We love to debate and eventually declare “the song of the summer.” But much like anyone who is on the beach and who has a body has a “beach body,” any song played over the next three months is in fact a (though maybe not the) song of the summer. But enough curation and conjecture as to what’ll be hot this season; I wanted to know what real Brooklynites were really playing.
So I spent an afternoon in Prospect Park scavenging sound bites from picnickers and drum circlers and pot smokers and barbecue-ers and volleyballers alike. No surprise here: From Soca to R&B to country, from top-40 club bangers to throwback classics to forgotten deep cuts, the songs were just as rich and eclectic as the amateur DJs bumping them.
That said, a recommendation: Don’t play these tracks as a playlist; the selections are far too diverse in genre and in mood to create a cohesive soundtrack. Rather, use each song as inspiration, as a portal to discover new artists and new flavors. You won’t be disappointed: This is going to be the best summer you’ve ever heard.
1. “Nakamarra (feat. Q-Tip)” — Hiatus Kaiyote

“So smooth, so beautiful. This song is the breeze, it’s the sunshine. And Q-Tip is one of the most underrated—the best—MCs ever.” — Melissa, 29, Bed-Stuy
2. “Nights (Feel Like Gettin’ Down)” — Billy Ocean

“I first got into Billy Ocean with that song, ‘Get out of My Dreams Get Into My Car.’ As it turns out, the rest of his songs are total jams. ‘Nights’ is funky and mellow at the same time. Not too high energy where you are killing the mood for others in the park, and not too slow to kill your buzz. “ – Dennis, 27, Astoria
3. “Juicy” — Notorious B.I.G


“I like Biggie because he raps about his whole life, and his music is inspirational. He shows how someone can grow up from something little and make something big out of himself.” – Karisma, 13, Crown Heights

4. “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” — Elvin Bishop

“I saw these CDs [Singers & Songwriters, 1974-1975] on a late-night infomercial, and I said, ‘Oh my God, those are all the songs I grew up with!’ So I bought the four CDs for, like, $29.99. But I play everything. I have some old jazz that will blow your hair back. I’m talking all the greats: Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk. Just beautiful music.” — Terraine, 53, Harlem
5. “That Was a Crazy Game Of Poker” — O.A.R

“They’re just easy listening. Makes me want to just relax, crack open a beer, and enjoy the sun.” — James, 30, Crown Heights
6. “Creo En Mi” — Natalia Jimenez

“My family comes out to the park every year just to enjoy. It’s beautiful, the perfect summer day with the family.” — Fernando, 29, Bushwick
7. “Controlla” — Drake

“This song finally came out on Spotify. I’ve been listening to ‘One Dance’ on there for weeks, and I’m glad Views is there now. Worth the wait for sure.” — Kenny, 18, Park Slope
8. “Inner Voice” — Jah9

“I’m a roots [reggae] fan. Roots is like culture, culture music. For me, it’s relaxing, makes me think about positive things. That’s all I listen to.” — Jeffrey, 41, Crown Heights
9. “Drug Dealers Anonymous” — Jersey Demic

“I’m not a real DJ, but I just do it when no one wants to do it. I step up when I need to to make sure everyone’s feeling good.” — Reem, 34, Clinton Hill
10. “One and Only” — Teitur

“We just brought my brother a guitar today; he’s hoping to get back into it.” – Savannah, 20, Taiwan
11. “Bruk Off Yuh Back” — Konshens

“The difference between reggae and Soca: Soca is Caribbean, from the West Indies. Reggae started from Jamaica. It’s all English. And the dancing is all in the hips.” — Randy, 38, New Jersey
12. “Playa Sola” — Lalo Mora


“The summer is all about Mexican music. Vincente Fernandez, Los Tigres Del Norte, El Trono de Mexico. All the good stuff.” — Lorena, 33, Bay Ridge

13. “Africa” — Desperados Steel Band


“I made most of the food we’re having out here. Chicken, baked mac ‘n cheese, brown stew chicken, string beans, carrots, barbecue chicken.” — Ann, 47, East Flatbush

14. “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) [feat. Caron Wheeler]” — Soul II Soul

“A young lady that I’d known came over and she said, ‘They gave you a nickname out here. They’re calling you DJ Gatorade.’ Because along with the business of selling beverages, we play music–we play all kind of music. Old school rap, jazz, reggae, salsa, some of the old classics of the 70s… We’re out here to keep everybody hydrated. It’s not just about making money, it’s about meeting the needs of the people.” — DJ Gatorade, 51, Harlem
Illustration by Charlotte Gudmundsson.

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