From Oldies to Hip-Hop: 9 Intergenerational Summer Cookout Jams for Black Music Month

 From Oldies to Hip-Hop: 9 Intergenerational Summer Cookout Jams for Black Music Month

Photo Credit: Martin Lopez

Black Music Month is a special time to honor the talent and bop-ability of music created by Black American artists. Established by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the monthlong observation further honors the vital contributions Black artists have made to American music. It’s also an opportunity for Black folks to pay homage to the songs that mean so much to the community.   

And since it’s officially cookout season, we encourage you to take Black Music Month as your permission slip to connect your phone to Bluetooth to provide the proper backyard vibes all month. To help you curate your playlist, we’ve rounded out some of our most beloved two-step and head-nod-worthy summer cookout jams that will satisfy a few generations at the party. So grab your favorite uncle, barbecue sandals, and cheeky apron in tow, call your friends and family, and get ready for a domino-slapping good time. 

Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991) 

Because if this song doesn’t get played, is it even summer yet? Even if it’s technically not, something about June screams summer-summer-summertime. This raspy-voiced Fresh Prince rap paints the perfect picture of summers stained in the memories of Black folks in backyards, on front stoops, barbershops, parks, and blacktops. 

Never Too Much – Luther Vandross (1981) 

Undoubtedly, someone holding a red Solo cup lounging completely back in the nicest lawn chair will wonder if you’ll play some Luther. This upbeat classic is one that everyone seems to love and won’t slow the party down like the power ballads the late soulful crooner is best known for. 

Before I Let Go – Frankie Beverly And Maze (1981) 

This Philly to Bay Area band likely didn’t realize they were crafting a cultural phenomenon with this breakup song, but the 43-year-old tune has been a cookout staple for as long as most people can remember. It’s an essential playlist number that your granny and ‘nem will request if you try to skip it. 

Before I Let Go – Beyoncé (2019) 

Of course, for the young millennial and Gen Z crowd, who will rightfully still bus stop to the original tune, you’ll need to run Beyoncés version right behind the OG song. Add a few extra hip pops and fancier footwork, and the dance area will stay lively. 

Can We Talk – Tevin Campbell (1993) 

Sing-a-long time! Babyface was all in the way in his bag when he wrote this song specifically for Tevin Campbell’s sophomore album. Yes, we are debunking the myth that it was written for Usher, but that’s neither here nor there. Who can resist screaming out an “And I” multiple times while vibing extra hard? 

Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe (1990) 

Another sing-a-long classic that’s also perfect for big booty hour. It’s time to give your cousin her shine while jokingly taunting her about all that junk in her trunk. Let the whole cookout transform into BBD while you remember your ‘90s dance moves and recite the lyrics word for word. 

Da’ Butt – E.U. (1988) 

Since the word butt is prominent in the last song, you’ll need to move right into this jam that’s been rotating hips for nearly four decades. Made popular by the film “School Daze,” the Black music world has yet to see anyone resist moving or chanting to “Da’ Butt.” 

Wobble – V.I.C. (2008) 

A more modern love letter to Black women’s bodies, this line dance song released in the summer of 2008 will still run all the girls to the floor, especially since it popped back up with an incredible TikTok resurgence during the pandemic. 

No One in the World – Anita Baker (1987) 

If you don’t play Anita Baker, every Black person who has ever cleaned their home on a Saturday morning will side-eye you. So, while we suggest throwing on “No One in the World,” you can actually flip through Baker’s catalog and pull your personal fave. Extra points if you play DJ Ackright’s New Orleans Bounce version. Even more points if you acknowledge that our favorite Twitter auntie, Dionne Warwick, sang that song first in 1985. 

We hope this gives you a great start to your playlist that’ll feel inclusive for at least three generations. But don’t be afraid to let the younger folks connect to Bluetooth later in the evening—a little JID, Lucky Daye, and Victoria Monet ain’t never hurt nobody. 

Leslie D. Rose

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