According to the calendar, summer doesn’t technically start in the United States until late June. In reality, the season kicks off when someone’s uncle busts out the grill and someone’s Aunt is telling their nieces and nephews to stop running in and out of the house as they enjoy the warm weather. As all of this is going on, songs like “Still Not A Player” by Big Pun and “No Letting Go” by Wayne Wonder are blaring through car stereo systems and Bluetooth speakers. Those songs may have been released more than 20 years ago, but they are a constant reminder of how good the summer sun can feel when timeless music is bouncing across eardrums from block to block.
Each year, artists strive to have their music become synonymous with the summer season in a race for a mythical title known as the “Song of the Summer.” While there is never a definitive winner in this race, it is one of the last pure things to exist within music discourse in mass media and social media. Fans and critics alike can debate what song they feel gets the biggest reaction at the club, brunch, BBQ, cookout, house party or music festival. In 2017, some may have given the title to “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B while others may have given it to “Wild Thoughts” by DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. Regardless of who came out on top, it’s a fun discussion and remains a debate each year. This year, there are a number of songs battling for this title and it’s hard to choose just one. So, we’re going to lay out a few contenders, sleepers and newcomers and let you pick the winner
Contenders: A group of ten songs that appear to have distinguished themselves as the leaders in the “Song of the Summer” race
On The Radar: A group of five songs that just missed the cut, but don’t trail far behind the contenders.
Sleepers: A group of four songs that may be creeping up on the others, but need a little bit more time to gain more momentum and pick up traction on social media, streaming sites, DJ mixes, etc.
Personal Pick: One song that I am currently rocking with and believe has the energy of a “Summer of the Song” candidate, but is being overlooked for one reason or another.
Important Note: Songs in each category are listed in alphabetical order. Their positioning in each category does not reflect their positioning in the “Song of the Summer” race.
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Gunna has faced a severe amount of backlash from fellow artists, but he does not appear to have lost the support of his fan base. Shortly after being released from jail, Gunna countered with the release of his latest LP, A Gift & A Curse. Gunna may have chosen “Bread & Butter” as the lead single, “fukumean” appears to be a fan favorite. In just two weeks, it has garnered nearly five million plays on YouTube and climbed to the 12th spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Only time will tell if the record has staying power, but it’s off to a strong start.
Peaches & Eggplants
Artist: Young Nudy, 21 Savage
Release Date: June 16, 2023
It would be a true “Song of the Summer” list without an entry from the city of Atlanta. After years of putting out mixtapes, EPs and full-length projects, it looks like Young Nudy may have landed a mainstream hit. While his 2017 track, “EA,” with 21 Savage did earn a platinum plaque, it did not achieve the same level of Billboard success that this single has. “Peaches & Eggplants” has momentum in the streets and it has climbed to the 61st spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Streaming success coupled with organic support from fans is a prime mixture of summer smash hit.
Artist(s): Sexyy Red, Tay Keith
Release Date: January 27, 2023
The world may not have been familiar with Sexyy Red in 2022, but they are well aware of who she is in 2023. Not only did she recently appear on the “Shake Sumn” remix with DaBaby, but she also secured a guest verse from Nicki Minaj on the “Pound Town” remix. Powered by Tay Keith’s memorable production, “Pound Town” has all of the ingredients of a hit in the social media era. Sexyy Red’s quotable lines, playful style and raunchy persona make “Pound Town” an undeniable hit this summer.
Put It On Da Floor
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Latto may rank second on Brian “B Dot” Miller’s list of the best rappers in 2023 thus far, but she may have the biggest record of the year. From the time she performed it at Coachella to the moment she landed a guest verse from Cardi B, “Put It On Da Floor” has been a staple within playlists, DJ sets and beyond. Not to mention, she brought the record to the main stage at this year’s BET Awards and stood out with one of the night’s best performances. As the weeks pass by, it will be interesting to see how long this record will live on the charts and in “Song of the Summer” conversations.
Release Date: May 5, 2023
DaBaby has experienced quite a few setbacks throughout the last few years. However, he appears to have bounced back with the success of his latest single — “Shake Sumn.” The song’s fast-paced rhythm coupled with it’s easy-to-learn hook make it fan-friendly and easy to enjoy at any function. Recently, he linked up with Sexyy Red to drop the visuals for the remix. Instead of simply adding a verse to the original song, he recorded a new verse and gave listeners a new look that may extend the life of the record even further.
Artist(s): Central Cee, Dave
Release Date: June 1, 2023
Dave is no stranger to “Song of the Summer” discussions. Four years ago, Dave and Burna Boy’s “Location” was one of the season’s standout collaborations. This year, he’s joined forces with Central Cee for an entire EP. The duo debuted their joint project with a single called “Sprinter” which features both UK artists trading verses and punch lines. Some may debate who had the better verse, but it is clear that the joint EP has been well received and set up “Sprinter” to be a certified hit. While it doesn’t have a clear hook like many previous summer hits, the song is strong enough to live on its own through Labor Day.
Artist(s): Byron Messia
Release Date: January 20, 2023
The summer is a great time to introduce new artists to fans across the world. Back in 2014, Bobby Shmurda broke on to the scene with “Hot N*gga.” Three years later, Cardi B went from reality TV star to chart-topping artist with “Bodak Yellow.” Just two years ago, the success of “Gyalis” catapulted Capella Grey onto tracks with Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign. Now, it’s Byron Messia’s time to shine. Coming to you live from St. Kitts and Nevis, the Interscope Records signee has cemented himself in the “Song of the Summer” conversation with “Talibans.” From the day party scene in New York to playlists on Spotify, it’s hard to miss Byron Messia’s “Talibans” this summer.
Artist(s): Davido, Musa Keys
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Few artists have a fan base as loyal as Davido. Whenever a discussion about the “Song of the Summer” arises, his fans are ready to jump in the comments and mention “Unavailable.” To be fair, his fans do have a point. “Unavailable” is catchy, fun and easy to dance to. In short, it has all the elements of a summer hit. Now, only one question remains. Can it stand out in a crowded field of contenders like “Amapiano” by Asake, “Party No Dey Stop” by Adekunle Gold, “Put It On Da Floor” by Latto and so many other hit songs?
Where She Goes
Artist(s): Bad Bunny
Release Date: May 18, 2023
Just last year, Bad Bunny dominated the summer with his latest LP, Un Verano Sin Ti, and a global tour. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll put out another full-length project this year, but he’s made his presence felt with “Where She Goes.” The club-inspired track brings the Puerto Rican artist into a new soundscape while still allowing him to showcase his dynamic skillset. From the second the beat drops, the song feels like a cinematic experience and takes listeners on a thrilling ride with its upbeat tempo and seductive production. Not to mention, the video feels like a summer party that will not stop until the sun comes up. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll dominate the summer in the way he did last year, but never underestimate him.
Who Told You
Artist(s): J Hus, Drake
Release Date: June 8, 2023
It wouldn’t truly be the summer if Drake didn’t drop an album, single or guest verse. This time around, he headed back over to the U.K. to assist J Hus as he released “Who Told You.” The two stars come together to ask the most important question of the summer — Who said badmon don’t dance?
On The Radar
Artist(s): Asake, Olamide
Release Date: May 23, 2023
If you haven’t gone to a day party and grabbed a drink as “Amapiano” started playing, you should probably do that. Asake’s latest single is the kind of song that will make you grab that person you’re interested in and head to the dance floor.
Party No Dey Stop
Artist(s): Adekunle Gold, Zinoleesky
Release Date: March 15, 2023
A great “Song of the Summer” has the ability to transport a listener to a new space. “Work” and “Controlla” took the world to the West Indies. “Essence” took listeners to a party in Nigeria. “Hot N*gga” took the world to Brooklyn. This year, Adekunle Gold’s “Party No Dey Stops” takes everyone back to the unforgettable, late-night summer parties in a friend’s backyard or basement. As the song plays, everyone forgets about what is burdening them and embraces the moment. Whether or not it becomes the consensus “Song of the Summer” is almost irrelevant. When people hear this song five or ten years from now, they’ll think about this summer and the moments in which it played at a cookout, party or festival.
Point Me 2
Artist(s): FendiDa Rappa, Cardi B
Release Date: July 7, 2023
Cardi B may not have a put out a single this summer, but she’s made her presence felt through verses on Latto’s “Put It On Da Floor Again” and FendiDa Rappa’s “Point Me 2.” Both artists mesh incredibly well in a similar fashion to the way GloRilla and the Bronx native joined forces to release “Tomorrow 2” last year. FendiDa Rappa may be a new face to some, but they’ll be familiar with her after this record.
Sittin’ On Top Of The World
Artist(s): Burna Boy
Release Date: June 2, 2023
Burna Boy refuses to be denied. Last year, he seemingly captured the “Song of the Summer” title with “Last Last.” This year, he’s back at it again selling out stadiums and collaborating with 21 Savage. “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” takes direction from Brandy and Mase’s 1998 hit and sprinkles his unique flavor throughout the track. The song has already seemingly made an impact and it appears that the Nigerian artist is already preparing to release more new music in the coming weeks.
What It Is
Artist(s): Doechii, Kodak Black
Release Date: March 17, 2023
Once Kendrick Lamar made the decision to leave TDE and begin his next chapter with pgLang, many wondered what direction the label would head in. In just a matter of months, it became clear that the next generation of TDE artists was not coming to mess around. Backed by ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Isaiah Rashad, Ray Vaughn, Reason and Doechii introduced themselves with standout projects, incredible verses and quality singles. Following the success of “Persuasive” last summer, Doechii has upped her game to a new level with “What It Is” featuring Kodak Black. Embracing her Southern roots, the Florida native connected with fellow Floridian, Kodak Black, for a catchy, Trillville-inspired single that has made its way from streaming success to a performance at the 2023 BET Awards.
Artist(s): Lola Brooke
Release Date: April 28, 2023
Don’t play with it! Don’t play with it! Come on, baby. Don’t play with it! Lola Brooke has been working her way through the music industry for years now. In fact, she was featured in our “First To The Aux” series all the way back in 2018. As fate would have it, the opportunity for her to break into the mainstream would come until her 2021 track, “Don’t Play With It” featuring Billy B, gained momentum in 2022. Since then, she’s not looked back. The Brooklyn artist has spent the last year appearing on ABC News specials, collaborating with Latto and touring with A Boogie. This summer, she’s not slowing down. “Just Relax” is a Black Sheep-inspired record that embodies the summer music scene in New York. If anyone had any questions about how she would evolve as an artist following her breakout hit, their questions were answered with this track.
Artist(s): Tyler ICU, Tumelo.za, DJ Maphorisa, Nandipha808, Ceeka RSA, Tyron Dee
Release Date: April 28, 2023
With over 10 million plays on YouTube and millions more across several streaming sites, “Mnike” is already a hit in many parts of the world. In recent weeks, it’s picked up steam in the U.S. and there’s a few reasons why. It’s face-paced, invites listeners to the dance floor and it’s fun. After all, that’s all that a “Song of the Summer” is supposed to be. In recent years, several artists from Nigeria, including Fireboy DML, Burna Boy, Davido, Asake, Tems and Maleek Berry, have made their mark on American music. Maybe, its time for Tyler ICU and South Africa to bring their sound to the states.
Release Date: July 7, 2023
Having great music is one thing, but being charismatic and relatable is something completely different. Fortunately, Nippa has both. The U.K. hitmaker has been featured on Def Pen several times since 2021 single, “Situaiton,” dropped. Since then, he’s connected with Jack Harlow, opened up a show for BLXST and earned a co-sign from “Boi-1da. More importantly, he’s continued to feed his fans with not one, but two EPs. Both of those projects set him up for most recent single, “Reverse.” The upbeat R&B track has the ability to live on Rap playlists, enter R&B DJ mixes and much more.
Artist(s): Honey Bxby
Release Date: April 12, 2023
It’s hard for an R&B record to earn “Song of the Summer” status in today’s music landscape. However, Honey Bxby’s “Touchin'” may be the exception. With a familiar sample and a hook that invites listeners to sing along, Honey Bxby’s summer single is already making waves in the industry. Most notably, she picked up a co-sign from The Joe Budden Podcast and continues to feed her fans with her latest EP, 3 Words, 8 Letters. It’s hard to determine whether or not “Touchin'” will be the record that takes Honey Bxby into the mainstream, but it’s clear that she will be around for a long time if she continues to put out records like this.
Artist(s): LaRussell, DTB, Ekzakt
Release Date: 2023
If the world isn’t already familiar with LaRussell, they will be very soon. Most may know him for his fierce independence, focus on community building, infectious laugh and the connection he has with his fans. While all of those are great traits to have, they mean nothing if the music doesn’t connect with listeners. Fortunately, LaRussell’s music does just that. More importantly, he’s seemingly getting better as writer with each passing project. This past month, “YOOHOO!” landed on a streaming service and it doesn’t disappoint. The song’s fun nature, quotable hook and exceptional performance are more than enough to qualify for this list. As the weeks go by, LaRussell’s momentum continues to expand within the industry, social media sphere and beyond. This week, he’ll be in the nation’s capital performing at Broccoli City Fest. It’ll be interesting to see how “YOOHOO!” translates to the festival stage as LaRussell makes his way from the West Coast. Regardless, it’s a dope, fun record that everyone will enjoy.