Aux Cord Chronicles: 47 songs every cookout needs
Without the right music, your cookout’s bound to drown — but don’t worry, we’re here to help
Cookouts require three simple, yet vitally important, ingredients — and the Thanksgiving feast is really kind of an indoor cookout, right? You need food. Beverages of the alcoholic variety. And music. Without these three, chances are your feast is going to hell with a full-ride scholarship. Unfortunately, I can’t help with the first two. But as far as the last one goes — let’s work.
Aside from the actual chefs/grill masters, there is no single person more important to the success of a feast than the auxiliary cord DJ (that is if there’s no actual DJ). And if that person happens to be you, consider the following songs mainstays. Rock out to this (chronologically presented) list. Then hit us on Twitter or Facebook and tell us the ones you’ll spin at your own feast. From Young Thug to Beyoncé to The Gap Band to Ludacris to Erykah Badu to Kanye West to Remy Ma to YG to Future — Happy Turkey Day, my people.
1. Earth, Wind & Fire — September (1978)
Whatever I do in my career, if I can create an article, video, podcast or anything as memorable as September, I can die a happy man. (Pro tip: Let’s Groove works just as well here.)
2. Maze feat. Frankie Beverly — Before I Let Go (1981)
Seriously, ask yourself this: Is a list like this even possible without the song that has brought more black people together at cookouts than quite possibly any other song in world history? The answer isn’t, “No.” The answer is, “Hell nah.”
3. The Gap Band — Outstanding (1982)
This is an OG cookout anthem in the truest sense of the phrase. Watch your auntie and uncle — who were probably just yelling at each other five minutes earlier — start two-stepping. It’s impossible to be mad at anyone or anything when this song drops. Furthermore, no one’s convincing me Charlie Wilson isn’t everybody’s uncle through marriage in some way.
4. Bel Biv Devoe — Poison (1990)
If the day ever comes when this song doesn’t knock, I don’t wanna be around.
5. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — Summertime (1991)
What Before I Let Go is for my mama, Summertime is for me. And what’s dope is we appreciate both songs as irreplaceable cookout odes. It’s not really summer until you hear Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s landmark record once. Or 200 times.
6. Dr. Dre — Let Me Ride (1992)
Two things here. One, as far as hip-hop goes, the West Coast is king of the cookout anthem. Two, this could’ve easily been Nothin’ But A G Thang, but Ice Cube picking his hair and saying, “Damn right, it was a good day” should be the response everyone has leaving cookouts this weekend under the premise of the two F’s: faded and full.
7. TLC — Baby, Baby, Baby (1992)
One of those feel-good records from the ‘90s that has damn near universal appeal. If you hear a person say they don’t like this song, remove from from your cookout ASAP.
8. 2Pac — I Get Around (1993)
One of these days I’m going to rent out an Airbnb and recreate this entire video. Thick gold chains, (temporary) “Thug Life” tattoo, unnecessarily large cordless phone and everything. #LifeGoals
9. Zhane — Hey Mr. DJ (1994)
Bet money your auntie or cousin who went to an HBCU in the ’90s hits the meanest shoulder bounce to this.
10. The Notorious B.I.G. — Big Poppa (1994)
You know, it gets really depressing when you realize how many more anthems like this we never got to hear when hip-hop was robbed of “The Great Frank White” nearly 20 years ago.
Also, R.I.P. G-Baby from Hardball.
11. Montell Jordan — This Is How We Do It (1995)
LOL @ you thinking I’d forget this.
12. Luniz — I Got 5 On It (1995)
For the cousins who always dip off from the cookout for about 20 minutes and come back looking like this. Hell, you might be one of those cousins.
13. Jodeci — Get On Up (1995)
Save Forever My Lady and Freek’n You for the afterparty. While the grill is lit and everyone’s eating, talking, dancing and having a good time, play this easygoing cut from the greatest R&B group of all time. That’s right, I said it.
14. Lil Kim feat. Lil Cease & The Notorious B.I.G. — Crush on You (1996)
Everyone knows this hook. Everyone loves this hook (Lil Kim’s verses, too). Everyone will sing this hook. Trust me on this.
15. Foxy Brown feat. Blackstreet — Get Me Home (1996)
When it’s all said and done, I got plans for you. For the grown-folk hours of the cookout.
16. DMX — How’s It Goin’ Down (1998)
There’s something very, very, very, very romantic about DMX saying, Knew she was a thug ‘cause when I met her she had a scarf on. In all seriousness, though, not only is DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot, a personal top-10 rap record in the history of mankind, How’s It Goin’ Down is a single that will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s Rihanna and I’s first song at our wedding reception. Ratchet love is the best love.
17. Mya feat. Jay Z — Best Of Me (Remix) (2000)
Jay Z has had better guest verses, but I’m not sure I have a guest verse I like more than the one on this track. For one, it helped inspire this classic Lil Wayne freestyle. And two, he floated so crazy on that second verse with lines like, That’s high school making me chase you ‘round for months/ Have an affair, act like an adult for once. To be fair, though, “acting like an adult” may or may not have helped inspire his wife’s latest album.
18. Outkast feat. Sleepy Brown — So Fresh, So Clean (2000)
The greatest hip-hop duo of all time giving you one of the greatest barbecue anthems of all time with one of the dopest dances of all time: the legendary crossover two-step (fast forward to 3:30).
19. Jagged Edge feat. Nelly — Where The Party At (2001)
Durags with the capes out. Oversized clothes. Throwback jerseys. Prime Nelly giving us nothing but bangers. The early 2000’s were a fun time.
20. Cam’ron feat. Juelz Santana — Hey Ma (2002)
If there isn’t a Dipset 30 for 30 at some point within the next five years, we aren’t doing this documentary thing right. We already missed out on awarding Cam’ron a well-deserved Oscar for his role as Rico in 2002’s Paid In Full. Let’s not drop the ball twice, America.
21. Erykah Badu feat. Common — Love Of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop) (2002)
Most cookouts go through phases. They’re lit. Then they turn super chill. This is better suited for the latter.
Related: For similar vibes in 2015 and 2016, you can’t go wrong with basically anything from Anderson .Paak’s Malibu or The Internet’s Ego Death albums. In particular, Room In Here featuring The Game and Sonyae Elise and/or Girl.
22. Ludacris & DTP feat. Scarface — Growing Pains (Do It Again) (2002)
This is a cookout song with a cookout in the actual video. Plus, anything with Scarface is a win. And the hook just screams “family reunion.” Pretty much a 10 on the Fourth of July grading scale. (And, yes, for the uninformed that is 2 Chainz, then known as Tity Boi, in the Cleveland Indians jersey.)
23. Pharrell feat. Jay Z — Frontin’ (2003)
The only thing more impressive than this song is the fact Pharrell hasn’t aged since it was made. And really since 1992.
24. Young Gunz feat. Rell — No Better Love (2003)
Fun fact. The first time I saw this video I thought Rell was comedian Dave Chappelle. But there’s no replacing what he brings to this song, helping making it a Roc-A-fella classic.
25. Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx & Twista — Slow Jamz (2004)
I miss the old Kanye. His words. Not mine.
26. Snoop Dogg feat. Justin Timberlake & Charlie Wilson — Signs (2005)
First off, Gin & Juice and DPG’s Let’s Play House are first ballot barbecue inductees. So let’s get that squared away. But Signs is proof Tha Doggfather’s influence spanned decades and genres. And, yes, I know Timberlake’s in the dog house right now. It’s hard to deny this one though.
27. Foxx feat. Lil Boosie & Webbie — Wipe Me Down (Remix) (2007)
Shoulders. Chest. Pants. Shoes. Play this anywhere below the Mason-Dixon Line and be prepared to witness something special. Lil Boosie’s verse should be in the Smithsonian.
28. T-Pain feat. Yung Joc — Buy U A Drink (2007)
If you attended college at any point between the years 2005 and 2009, T-Pain is an institution for you. Buy U A Drink is his magnum opus in terms of hit singles (and he had a boatload of them). Nearly 50 million views on YouTube? That somehow still seems disrespectful.
29. UGK feat. Outkast — International Players Anthem (2007)
The Willie Hutch sample alone makes it a cookout necessity. The fact that it’s the one of only two collaborations between rap icons UGK and Outkast demand it be a cookout mainstay from now until the end of time. R.I.P. Pimp C. No hyperbole at all, but International Players Anthem truly is one of the greatest rap songs ever created.
30. Yung LA feat. Young Dro & T.I. — Ain’t I (Remix) (2008)
Bruh, peak T.I. was a different type of beast.
31. Waka Flocka feat. Roscoe Dash & Wale — No Hands (2010)
I hold this truth to be self-evident. Waka’s debut, Flockaveli, is a standout project of the decade. This just happened to be its biggest crossover single (on an album that had a plethora of monster records).
32. Beyoncé feat. Andre 3000 — Party (2011)
Beyoncé’s catalog speaks for itself, but this song has more of a cookout feel than perhaps more than any single she’s ever dropped. The verse from Andre “Three Stacks” (aka rap’s version of Halley’s Comet) doesn’t hurt either.
33. DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne — I’m On One (2011)
Long before he became the face of Snapchat, DJ Khaled blessed us with a hell of an anthem — it was the song of the summer five years ago.
34. Gucci Mane — I Think I Love Her (2011)
Sir Radric Davis of Zone 6 aka East Atlanta Santa, overseer of all things trap, gave us a fun sing-along five years ago that works in any social setting. A cookout being one of them.
35. Meek Mill — Dreams & Nightmares (Intro) (2012)
Beef or no beef. The inner goon in everybody comes out the second that beat switches.
Pro-Tip: If you’re lazy and/or pressed for time in your aux cord responsibilities, just spin the 2012 cookout classic, Dom Kennedy’s The Yellow Album. Click here, press play and leave. That’s it and that’s all. It’s summer tested and summer approved. I wouldn’t lie to you.
36. Ciara feat. Future — Body Party (2013)
Lil Future’s parents, in happier, pre-Russell Wilson times, created this fire (semi) duet. Or you could play the original. Whatever floats your boat.
37. Beyoncé feat. Jay Z — Drunk In Love (2013)
For the couple that is inevitably going to get too drunk and start feeling on each other. *Cranes neck at Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade*
38. YG feat. Drake — Who Do You Love? (2014)
Keeping it all the way a hundred, depending on the crowd, you could honestly press play and let YG’s debut, My Krazy Life, rock from front to back.
39. T.I. feat. Young Thug — About The Money (2014)
Red cup certified.
40. Future — March Madness (2015)
Truthfully, there are about 20 Future songs that could and probably should be on the list. Like this. And this. And this. And this. And this. Annnnnd this. One more. And this. But no cookout is complete without March Madness, a new national anthem.
P.S. — Make sure that new Future and Rae Sremmurd Party Pack is in your rotation this weekend.
41. Big Sean feat. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign — Play No Games (2015)
Expect this to rock at Memorial Days, Fourth of Julys and Labor Days for the next decade.
42. O.T. Genasis feat. Young Dolph — Cut It (2015)
Guaranteed to draw a reaction. Everyone knows this song. Also, speaking of Dolph, add Get Paid while you’re at it. You’re welcome.
43. Rihanna feat. Drake — Work (2016)
A long-standing belief of mine is that, at some point, Drake and Rihanna will do an album together. Every song they’ve ever done has been a hit. Including this No. 1 record.
44. Young Thug — Digits (2016)
For the dab quotient of the afternoon/evening, your host will play the musical stylings of one Young Thug.
45. Chance The Rapper feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne — No Problem (2016)
Again, Chance’s 2016 standout Coloring Book is another no-skip worthy project. But in the interest of rules, his magnificent collaboration with rap’s newest tag team — 2 Wayne as I like to call them — is certainly worth of consideration.
46. Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla — One Dance (2016)
It’s a three-day weekend. There will be a lot of people with Hennessy in hand as this plays over the next 72 hours.
47. Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. French Montana — All The Way Up (2016)
Gotta give credit where credit is due. Fat Joe and Remy Ma came back strong with this one.