SONGS OF THE SUMMER 2023

Art by Srikar Poruri.

Last month, when the No Bells Los Angeles crew came to town for the Popstar Benny show, we talked about the music we’d been listening to this summer. Turns out, NONE of them had heard of Byron Messia, whose syrupy smash “Talibans” has been fully inescapable throughout the streets of Brooklyn these three months. And Millan and I were barely hip to the regional Mexican music that’s been dominating the L.A. airwaves.

We publish stories about this a lot, but maybe more than ever since social media took off, we live in regional/cultural bubbles, where songs can rule one city without touching the throne in others. We also all have erratic and personal listening habits, our own private taste bubbles in our bedrooms, in the car, on our walks and our bus rides. For example I listened to “Did It Again” by Jay Critch a million times one week in July because it’s summer, of course I’m gonna do that!

This and more prompted us to ask a bunch more folks of reputable taste: “What’s YOUR song of the summer?” Here are their responses, presented in no particular order. And here’s an incomplete Spotify playlist of all of these if that’s your thing. –Mano Sundaresan

GG12 – “Hardstyle MiX! 2013”

BILLDIFFEREN: You know, I could just type “SKEE YEE” on this Google doc, throw my ass a lil bit and call it day. However, given the amount of times I’ve listened to this mix driving throughout the summer, I couldn’t not mention Glasgow DJ/producer GG12, the perfect intersection between heavenly etherealness and music that you and your steroid-addicted ned friends listen to on y’all’s Buckfast-fueled night out. While I’m about as in shape as a hippo getting ready to run the Boston Marathon, the Zyzz-influenced sect of hardstyle has been a soundtrack to millions of gains throughout gyms worldwide. This hour is the premier look at this scene inspired by the late Australian fitness icon, as you get uplifting pop remixes (sorry Skee Mask), bangers to pump your fist to, and moments that will get even your EDM white cousin with dreads crying with emotion. Flex in the mirror for hours and pop your blood vessels to this shit.

2sdxrt3all & Whyceg – “Hope”

OLIVIER LAFONTANT: I first saw 2sdxrt3all (pronounced “too solid dirtball”) on TikTok in July, clenching his headphones with both hands and spewing toxins into a microphone the size of his head. It was funny until it wasn’t. (Okay nah, it’s still pretty funny). On “Hope,” the wiry Atlanta teenager creates an echo chamber of trauma-induced impulses that reach a boiling point over Whyceg’s panicky synth pads. Beneath 2sdxrt3all’s pure viscerality is an instinctual sense of timing: he opens chasms of space for his adlibs to erupt and take on lives of their own. It’s refreshing, nightmarish, and invigorating all in the same breath. Take it from me.

Vayda – “Primadonna”

POPSTAR BENNY: sums up the energy of the 2023 summer in one burst, so futuristically nostalgic, so many regions and time periods and vibes blended into one new 0 to 100mph groove, taking off full speed immediately from the first 3 lyrics.

Zach Bryan – “Fear and Friday’s (Poem)”

MEAGHAN GARVEY: Just when you thought America was over, here comes a spoken word poem on the subject of fighting, slow-dancing, and riding a motorcycle down the Pacific 101 from the next Bruce Springsteen out of Oologah, Oklahoma, who got a Billboard No. 1 album and a mugshot the same week. Land of the free, biotch.

KenStarrrz – “Sandwiches” (BreezyLYN parody)

ZAYALLCAPS: When my dawg Ocho Worldwide sent me a 5:7 cropped screen recording of a Latino—Spanish—man in a bodega rapping about sandwiches, I didn’t know it’d soundtrack the greatest summer of my adult life.

Easily clears the uninspired original song (BreezyLYN) and lackluster sample (Sonder). Infectious earworm. Sensational #vibes.


thatcherblackwood -”laurel”

RAE-AILA CRUMBLE: Sweat accumulated on my legs. Quiet, rapid taps on the ceiling from a ladybug’s frantic jumping routine. Swear words being thrown… then the sound of the front door slamming, all heard from my bedroom. A pitch-black FaceTime screen, with faded green and pink and blue shapes burned and etched into the display from the pixels gifted by the previous hour’s scroll session. I mute my phone and play “laurel” by thatcherblackwood. More minutes spent flat on my back, waiting for my psychiatry reference for depersonalization. Until then, I’m using anything I can grasp to make me feel more real—tonight, it’s the guitar strings that warp and lose form before exploding into synths, and the wallowing cries of a summer enriched in love lost and gained but love nonetheless. I fall asleep wondering when I’ll regain the ability to describe a series of events as vividly as my confidant.

feeble little horse – “Pocket”

KIERAN PRESS-REYNOLDS: My summer has blurred into a daze of hot trips and sweaty shows. “Pocket,” a perfectly wispy tune for this weightless age, has been the soundtrack. Lydia Slocum has the airiest vocals I’ve ever heard, like Coco & Clair Clair mumbling melodies mixed with the wry edge of a Florence Shaw. I love the way her voice weaves so it sounds like she’s tumbling down a hill. The word “pocket” might be a sexual double entendre, but I prefer the childlike image the song’s premise creates in my brain: imagining I could slip inside someone’s pocket. That sounds fun—shrink down for a day and snuggle in the comfy alcove of a pair of pants. The song ends with a rush of noise and Slocum goes from dreamily murmuring to screaming the hook DO YOU WANNA BE IN MY POCKET? It’s the only moment on feeble little horse’s whimsical album that they explode into chaos. It feels like you’re cannoning out of the pocket and soaring through the sky.

Kelela – “Closure”

ALLISON HARRIS: It’s crazy just how sexy “Closure” by Kelela is. The track is understated, relatively simple and adorned with shuddering bass. Kelela’s voice is seductive and smooth the whole way through, voice melting like butter on top of the song. Rahrah Gabor begins her flawless feature on the song with “What the lick read? I’m waiting for you to pull up and come and lick me.” And isn’t that what we’re all longing for this summer?

Dean Blunt & Panda Bear – “9”

FEARDORIAN: this song right here is probably one of the most beautiful songs i’ve heard in my life. dean has been very influential to me for quite some time & i dont think ive heard a song quite like this one. i can’t trace it to a singular memory but i’ve slept to this song countless times its kinda crazy.

“All of the wheels have come off / And I can’t wait for what’s next.”

feels like your life is going downhill but you can’t do anything but brace for what’s to come after.

Alan Palomo – “Stay-At-Home DJ”

ELI SCHOOP: The excitement of being a new New Yorker hasn’t worn off on me. You can always go out, someone’s doing something. But the anticipation is inherently more satisfying than the experience. It’s a push-pull. Do I stay in? Do I go out? Why did I stay in? Why the hell did I come out? Alan Palomo (fka Neon Indian) has deftly summed up my 3 months here, most likely wisened by his copious nights out that have ended in a whimper instead of a bang. You don’t have to be alone on a Saturday night, but sometimes it’s better that way.

Lunchbox – “Trust You”

SERGE SELENOU: in a summer full of drug binges, heartbreak and the usual angst i turned to songs that recalibrated my emotions back to equilibrium. for the last two years, lunchbox’s two minute soliloquies have usually been the fuel. he takes these straightforward diatribes against the world and belts them out until they become mantras for life. “we put in work but it’s not-not enough”. nah fr!

Jim Jones – “Summer Collection”

VIVIAN MEDITHI: Jim Jones says he’s “kinda disappointed,” but he sounds practically gleeful sinking his teeth in. Like: you got your brother out of retirement and a beat from Pharrell and took your big moment on the global stage to talk about me? Thanks!

It’s less than surprising Pusha-T might have bitten off more than he can chew (“the only beef you know, n****? Is the Arby’s or the Big Mac”), but he used to crash out against Goliaths. Pusha’s career arc over the 2010s far eclipses Jim’s, and yet it’s Jones smirking and giggling all over the place, like: you share a bed with your brother — and you never bought work! You’re in the bodega asking for a loosie and I just bought 5,000 bottles! Are you really trying to bring the Clipse back?! 😂

The fait accompli: “They got you gassed, you must think that you the new Hova.” Paraphrasing Proverbs 16:18 — pride goeth before a fall. Who gives a fuck if Beyoncé and Jay-Z like your music?

Maz G feat. AyooLii – “Jack Tapp”

LAKE HOMIE: “Jack Tapp” makes me wonder what is happening from the moment the song starts. Every day I drive down Center and scream this song while smoking a blunt with the windows down. My favorite part of the song is probably when Maz says, “The feds still blowing up my phone, told the feds suck my dick!”

It’s becoming an anthem onna east side of Milwaukee! Everyone either knows the song, knows Maz or knows Jack Tapp. And YES! Jack Tapp is a real person — I met him!!

Summer Walker feat. Sexyy Red – “Sense dat God gave you” (Sped Up)

ANUSHA ALLAMSETTY: Summer ‘23 was a Sexyy summer, without a doubt. Without filter, on all fours, Sexyy Red found herself at the top of the charts this summer with her work on ‘SkeeYee’, ‘Pound Town’, and pretty much carried the announcement of Summer Walker’s return to music. “Sense dat God gave you” went viral for lyrics that endorse drugging men then robbing them: hobbies all of us indulged in a little bit this summer. The sped up version reminds me of artists like DJ Frisco954, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and 454, and proclaimed two of our highest priorities this summer: to get paid and get ate.

Flagboy Giz ft. Kango Slim – “Fell in Love at the Second Line”

MILLAN VERMA: Best song I heard this summer, easy. Hyper-local New Orleans lyrics with universal melodies. (The admirable runner up was “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”)

Yg Teck – “Bomb”

LAWRENCE BURNEY: After years of sharpening his dagger in the Baltimore scene, Yg Teck has finally started to penetrate the national network of hip-hop’s street orators. The music is typically transparent; on trend, yet principled; a first-hand analysis of the struggle that hovers over Black inner city youth. But rarely thought of as fun. With “Bomb,” Teck taps into the lighter side of himself and, thankfully, decides to engage with Baltimore’s indigenous music — club — to pull it off. The little ones are dancing to it. The grown up’s are bouncing to it. And, even better, it samples what is arguably the biggest song to ever come from a Baltimore artist: Sisqo’s “Thong Song.”

Nettspend – “Shine N Peace” / Autumn – “Walk In!”

HYPERPOP DAILY: Nettspend is kind of like a weird case study of what happens when a kid who grew up on Osquinn and Novagang music who would probably call them his OGs (in a good way, because he is the goat) picks up Bandlab. Ever since 2020, people have written off this side of internet rap but it keeps producing moments like the one Nett is having. I don’t think God himself was prepared for this quirked up white boy to enlighten the mic like he did on this song. I haven’t heard someone rap like rent was due like this since Soulja Boy on “Whippin my Wrist.”

You know those songs you end up finding by just scrolling to the bottom of an artist’s SoundCloud page? This was me with this song recently. Hard to find a song that represents 2018 pluggnb and 2018 SoundCloud as well as this song does. We need to bring back cheesy Purity leads/pianos at 150+ bpm for the well-being of society.

Rust Belt – “Oh My God Here It Comes Now”

DREW MILLARD: Let us be clear: The underground legend formerly known as Juiceboxxx has NOT retired, and furthermore, he has NOT given up on his greater artistic mission of making THE MOST AMERICAN MUSIC HUMANLY POSSIBLE and is instead CONTINUING TO FORGE HIS LEGACY under the name RUST BELT. And so, in that spirit, I humbly ask of you: DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF POWER POP.

Farmer’s Wife – “Bleeder”

MIA DANIELA: Mid-summer hit. I was having the absolute time of my life paying for overpriced cocktails and sweating through every shirt I owned in New York City for the past month and a half. I dreaded the return to Texas that awaited me in a few weeks. Farmer’s Wife’s “Bleeder” catalyzed something within me. I don’t know if I just secretly missed the cheap, musty Austin shows in someone’s backyard, or if I had just forgotten the unparalleled talent growing within its music scene. Regardless, each time I heard the gut-wrenching guitar and silvery vocals in “Bleeder,” I was immersed in a blanket of warm memories, from ‘girl-only mosh pits’ at college co-op houses to mud wrestling in inflatable kiddie pools. Despite its heartbreaking sound, “Bleeder” represented the newfound excitement I possessed for my return home to Texas.

454 – “Angel”

LEI TAKANASHI: 454’s “Angel” reminds me of those summers that weren’t fleeting. Back when a cracked Dutch, a dub, a handball, and some gourmet snacks boosted out a supermarket were all that was needed to put you in a dreamlike summer daze. Really any song from his Fast 5 EP with Surf Gang hits like the most refreshing rainbow ice from a Delicioso Coco Helado pushcart. A dose of ice cold sugar that goes down quick but has a little bit of everything.

Nicolas Jaar – “The Governor”

SAMUEL HYLAND: In the opening moments of “The Governor,” Nicolas Jaar holds a (very) brief discussion about deicide: “Deicide,” a cyborg-ish voice says; “Deic- Deiciiiiide,” Jaar responds… Aaaand the conversation ends. Good chat. It feels both provocative and vapid for God-killing to be (1) invoked, and (2) dropped just as quickly, but it’s a humanist mischief the song surprisingly thrives on — one where smart-guy EDM is lofty enough to battle deities, and its sludgy, bass-heavy detritus feels more like an artifact than an Ableton file. The song is a bit more fitting for downtown downpours, but it made last summer’s Central Park strolls hilariously melodramatic. When you’re stuck behind slow walkers, that’s a beautiful thing.

Playboi Carti – “Pump Fake”

WILL GENDRON: Three days of good weather over Memorial Day weekend duped me into thinking the possibilities of summer would be endless — rooftop grill outs every other night, successful fishing outings, an 11th LeBron James Finals appearance, etc etc. Instead, time collapsed on itself and now fall is right around the corner. 

Over the past few months my play count of Playboi Carti and Ethereal’s 2016 cut “Pump Fake” skyrocketed, proving that a warm weather season did in fact take place, while refreshing my understanding of boofanese. 

Ethereal’s chemistry with Carti suggests that the two cooked up on the back porch during a particularly hot afternoon, which surely required 7 Coronas. Carti empties feel-good, delirious thoughts until there’s nothing left, before arriving at a sonic oasis: saying “pump fake” over 70 times, without saying it the same way twice. This pins down the mood of the hottest, sludgiest summer days at the seams.

Lil Peep & Yunggoth – “cocaine shawty”

DONNA-CLAIRE CHESMAN: Surprise, surprise from the girl who wrote an entire book about emo rap.

The thing about “cocaine shawty” is it has the lightness of moments flipping from spring to summer. It has an ease to it. It has Lil Peep and yunggoth’s disarming cadences blowing open the gothic conception of emo rap in the 2010s.

I adore this song and what it represents in the Lil Peep catalog: the freedom, the fun, the blitzing joy. It screams summers grilling in your yard in Philly, drinking Modelo, wondering if anyone else can relate.

Yeat & Mariah Carey – “Stayed Together” (blaccmass mashup)

SUN-UI YUM: blaccmass’s work here is the best kind of mashup: between artists I couldn’t even fathom having a conversation (please just imagine the Mariah Carey / Yeat linkup), both sides elevated, and signed, sealed, delivered to me via a Druski skit on TikTok. As Kieran recently noted for this very outlet, some mashups seem to imagine alternate creative futures for their unknowing, passive artist collaborators. While it’s almost impossible to extricate Yeat from his signature industrial sound, he does possess a lighter, more ethereal register (“Out thë way”), and blaccmass’s choice to pull out the floor here lets him really twinkle (twinkle he does!). When I think about this oppressive, dragging 2023 summer in a few years I think this song is what that memory will sound like: the hour or two of relief right after the sun dims, the temperature drops, and you can see the steam evaporating off of the asphalt into the stratosphere. This is Real Music!

New Jeans – “ETA”

SRIKAR PORURI: K-pop often represents things art shouldn’t be. Corporate brand deals, gendered perfection, and appropriation of black American music. But sometimes you still end up with magic, like NewJeans’ latest EP Get Up. NewJeans’ appeal probably has something to do with their laid back concept that incorporates trending dance beats instead of the explosive anthems of K-pop past. On the track “ETA,” air horns sampled from the classic Baltimore Club track “Samir’s Theme” raise the tension while the girls’ voices sweetly cut through, pleading with their friend to let go of her cheating boyfriend. But NewJeans aren’t the idols from a few years ago. The shot on iPhone™ video depicts the girls stuffing the two-timer into their car trunk as they drive off to a cliff.

2hollis – “GOD”

DANA AUFIERO: In an underground warehouse in Chinatown, strobing lights flash on every downbeat of “GOD” as the mysterious guise, known as 2hollis, headbangs on a wobbly ladder amongst the pit of sweaty bodies. After an initial listen to Hollis’ summer project 2, I was immediately captivated by the experimental electronic genre that Hollis and his fans dub as “chainmail”- one that merges trap-heavy bass with the chaotic glitchiness of hyperpop. Sonic reverb elements infuse seamlessly with Hollis’ sinister vocal howls, making the subliminal, enigmatic track “GOD” by 2hollis my most played track this summer.

Sexyy Red – “Hellcats SRTs”

NIGEL WASHINGTON: St. Louis’ Sexyy Red quickly took up the task to fuel the sweaty, raunchy, and reckless behavior happening amid the heat advisories. Across its 10 tracks, Redd’s latest mixtape “Hood Hottest Princess” pours infectious pussy rap over refurbished early 2000s-era southern sounds. I’ve been on “Hellcats SRTs” all summer–a bouncy and insanely fun cut highlighting a bunch of decisions (“Playing with my coochie while we drive”) that are only acceptable when school’s out.

quennzzielocthevoice – “Although Enjoyment”

CHIA-TIEN NICOLE CHEN: I’ve stopped to listen every time I come across a version of “Although Enjoyment” by TikTok singer and comedian, queenzzielocthevoice—including the spoken word version, the basketball version, and the choir version. Yes, it began as a karaoke cover of Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”, but it’s an iconic song in and of its own right now.

Swoozydolphin couldn’t decide on one so I just let him cook

SWOOZYDOLPHIN: As a traveling DJ you end up a compulsive music listener and *collector*… or maybe that compulsion leads to the pursuit of being a traveling DJ… I don’t know. Regardless, the amount of music I end up listening to and forging memories and familiarity with in the summer months–when travel is accessible and the urge to Get Up and Go is immense–is too unwieldy to decide on a single Song of the Summer so here are (3):

12 Rods, a midwest alternative rock band that’s Returned (albeit as the frontman Ryan Olcott’s personal project) is a 21st century trope of varying degrees of quality and relevance but the lead single of this year’s excellent If We Stayed Alive is so resonant, the guitars are poignant and the vibe of continuing on despite constant setback Hits. “My Year (This is Gonna Be)” has a sentiment I think many in this pandemic limbo can understand, especially those of us edging out of being the Youth.

Maryyx2 seems to come out of *nowhere* and I suspect this is the beginning of a mass awareness of the Nigerian artist whose late 2022/early 2023 album Silent Noise (The Album) spans more genres and tones than I can cover here, Go Listen! “I DONT KNOW!!” is the only formal release from her so far since, but the song’s breezy sped up guitars, acrobatic percussion and drumbreak arrangements have been on repeat all summer as a brisk mood uplift and inspiration to seize the possibilities of the season–”Let’s go to the beach!”

Jitus is a duo from the realms of TikTok viral freestyles and in-the-know rap listeners–there’s truly amazing things happening there, huge hooks and grim bars with beats that Slap. “Inhale” is so short it wouldn’t stretch too far outside a video post’s limit but it just means I play it a couple times each listen. Hoping “Up All Night” is next up.

The Weeknd & Madonna – “Popular (feat. Playboi Carti) [Music From the HBO Original Series The Idol]”

CUAUTEMOC SANDOVAL: My song of the summer is “Popular (feat. Playboi Carti) [Music From the HBO Original Series The Idol]” by The Weeknd & Madonna. Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue? This focus grouped multigenerational team-up is probably the best thing to come out of that godforsaken show, rivaled only by Rachel Sennot and Hank Azaria. Producers Mike Dean, Metro Boomin & Tommy Rush tap into a mid 2000s Timbaland-esque summer smash swing that makes me shake my ass every time I hear it. This was the first of many singles to drop from a companion album for the show, which was so popular it isn’t getting renewed for a second season.

BBPUTIN – “I KNOW WHAT I LIKE”

JAMESON ORVIS: The artist BBPUTIN, formerly known as Bloodybay, has released 45 tapes so far in the year 2023, spewing his musical progeny upon the internet with the frequency and aplomb of a fire hydrant gushing onto a Brooklyn sidewalk in the summer. It would be fair to describe the music as generally falling somewhere between “a bit abrasive” and “completely unlistenable,” but I can’t help but get excited every time I discover another catalog like this, here is another insane person simmering their creative energies in a damp and dark chamber locked deep in the bowels of the greater SoundCloud dungeons, allowing raw creative flows to fester and evolve into beautiful ecologies of bioluminescent flora like lightning strikes in a flask during the Miller-Urey experiment. He is making whatever the fuck he wants. This song feels like being beaten with a hammer directly on your forehead while you attempt to make a beat on a short-circuiting drum machine built in the year 1992. Especially considering how music from the wider musical assemblage sometimes referred to as “Sigilkore” is currently being upcycled to the major label music industry through artists like Odetari, whose dogshit music currently has 8.8 million monthly listeners on Spotify and makes multiple appearances on the Billboard Electronic music chart, it’s very interesting to see this trend also reflected this deep in the underground through collaboration with frequent Sextrance producer Rainsdeaf, making the convergent evolution of the sounds towards a dancier direction more explicit.

Elmiene – “Mad At Fire”

NIA COATS: “Mad At Fire,” by Elmiene, helped me find some solace in my emotional summer. Hearing Elmiene sing helped take my mind off whatever problems I felt like I was facing, even if the peace only lasted for the number of times I had the song on loop (it was 33 times in the past week). Listening to this song, the world is on mute, the only thing I can focus on is the power and emotion in his voice, and I feel all of it. 

Metro Boomin & Future –  “Superhero (Heroes & Villains)”

YOUSEF SROUR: From popstar to monster to superhero, the industry spit on Future’s name until they were forced to wipe down his platinum records. Crowned in a descending march of brooding brass, “Superhero (Heroes & Villains)” proves that Future doesn’t need TMNT’s green ooze or a bite from Spider-Man’s radioactive arachnid to unlock his powers. The only three things he needs are “Drankin’ dope,” “Hit that pill,” and of course, “Boominati.” After that, the braggadocio comes easy. (Please note: I repeat the song once I hit the 2:12 mark to avoid listening to the Chris Brown feature.)

Amaarae – “Co-Star”

NATHAN EVANS: It feels great to have a proper run of contenders for song of the summer this year. While I shortlisted so many club bangers, the glistening harp of this astrological Afropop anthem sunk into and re-emerged from my subconscious time and time again. I love how Amaraae takes the gumminess of amapiano bass and fixes it for a faster tempo, where it bounces in the gaps between her criss-crossing flows. The verses go through different star signs to which she proverbially swipes left and right, and the way she slickly inserts the four sign types into the chorus is genius. I’m not 100% sold on using star signs as short-hand for character judgment, but summer is set up for the magic of intertwining with new people at festivals, motives and club nights. “Co-Star” transports me to that setting.

Byron Messia – “Talibans”

JOSH SVETZ: To me, the song of the summer can’t be something niche. It’s the track you hear blessing the night sky as it radiates from the booming speakers as cars whip by, it’s the cut that unites the function as everyone sings along in unison, it’s the go-to song for a DJ trying to get the crowd lit. And if we’re looking at that criteria, no song has lit up the summer quite like “Talibans.” Byron Messia’s Dance-soul track about warning people not to step to his crew has kept the cookouts poppin’ since its inception despite its graphic imagery. When you pair a catchy beat with a sing-song bridge, nobody’s gonna care what it’s about. A summer push from superstar Burna Boy on “Talibans II” extended its stranglehold.

AyooLii – “Shmackin Town”

MANO SUNDARESAN: Picture this: You’re in a frat house backyard somewhere in Milwaukee, surrounded by dudes of all varieties. Dude in a shiesty mask. Dude with a bloodied baseball bat. Dude in a MAGA hat. Artist and creatives, fans and friends, what’s “alt” and what’s not blended into a collegiate soup.

The occasion is not a kegger, but a rap show. The stage, a few planks. On it, hyperpop artist kill.dawn is casting spells, drawing equally from 2016 Ronny J and 2023 Snow Strippers. You try to take in the fresh night air and everything still reeks of sweat. It’s dark and MKE is hot.

kill.dawn is the last artist before tonight’s unofficial headliner, a rapper/comedian and minor internet sensation from the Eastside named AyooLii. The event organizer, a mustached videographer named Nolan, informs you that the neighbors called the cops and they are pulling up in a few minutes…enough time for SHMACKIN TOWN!

So there’s AyooLii brandishing the mic, letting that screamin’ vocal sample ring out as the dudes put their arms around each other’s shoulders and prepare for the song they’ve been waiting for all night. (It’s got about 100k plays on YouTube and I’ll bet you most of ’em are from this city.) You’ve gotta be as electric and cartoonish as Lii is to make this work. Producer 2PHONENOAH completely reimagines the iconic source material, adding the city’s pulverizing four-on-the-floor claps and thunderous bass. The moment the beat drops and Lii comes in bellowing that he’s “got G’s” feels like a funk bomb detonating.

It’s a minute and 30 seconds, the soundtrack to a surreal moshpit of fingers pointed in the air doing local rapper RealStasher50k’s beloved dance. Near its close, you can hear the sirens and see the blue lights flickering off the glistening grass. So you and the rest of the attendees run, through a row of backyards, onto the street, down, down, down, until you don’t know where you are anymore. A little terrified, a little angry that even the calmest backyard rap shows are policed here, but mostly in a blissed-out trance.

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