The Top 10 *OTHER* Philly Summer Anthems
BY JOHN MORRISON
Since its initial explosion in the summer of 1991, Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff’s hit “Summertime” has been all but synonymous with summer in the 215. With Will Smith’s vivid lyrics about playing outdoor basketball, playing in the water plug and hanging out at the Belmont Plateau, backed by gorgeous sample of Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness,” “Summertime” immediately solidified itself as an instant classic.
But despite “Summertime”’s status as an indisputable summer classic, what do you do when you’ve been at the cookout eating BBQ vegan burgers all day and the DJ has played it 3 times already? In that case, here are the Top 10 OTHER Philly Summer Anthems to play in the City of Brotherly Love.
10. Jill Scott, “A Long Walk”
There are few songs that embody the feeling of summertime in Philly better than Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk.” Forever linked with an equally iconic video that features Jill and her date casually strolling through the neighborhood. The song as well as the video’s imagery is bursting with joy and intimacy. The perfect soundtrack for walking around and greeting neighbors while elders cook BBQ and little girls playing double dutch.
9. Pieces of a Dream, “Mt. Airy Groove”
Built upon a whiplash-inducing drum break, rubbery bass and a sweetly descending electric piano melody, Philly-based trio Pieces of A Dream took a step outside of their smooth jazz/R&B roots in 1982 to experiment with hip-hop. It ended up standing the test of time and becoming a regional classic.
8. The Bul Bey feat. Davon, “Where I’m From”
The most recently released entry on this list. West Philly wordsmith The Bul Bey’s “Where I’m From” is a joyous portrait of life in the city of Philadelphia. Propelled by an infectious chorus and guitar line, the song is a perfect modern Hip Hop anthem, conjuring up images of drill teams strutting and drunk uncles dancing.
7. The O’ Jays, “Family Reunion”
A truly gorgeous homage to a time-honored summertime tradition, The O’ Jays’ elegant, soulful tune illustrates the warmth and togetherness of this essential familial gathering.
6. Freeway and Peedi Crakk, “Flipside”
If “Family Reunion” is all about eating your Auntie’s potato salad and getting some sweet hugs from Grandma, then “Flipside” is for when you and your cousins link up and hit the club afterwards for a night of henny shots and debauchery. Produced by Just Blaze, the song’s synth brass and string fanfare rides atop a deliberately oversized kick and clap pattern that still demolishes dancefloor to this day.
5. McFadden & Whitehead, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”
The sweeping strings, propulsive rhythms and optimistic lyrics of Philly duo McFadden & Whitehead’s biggest hit solidifies “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” as one of the finest examples of Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International sound.
4. Hall & Oates, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”
Infinitely funky and infectious, legendary Philly Pop-Soul duo Hall & Oates’ 1981 hit single has reached summertime/cookout classic status in the years since its release.
3. Tuff Crew, “My Part of Town”
Originally released in 1988, “My Part of Town” lives alongside “P.S.K.,” “The Greatest Man Alive,” and countless others in the pantheon of classic Philly Hip Hop cuts. With an infectious guitar riff and a fiery beat snatched from the Lyn Collins “Think” drum break, “My Part of Town” is the kind of summertime jam guaranteed to make your Auntie immediately drop her wine cooler, jump up and do the Roger Rabbit.
2. Boyz II Men, “Motown Philly”
Over a kinetic New Jack Swing beat, and led by the transcendent vocal harmonies of Michael, Nathan, Wanya and Shawn, Boyz II Men’s debut single hit radio just in time for the summer of 1991. With references to cruising on South Street and eating cheesesteaks, the song is regionally specific, yet sonically universal. It is no surprise that “Motown Philly” continues to park jams, block parties and cookouts with a vengeance nearly 30 years later.
1. Frankie Beverly & Maze, “Before I Let Go”
The King of the Cookouts, aka the Black National Anthem, aka the only song that rivals Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff’s ubiquitous summer classic. Made up of Beverly’s impassioned vocal performance and Maze’s outstanding Jazz-Funk arrangement, “Before I Let Go” is pure audio serotonin and an eternal summer classic.
10 Honorable Mentions:
Jazzy Jeff feat. Jill Scott, “We Live In Philly Baby”
Bahamadia feat. Dwele, “Philadelphia”
Cool C, “Glamorous Life”
3D Dope, “Funky Dividends”
MFSB, “South Philly”
Young Gunz, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”
The Roots, “Lazy Afternoon”
Birdie Busch, “City of Brotherly Love”
King Britt Presents Sylk 130 feat. Lady Alma, “Happiness (Soul Dhamma Remix)”
Jimmy Smith, “Summertime”
Teddy Pendergrass, “Joy”
John Morrison is a Philadelphia based DJ/Writer. Follow him on Twitter @John_Liberator.