Tis the season of beaches, barbecues, and day parties. The UP staff picks the songs we’ll have in rotation all summer long.
The summer lends itself to a soundtrack better than any other season. Play Drake’s “Controlla” and you instantly go back to a simpler time. Summer ’16 was something else.
From evening outdoor pickup games to after work happy hour on a patio, there’s something about a warm, breezy sunset that requires a vibey set list. We also have our mid-day barbecues, late club nights, and early morning runs that need some music behind them as well — so of course we had to put together a playlist of certified jams that we’ll have in rotation all summer long.
“Sprinter” — Central Cee and Dave
This was a collab that all the UK rap lovers have been clamoring for, and Central Cee and Dave didn’t disappoint. The pair delivered a summer banger, and get bonus points for a footy reference from Dave: “The way that I ball, no yellow, the ref have to give me a black card.” — Ben Peres
“Barcelona” — Kota the Friend ft. Samm Henshaw
It’s not my usual style, and I’ve never been a massive listener of Kota, but this is a superb song that’ll leave you feeling refreshed and energized as the sun shines down all summer long. It reminds me of my trip to the Catalan capital as well, which was an experience I adored and a place I long to return to. — Luke Taylor
“Liquor Store In The Sky” — BJ the Chicago Kid ft. Freddie Gibbs
It doesn’t really scream “song of the summer,” but hear me out. Midwest natives BJ the Chicago Kid and Freddie Gibbs have teamed up to make some heat in the past (“Shame” off of Gibbs’ 2014 joint album with Madlib, Piñata, is an all time favorite of mine), and the duo have struck gold again with “Liquor Store In the Sky.” It features a familiar William Bell sample that serves as a backdrop to BJ’s crooning vocals and a sharp verse from Gibbs. It’s perfect for a late night drive or a bonfire with friends reminiscing about the good old days. — Ramsey Abushahla
“letstalkaboutit” — Aminé & KAYTRANADA ft. Freddie Gibbs
Aminé, KAYTRANADA, and Freddie Gibbs are often some of my favorite go-to July and August artists. The vibes each bring are always immaculate, and listening to Aminé, a Portland native, while preparing for a Portland-Seattle derby day never gets old. “letstalkaboutit” and impending heat waves go together like PB&J, Diego Chara and yellow cards, sandals and dirty toenails. — Evan Taylor
“Malele” — Montparnasse Musique ft. Menga Waku
Sometimes the summer jam is hidden in a winter release and you just gotta hold onto it, keeping it warm so it’s still fresh come the summer. Now that the sun is actually out again in So Cal, I’ve been jamming to the whole Archeology album by Montparnasse Musique, a duo consisting of Algerian-French producer Nadjib Ben Bella and South African DJ Aero Manyelo. The summer jam is “Malele” and it is impossible not to move to the beat.
It works on a road trip, house party, or just jamming out at home by yourself. It’s pure vibes and the singing doesn’t require speaking the language to understand. Summer time is an emotional state more than a time of year, and “Malele” captures that in a bottle for three minutes and 56 seconds. — Kyle Scoble
“Tienate” — Nu Genea
A bit of an older one, but this groovy track should be top of your summer playlist and that’s an order. Nu Genea are straight out of Naples and are made up of two DJs coming together for this artistic project. The outcome is wonderful, and, especially in a Scudetto-winning year for Napoli, is a must listen. — Luke Taylor
“Link Up (Spider-Verse Remix)” — Metro Boomin, Don Toliver, and Wizkid ft. Beam and Toian
It may still be too early to call, but Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse could very well end up being the movie of the summer — or even the year. A-list producer Metro Boomin was tasked with creating a soundtrack that could match the fast-paced and innovative movie, and he did so by compiling a who’s who of artists ranging from A$AP Rocky to James Blake to Nas. And while there are a handful of tracks that could be on this list, the one that screams “summer” the most is the “Spider-Verse Remix” of “Link Up,” which enlists Don Toliver, Wizkid, Beam, and Toian in addition to Mr. Boomin himself. — Abushahla
“Root Down” — The Beastie Boys
“Root Down” is a Beastie Boys classic, and a great song to get some shit done to. Before a banner painting or designing project, I always cue this up first to get in the mood. I’ve always been a sucker for hip-hop and funk fusion. And when your car doesn’t have air conditioning and you need a song to blast with the windows down, “Root Down” usually gets the job done. — Evan Taylor
“Bando” — Feefa
Feefa’s 2021 Sacrificio album has plenty of summer-ready bangers on it, but none get a crowd going quite like “Bando.” A hypnotizing beat paired with a catchy chorus has had this in my summer rotation for the past two years. Doja Cat had “Mooo!” but “Bando’s” repetitive “la vaca” chorus is clearly superior. — Abushahla
“Soul and Sunshine” — Harvey and the Phenomenals
Whether you’re warming up for a match, walking to the grocery store, or doing your morning routine, not many hot day activities can be done without a good funky song like “Soul and Sunshine.” Certainly an oldie, so you can spend your warmer moments drinking like George Best by the water, and juggling like Pele on the sand. — Evan Taylor