Something happens to hip-hop fans when the sun is shining and temperatures creep into the 90s: They start looking for this year's summer jams. Summer jams are those smooth songs you ride to with the windows down and the volume up, when the whip is fresh from the car wash. You blast them at the block party and they create the perfect recipe for coolin' at the cook out.
The quintessential example of a summer jam is "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. It's been awhile since mainstream music gave us anything comparable — last year's big summer hit was "Fancy." So, for the latter half of summer 2015, I suggest looking locally for your jams and I suggest you start with Elevator Jay's new EP, Sum'na Say.
He calls it an EP, but it's 11 tracks strong, each containing deliciously funky beats and Jay's signature Southern drawl. "Sometimes I make you think and sometimes I make you dance," he says on the title track, and that's an accurate description of the work. Its first single and video, "Vibrations," debuted to a national audience last week on the website Uproxx.
Jay produced most of the tracks himself. I'd describe the sound as the embodiment of the next generation of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, if that were a hip-hop subgenre (and it really should be.). Outkast's influences are felt throughout, and in the best way. He picks up the player torch on "K.D.S.P." and between the smoothed-out vocals and funky, slow-jam production on "Ride or Roll," I dare say that song would've been right at home on an Outkast classic like ATLiens or Aquemini. (That's a ridiculously high compliment coming from me, but I stand by it. Don't believe me, just listen.)
Jay said the concept for the EP was to illustrate a day in his life: "a young dude just growing up in N.C."
And as any young dude growing up in North Carolina can tell you, sometimes the heat doesn't just come from the sun. The track "Got Damn" has Jay telling a tale of police harassment that has unfortunately been a common story for too damn long. The song ends with a voicemail from Jay's big brother who was recently sentenced to eight years in Mecklenburg County Jail. It's heavy subject matter, but Jay somehow glides effortlessly between it and talk of hot parties, never losing his cool.
"I just tell it like it is. I ain't gotta preach, you already know what it is. I don't have to create a narrative," he says. "That's how life goes. You can have fun, but never get too comfortable."
If anyone is having fun in Charlotte, it's Jay and his crew, Permanent Vacation. They've masterminded some of the illest theme parties in the city for a few years now. The most notable of these are the Squirt! day parties at Snug Harbor, which get a shout out on the EP. The next installment of the squirt gun and day-drinking fiasco is on August 1 and that's where you can catch Elevator Jay performing next.
Until then, Sum'na Say is streaming on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/elevator-jay
and you can cop it at elevator-jay.bandcamp.com.
If you already copped Elevator Jay's joint and you're looking for more local summer jams to add to your speaker-blowing arsenal, consider blasting Tha Nighthawks new single, "All Night." As the name suggests, this is definitely a pre- or post-game song for a hot night at the club. The beat features a disco sample and vintage laser sound effects that conjure the vibe of a Miami Beach night club in the '80s. The contrasting late-'90s-New York-style vocals by Charles Herron and Vinnie Knuckles combine with the beat to create a song that feels quite fly.
It's been about a year since this duo captured the attention of the Queen City streets by inexplicably dissing the shit out of our hometown hero and their one-time homie, Supastition. I'm glad to see them back with a solid effort and I'm looking forward to their upcoming full-length, which they say will be released before summer's over. "All Night" will be on the album, but for now you can stream it at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/night-hawks/all-night.