’s now a Free Mane and it’s Young Thug and aesthetically, listening to them individually you initially have no idea as to why anyone should ever listen to them. You really don’t see a historical precedent for either of them and yet both take over your mind, body and spirit until you’re out there speaking in tongues. Skrrrrt Skrrrrt.
Young Thug: Digits
Kanye ft. Everyone: Champions
Kanye always had this inherent ability to put just about anyone on the track and you’d always picture them having fun in the studio and trying to out-ridiculous each other. That’s how we got some of 2 Chainz’ best verses. This song just makes you want to be there with them in the studio, throwing chairs.
Young Thug ft. Travis Scott/Quavo: Pick Up The Phone
See all of the above Young Thug and infuse with Travis Scott. What they say here doesn’t really matter as much as they just convulse through the beat with a collection of sounds that sounds like a summer pool party in a middle of a monsoon.
Chance the Rapper: No Problems // Chance the Rapper: Show Me Love
That second one isn’t Chance. It’s a Skrillex remix of another song, but Chance makes it. Summer is about happiness and ending this playlist on anything else other than a happy song is downright criminal if you think about it. With No Problems we really get everything about the bounce where even when Chance is threatening labels with a dread-headed mob in their lobby he sounds almost bemused, like a boxer playing with an opponent he’s about to knock down to the canvas. It’s the most aggressive he can get and even then it’s still fun for the whole family. He can’t help it, Chance wants you to enjoy yourself and that’s what he does on Show Me Love too. His voice bounces on the beat and you are just along for the ride. You don’t have a choice, you’re already ecstatic halfway through his verse and then he takes you into a euphoria overdrive.
Kanye West ft. Chance the Rapper: Ultralight Beam
The end. There is no other song I want to listen to more at the end of the day. Or when I wake up. Or when I’m in a kitchen making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The first time I heard this song, I got chills. This isn’t an exaggeration. Ultralight Beam is Kanye at it’s finest and music at it’s best. The beat (if it can even be called that, as it’s more of an organic orchestra) ebbs and flows slowly, unassumingly. It elevates on an almost spiritual level. And then Chance comes in. Think about it, he told that no one else was allowed to speak on a KANYE WEST TRACK. That’s basically like getting into heaven and telling Jesus “I’mma let you finish…” Chance’s verse is equal parts confident, emotional and spiritual. It lulls you into a state of appreciation for music you didn’t think existed in 2016. And then it drops you into a warm pool to float away.