Throwback Thursday: ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)

Above: The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff chill out in the 'Summertime' video

What: “Summertime”

When: 1991

By: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

From the album: Homebase

Reason for the throwback: This is my all-time summer jam — has been from the day I first heard this song back in May ’91 when it was released, was through the 497 times I played the cassingle over the next three months, and still is to this day where I pull up the video on YouTube every year around this time to mark my personal kickoff of summer.

Note: kids these days have no idea what a cassingle is and that makes me sad.

Today, we think of Will Smith as Will Smith, Hollywood actor and major movie star, but back when this song dropped, he was only a few months into The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so he was still known primarily as The Fresh Prince, one half of this Grammy-winning duo that made fun, light rap music that didn’t offend grown ups. I don’t say that as a knock either — I loved He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper not only because it had some classic songs (“Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” for instance), but also because it was one of the only hip hop albums my parents were okay with playing in the car.

Note II: remember fighting over what to listen to in the car on road trips?

This song, which samples Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness,” is laid back, mellow and holds up exceptionally well 23 years later. That’s not something you can say about a lot of songs, but it certainly applies here. And the opening six bars speak perfectly to why it endures:

Here it is a groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm
Just a little something to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be
A little bit out of control it’s cool to dance
But what about a groove that soothes and moves romance

“Summertime” was different than everything else that was out at the time and still is today — a track that is ease to groove and clap along to, which is exactly what transpires in the video. It’s just a mellow, “dance like you don’t care” joint that has always been epitomized the feelings I have around this time of year every year.

We all have that “Summer is here!” feeling when the days start getting longer and the weather starts getting warmer, but it doesn’t feel complete for me unless I have this plauying in the background.

This is my gift to you as summer gets underway.


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