Hip-hop and summertime go together like jeans and Timbs. Having a smash on the airwaves during the sweaty months creates instant nostalgia, guaranteeing that your song will be forever tied to those sun-drenched memories. While one anthem normally dominates the sweaty months, 2006 was a year made up of more regional hits than national ones, making the decision especially difficult. Back in 2004, XXL dedicated our August issue to breaking down hip-hop’s greatest “Summer Jams” from 1988 to 2003, but this time around we thought we’d let you decide. Take a listen to the major contenders, cast your vote (see bottom) and check back next week, on the official last day of summer (September 21), when we announce the winner.
“Shoulder Lean,” Young Dro feat. T.I.
Having a fun, easy dance is always a good way to control the season, and the Grand Hustle newcomer had everyone leanin’ in linen and salamander sandals. And with an around-the-way video featuring Tip’s skinny ass bouncing around in a wife beater while eating breakfast, the deal was sealed. This track catapulted Dro from regional unknown to a #3 debut on the pop charts.
“We Fly High,” Jim Jones
This late-summer banger brought some excitement to a slow NYC summer, with everyone screaming Jimmy’s irresistible catchphrase, “Ballllllin!” While its commercial benefits remain to be seen, the Kufi Smacker locked down East Coast radio and reunited the three main DipSet members in the song’s stellar video.
“I Ain’t Gon Let Up,” DG Yola
While Atlanta’s local music scene was starting to become synonymous with “snap,” this newcomer came along and proved that there was still a place in the club and on the radio for some gritty shit. This steel drum track may not have broken outside of the South, but it dominated Atlanta airwaves all summer and landed Yola a record deal with Grand Hustle.
“U & Dat,” E-40 feat. T-Pain & Kandi
This was the year that 40 Water made a major comeback, and after striking gold with his springtime banger “Tell Me When to Go,” he needed a follow-up that would propel his album past its opening weeks. His second single “U & Dat,” featuring a randy T-Pain on the hook, took the R&B charts by storm and stayed at the top much longer than anyone expected. Who knew you weren’t allowed to say “booty” on MTV?
“Holla at Me Baby,” DJ Khaled feat. Lil Wayne, Paul Wall, Fat Joe, Rick Ross & Pitbull
It wouldn’t be the summer without a hot posse cut, and Miami’s hottest DJ came through big-time this year. This Cool & Dre–produced track made everyone forget about LL Cool J’s “Control Myself” (which was built around the same sample) with a quickness. The summer arguably belonged to Miami, and no other track is more indicative of its dominance than this six-verse banger that invited the whole country to the party.
“Chicken Noodle Soup,” DJ Webstar feat. Young B
Most New York MCs seem to prefer playing the wall, but this track was tailor made for Harlem’s underground dance craze. When the phenomenon broke on the Internet in July, it soon went national, resulting in a major record deal and a video in heavy BET rotation. Hate it or love it, this track had the whole country moving like they were on 119th and Lex-ing-tin!
“Hustlin’ (Remix),” Rick Ross feat. Jay-Z & Young Jeezy
While “Hustlin’” was undoubtedly the anthem of the spring, this remix, which dropped in May, propelled the monster single into the heat wave. Featuring a Jay-Z verse with subliminals rumored to be directed at Cam and an exceptional verse from Jeezy (“I know Big Meech/The real Big Meech”), this was a damn Dope Boy convention. Every rapper tried to copy its formula, enlisting The Runners or using chopped and screwed hooks, but there’s nothing quite like the original. Except maybe the remix.
“Snap Ya Fingas,” Lil Jon feat. E-40 & Sean Paul
With a music video so outrageous that it could cause seizures in small children, the King of Crunk dropped this track seemingly out of nowhere and took the pop charts and clubs by storm. Even though it was many months before he finished his album, it sounded like Jon was out to prove his new mantra: “Crunk Ain’t Dead.” Melding his screaming synth crunk sound with a snap beat, Jon made the perfect track for Sean Paul of the YoungBloodz and a rejuvenated 40 to do it all by themselves.
“Why U Wanna,” T.I.
The spring was dominated by T.I.’s King album, even if its success was soured by the death of the Atlanta rapper’s close friend Big Phil. With the tragedy behind him, Tip set his sights on the summer months with this breezy love song that channeled Q-Tip and swiped Crystal Waters’ organs. Is you happy?
“Vans,” The Pack
In the tradition of “My Adidas” and “Air Force Ones,” these Bay Area youngin’s took their obsession with the skateboarding shoe national on this minimalist anthem. Their kick game paid off, landing them a deal on Jive through Too $hort’s Up All Nite Records and a music video, which was promptly banned from MTV.
“It’s Goin’ Down,” Yung Joc
Diddy & Block’s new Bad Boy had the whole country (including Tom Cruise) snapping and doing the motorcycle dance with this track. As the (hands down) most commercially successful of any of these nominations, Joc’s first single shot to #1 on the pop charts in late spring and is still holding it down.
“It’s Okay (One Blood),” The Game
Chuck Taylor came back strong in late summer with the first single from the follow-up to 2005′s smash hit The Documentary. With veteran Jamaican singer Junior Reid sampled on the hook and a sunny L.A. video, this has all the makings of a summertime smash.
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