From the editor: Travis Glave is the founder of one of my favorite hip-hop blogs, Wake Your Daughter Up, where he writes long, impassioned posts about what he’s been buying/listening to/thinking about. Maybe I’m partial also to the fact that we’re close to age and thus are nostalgic for the same eras and artists but I like the depth and dedication he brings to site.
For his summer songs entry, Glave plumbs into the memory lanes hitched to his younger days and just what tunes form the soundtrack to those flashbacks. –O.W.*
- From Travis Glave:
Summers have been the intermissions in the movie of life or at least, they were the celebration scenes. Growing up in a place that consisted of cold winters and wet springs and autumns, summer was the one time of the year you could run around and bask. They conjure memories of simpler times. All we had to worry about was if we were going to have enough kids for that baseball game in the vacant lot or if our parents would let us stay over at a friend’s house. As I grew older and became more mischievous, different worries faced us: getting caught sneaking out to meet girls down the street (we eventually got caught) or getting someone to buy us beer for the weekend.
Sometimes I can’t help to wonder if my generation was the last of its kind, the last of the innocent. I came from a fairly white, middle class background. As a young kid, summer for us meant staying out until it was dark and our parents called us inside. It meant riding our bikes a mile or two down to the closest convenience store to buy candy. We didn’t have worry about a perverted old man in a van coaxing us with candy. We didn’t stay inside unless it was raining. Summer was a time when we could be kids.
Koolade feat. Masta Ace: Survival
From 12″ (ABB, 2004)
The first song that I’ve included is “Survival” by Masta Ace. If you are a regular visitor of my blog, Wake Your Daughter Up, you undoubtedly know that I’m a huge Ace fan. In all honestly, I included this song almost exclusively for the first verse, which I wouldn’t do unless it was so relevant to my childhood. It includes references to the ice cream man, dirt “bombs” (we called them dirtclods) and tracking your win-loss record in neighborhood fights. We organized baseball games, had squirt gun fights (a precursor to paint gun wars) or just shot hoops in someone’s driveway. We were kids, we had no worries, growing up was fun.
As I grew older, music began to have more of an importance in my daily life and it was almost always present in some form or another. Although I’ve always considered hip-hop more of a “winter” type of music, it would be the summer time that I discovered hip-hop. The summer of ’86 during a rare time inside, my next door neighbor and at the time best friend and I were watching MTV. It was then they would show a Run DMC video, “Walk This Way”, and from there on, I was hooked. As I grew up, hip-hop would be my music of choice. I would have friends that were into as well, but for them, it would be more of a passing fade, for me, I started gobbling up any knowledge I could. In August of ’88, “Yo! MTV Raps” debuted, and the rest of that summer I would spend buying everything I saw on that debut episode.
Beastie Boys: Hey Ladies
From Paul’s Boutique (Def Jam, 1989)
The summer of ’89 would be the summer of the “Paul’s Boutique” for me, the Beastie Boys’ second album. By this time I was already in high school and although I didn’t have a “real” job at the time. I was mowing yards, digging ditches, and cleaning horse stalls. I would always have my Walkman tape player with me and “Paul’s Boutique” was in it the majority of the time. “Hey Ladies” was the first single and the song just screams “summer”, with its cowbells, funky guitar licks and party vibe. Even the video makes me think of summer with its ’70’s clothes, skimpily clothed women and swimming pools. In future summers, I’ve always made sure this gets played at any summer BBQ I have with friends or out on the lake, enjoying the sun.
Steve Miller: The Joker
From The Joker (Capitol, 1973)
While summertime is a great time to be a kid, it’s even better as a college student. You might have a summer job, but those usually don’t mean much. It’s a time when you know you are in the final stages when you can get away without much responsibility. In a few short years, if things go right, you will have get a real job and then the magic that is summer is greatly diminished. I graduated high school in May of ’91. I planned on going to college in the fall, but I wanted to get the most out the upcoming summer. I ended up in the mountains at a friend’s parent’s cabin and while his parents were not rich, there was a pool table, air hockey, and a great sound system, all of which was placed in a converted garage. I spent much of my free time up at this cabin, playing volleyball, water skiing, shooting pool and of course drinking beer. We always had the stereo playing music, non stop. I could make a soundtrack of music just from that summer, but while many of my friends were not into hip hop as much as I was, most of the music we listened to was older classic rock and one such song was “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. We played Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits from ‘74-’78 a lot and while I could go with many songs from this era, this song was the one that would always get us singing along and doing some air guitar solo routines. To this day, when ever I hear this song and the album, I think of that summer up in the mountains.
Masta Ace Inc.: The INC Ride
From Sittin’ On Chrome (Delicious Vinyl, 1995)
As I made my way through college and took what would become the “long-term” plan, I always made sure I had fun during the summer season and at times maybe too much fun. My love for hip-hop would also expand during the early ’90 as well. One thing I enjoyed as a young man in those summers was jumping in my GMC Jimmy with two 12-inch speakers in the back being pushed by a large amp and cruising around feeling the summer heat rush through the vehicle. There was something great about rolling down the windows and just cruising around with a classic summer song and just letting the system bump. One song that was great for this was “The INC Ride” by Masta Ace Incorporated. Maybe it’s the Isley Brothers sample that gives off that mellow and smooth vibe. I imagine being in a convertible blasting this song and having the wind rush through your face and the heat of the sun beating down on you on the way to the park for a BBQ.
De La Soul: Sunshine
From Stakes Is High (Tommy Boy, 1996)
Everyone always has one summer that sticks out more than others and that for me is the summer of 1996. After spending a couple years in college trying to figure out what I wanted to do then switching my major after a couple more years, I had decided that I needed to move from my hometown in order to continue my education. I would move the fall of ’96, so I knew that summer was probably “it” in terms of how I knew things. Combine this with a break-up after dating for two years and a falling out with a few life-long friends and this summer was posed to be different in many ways. For one, I was “searching for myself” after having my heart broken and I was branching out and hanging out with different people after being part of the same group of friends since high school.
I worked a few jobs, one of them as a doorman for a popular downtown bar where I took advantage of the nightlife to its fullest. Music was a HUGE part of that summer, with so many different kinds of styles playing a role; everything from Smashing Pumpkins to Nas. One track that pretty much sums up the great time and the confusion was De La’s “Sunshine.” The track covered the good times I was experiencing, with its sing-a-long chorus and laid back, warmth yet it had some darker undertones in the lyric. Plus, I found it funny they were rapping about being “high…on sunshine” considering the amount of drinking I did that summer.
From Gloryhallastoopid (Casablanca, 1979)
While no other summer has been close in memories and incidents as that summer of ’96 (thank god) I’ve had plenty great memories since then. There are concerts, softball tourneys, baseball games, parties and camping trips. One such camping trip in the summer of ’98 led to my best friend and I playing Parliament’s Greatest Hits a nauseating amount of times throughout the day and the drunken night. We must have played it 10-15 nights while playing horseshoes or riding jet skis out on the lake.
Exile: Summertime In LA
From Dirty Science (Sound In Color, 2006)
Summers recently have been less and less about fun and more and more about real life things. As the turn of the century came and went and I’ve become older and have more responsibilities, it’s a fact of life. Summer is a season for the youth, but with that being said, us older folks have to enjoy those memorable moments when we can. I ran across a track last year that reminded me of just how wonderful summer can be. It comes from DJ Exile’s album, Dirty Science: “Summertime In LA” featuring Miguel Jontel. Even if you haven’t experienced a LA summer, you could insert your favorite locale in for LA and still have yourself a great summer jam to throw on. I’m not usually one for the R&B and singing, but this lovely summer jam has a bouncy beat that just embodies a summer, Sunday afternoon. wherever you may be from.
Summer will always be the season memories are made. It’s a season for spending time outside at a picnic or a family reunion with family and friends and like so many activities, music will always provide the soundtrack to the season and to life in general. Enjoy this summer and listen to some good music.
*Glave was kind enough to supply all the files himself but he did them in the zshare format and I just didn’t feel like converting them to either direct MP3s or divshare.