Although I have one of the earliest birthdays of all my friends, in high school I was one of the last to get my driver’s license (although I passed on the first try after learning to parallel park the day before, so there). Because of this, during the summer before my junior year I was the ultimate ride mooch, relying most on my buddy Pat. Although I never offered Pat any gas money, and my company probably wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d like to think, we drove together everywhere. In fact, I’d estimate that 10% of my summer was spent in that car.
At the time, Pat was a huge rap fan like myself, so our in-ride music was always epic. This was extremely important because Pat’s CD changer, much like the rest his car, was crap, so the chances of you ever getting a CD out of the player were very slim. Basically, if you were going to be stuck with one playlist to listen to for months at a time until the CD player decided to spit it out, it had better be a good one.
At the very beginning of the summer, Pat made a playlist for his car that, to this day, is the single best-constructed mix-CD I have ever experienced. I can’t really explain why, but it just is. Each of the songs are great individually, but when they came together on this mix, something magic happened. We listened to this CD for that entire summer, never once even considering trying to switch it out.
So, with summer approaching, I thought I’d share this classic tracklist with you guys in case you were looking for some tunes to bump. After all, ’tis the season to put the windows down and show off your speakers.
Before we go into detail, here is the playlist overview with the song, artist, and album in parentheses:
- “Dirty Mef” – Method Man feat. ODB (4:21 – The Day After)
- “Stay Cool” – The Roots feat. Martin Luther (The Tipping Point)
- “Game Theory” – The Roots (Game Theory)
- “Living in the World Today” – GZA feat. Raekwon & Method Man (Liquid Swords)
- “Reunited” – Wu-Tang Clan (Wu Tang Forever)
- “Guns are Drawn” – The Roots feat. Aaron Livingston (The Tipping Point)
- “Do You Want More?!!??!” – The Roots (Do You Want More?!!??!)
- “Guillotine (Swordz)” – Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah & Inspectah Deck (Only Built for Cuban Linx…)
- “Web” – The Roots (The Tipping Point)
- “Don’t Say Nuthin (Remix)” – The Roots (Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Roots Vol. 2)
- “Clan In da Front” – Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers)
- “The Glide” – Method Man (4:21 – The Day After)
- “Thought @ Work” – The Roots (Phrenology)
- “Triumph” – Wu-Tang Clan (Wu Tang Forever)
I know that on the surface this just looks like a bunch of Wu-Tang and Roots songs, but just give it a chance. Let’s get into this, shall we?
1. “Dirty Mef” – Method Man feat. ODB (4:21 – The Day After)
Heckuva start, right? Doesn’t this song just feel like the last bell of the school year and the ensuing pandemonium in the hallway? Every time I hear the beginning of this song, I just imagine ODB standing on a desk screaming “F*** YOUUUUUUU!!!” at a teacher. “Dirty Mef” is the ultimate kick-off track, and is the perfect “driving way too fast out of the school parking lot” anthem.
2. “Stay Cool” – The Roots feat. Martin Luther (The Tipping Point)
(sorry for the crusty quality of this one, I couldn’t find a better version)
Summertime is great and all, but it’s also freakin’ hot. Hence, “Stay Cool.” This song perfectly captures the pace we all want from our summers: slow, yet lively, and tons of fun. After the initial craziness of summer starting, all you want to do is sleep in, do nothing, and enjoy the A/C in your house.
Also, this is just a textbook Roots song: awesome live-mixed instrumentals with killer Black Thought verses. For the record: there’s never been another group like this, and there probably never will be. They almost remind me of this generation’s Chicago (am I going too far?). “Stay Cool” is the perfect way to come down from the 4 minute Wu-Tang sprint that started this mix CD off.
3. “Game Theory” – The Roots (Game Theory)
Pat claims that Game Theory is The Roots’ best album ever, and that’s certainly not an outrageous claim (although I disagree). The beginning of the song blends perfectly into the end of “Stay Cool,” but soon explodes into more Black Thought outrageousness. All of a sudden you’re right back on that summer train of excitement that we got from the Method Man jump start.
4. “Living in the World Today” – GZA feat. Raekwon & Method Man (Liquid Swords)
Another great Wu-Tang track, but this one’s a little more tempered. When I think of this song, I’m reminded of trying to shadily meet girls or sneak out of your house at a sleepover (or in my case, talk about sneaking out but then get caught once and never try it again). “Living in the World Today” just gives me an image of all the dumb shenanigans (SAY SHENANIGANS ONE MORE TIME) that one gets into during the summer.
5. “Reunited” – Wu-Tang Clan (Wu Tang Forever)
“It’s Wu Muthaf***as!” After everyone goes on their respective vacations or summer trips, is there a more satisfying feeling than coming back to earth to see all of your friends afterward? Dare I say, “Reunited?” Also, this record is one of the best examples of a Wu-Tang “throw everyone together on one track and it’s impossible not to be awesome” song.
6. “Guns are Drawn” – The Roots feat. Aaron Livingston (The Tipping Point)
“Guns are Drawn” feels like a more summery version of “The Seed (2.0),” doesn’t it (perhaps we should call it 3.0)? Anywho, it has a perfectly smooth tempo, and feels almost like an upbeat reggae track. Even the echoey vocals reflect a Rastafarian feel. Basically, this song is a more sophisticated alternative to the Bob Marley track that is on every stereotypical summer mix.
7. “Do You Want More?!!??!” – The Roots (Do You Want More?!!??!)
Not a lot to say here other than that more Roots on a mix CD is never a bad thing. Another light, summer track though.
8. “Guillotine (Swordz)” – Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah & Inspectah Deck (Only Built for Cuban Linx…)
Just when you thought summer was getting boring (some monotony captured by, perhaps, too much consecutive Roots?), BAM, you get hit by one of the best tracks on perhaps a top-10 all time rap album (don’t ask me to choose the other nine). The Inspectah Deck verse to start the song is absolutely outrageous, by the way. If one of the bigger-name Wu-Tang members had rapped that, it would be commonly ranked as one of the best of all time. Definitely overlooked.
9. “Web” – The Roots (The Tipping Point)
I’ve actually been meaning to write a piece about rap songs like this. I like to call them “blackout” or “spaz-out” songs: basically, these are tracks where it seems like the rapper just loses control of their body, rapping insanity for three or so minutes, then wakes up with absolutely no memory of what happened. Kind of like what happens to Will Ferrell in Old School.
When you start to put together a list of the best rappers ever, I think one of the requirements is that they must at least have one blackout song. Think about songs like Nas’ “Nasty,” Big Pun’s/Fat Joe’s “Twins (Deep Cover ’98),” Weezy’s “6’7” (or like five others for him), J. Cole’s “Back to the Topic Freestyle,” Kendrick’s “Rigamortis,” Big Sean’s “Supa Dupa Lemonade,” or Justin Beiber’s “Otis” (I’m only three-quarters kidding about this). I’m not saying that these particular guys are the best ever, but I’m saying they at least have a spaz-out on their resume.
However, in Black Thought’s case, this song cements his legacy as one of the top five-to-ten rappers who’ve ever lived. Sort of how you have that one epic memory from each summer, this would be his.
10. “Don’t Say Nuthin (Remix)” – The Roots (Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Roots Vol. 2)
(Couldn’t find this on Youtube, but I found a link from Myspace, of all places)
How do you follow up one of Black Thought’s spazzes? Remixing one of his already classic songs to make it even better is a pretty great effort. If “Web” is the ultimate summer memory, then “Don’t Say Nuthin (Remix)” is that absolutely awesome thing you did that no one knows about.
11. “Clan In da Front” – Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers)
GZA picked the perfect song for his coming out party, absolutely destroying this track from one of the most recognizable rap albums ever. Of all the popular Wu rappers, GZA is probably the most underrated. He actually might have been the best pure lyricist the group had. Discovering GZA’s genius (I’m so clever) is almost like finding out that the dude you just started hanging out with is way cooler than you expected, and by the summer’s end you have a great new friend (pause.).
12. “The Glide” – Method Man (4:21 – The Day After)
As great as this song is, you can almost feel things starting to wind down at this point. No matter how hard you try to stall things, you can’t help but glide towards the close of the summer, with maybe one or two more highlights to go out with a bang…
13. “Thought @ Work” – The Roots (Phrenology)
Wait, HE DID IT AGAIN?!?!? This isn’t quite to the level of “Web” in my opinion, but it’s pretty darn close. “Thought @ Work” is like getting a text from the super hot girl you met at the beach, asking you if you’re coming back next year. Hell, if things went really well, you might even get a “;)” or “xoxo.”
14. “Triumph” – Wu-Tang Clan (Wu Tang Forever)
By the end of the summer, life is at an all time high. You’ve had tons of fun, enjoyed plenty of relaxation, and created memories/stories that will last a lifetime, but it’s time to come back to reality. You’re okay with that though, because you can’t wait to catch up with all of the people you haven’t seen. How do you close out summer except by reliving all of the awesomeness one last time? But when people brag about their versions of “Reunited,” or “Web,” you interrupt them and yell, “I’M THE OSIRIS OF THIS S***!!!!” because you, my friend, had the ultimate summer mix CD.