There’s a gang of songs from 1991 that haven’t gotten any airplay since ’91. There’s a few that will occasionally get a spin for nostalgia’s sake. But if there’s one that without fail gets play every year as soon as June breaks in, it’s “Summertime”. While Will Smith was getting started on bigger and better things in his career, he was still primarily known as a rap star, along with the homie Jazzy Jeff as his DJ and producer.
The first time I heard “Summertime”, I’d imagine, was the same time a lot of people heard it. Fresh Prince of Bel Air was closing up its first season, and as part of the season finale, they aired the video at the end.From then on out, it was officially the song of that summer. It hit the radio instantly and was all over the place. Even as Prince & Jeff were mostly considered to be for the “Pop Tart Charts” by then, this one hit across the board, even with the harder-edged hip-hop audience. Even if their other songs from the Homebase album pretty much fell on deaf ears, “Summertime” was the clear undeniable hit that they probably expected it to be.
Still, I’m not even sure they knew just how long this song’s shelf life was. By the mid-’90s, “Summertime” became similar to those Christmas songs that you can never seem to get away from soon as Black Friday hits. Every June, and no later than July 4th, radio and TV would break it out and sporadically start spinning it through August. The video became a classic just as the song did, and basically set the tone for every “cookout in the park” video that’s ever been made since.
Will continued dippin’ and dabbin’ into his rap career through the ’90s, but it’s mostly played the back to his other endeavors after his acting career turned out to be extra-large. Even though he had major hits prior to “Summertime” and had even bigger ones in the years afterwards, it’s this one that’s become his longest-enduring track. 20 years later, “Summertime” is still getting its obligatory summer spins, and it’s still a winner.
With a laid-back flow (that sounds a lil’ Rakim-ish if you think about it) and a sample of Kool & The Gang‘s “Summer Madness”, Will & Jeff made a hit that might not be for all seasons, but is apparently one for any year.