“Wow, a summer playlist called ‘Freedom’?” Yeah. It’s good. And freedom is no joke, so if that’s your attitude this Tunesday, let the wet finger of shame sit in your ear for a hot second. Yay, summer! Though the carefree season is in its death throes, fall is right around the corner to remind us of our true meaninglessness and ultimate terminality. But that’s not for another couple of weeks, so keep stoically sipping on your Pabst and shoving that otter pop through your grin. And do it all to swan songs of freedom!
“Freedom” by Jurassic 5
L.A.-based hip hop legends generally instill a sense of laissez-faire fun, but Jurassic 5 is notable among them for doing so with such consistent dankness. Over the warm vinyl pops of their funky sample (Julius Brockington’s “This Feeling”), Chali 2na, the group’s bardic baritone, gives the first verse on 2002’s Power in Numbers. This track exemplifies the up-and-at-‘em radiance that illuminates the rest of the album, heard clearly on the bouncy “What’s Golden.” Though the song is only about three minutes long, the sentiment should last indefinitely: “Hold on to this feelin’, freedom.”
“Freedom” by Jimi Hendrix
The only thing hot enough in the Bay to melt both a stick of butter and your face is Jimi’s sweet lecherous licks. Embrace them. Your face will reconstruct eventually, and when it does, it’ll be relaxed and maybe even exfoliated. Released posthumously on 1971’s The Cry of Love, this song chides heroin’s zombifying spell of dependency. Though he eventually succumbed, Jimi gave us plenty of scalding jams before he went on his eternal summer vacation.
“I’m So Free” by Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s happy-go-lucky anthem of self-indulgence may inspire you to do as Lou does, “I do what I want and I want what I see.” Considering his time spent in 1970s Times Square, waxing intravenous with nefarious punks, you may find relief in the following line: “Could only happen to me.” Regardless, the Bowie-vocals-laden track will blow your hair back, like the open-topped convertible you feel like you’re speeding in. Speaking of speed, don’t try to emulate Lou in every way. … Maybe just listen to the song.
“Escapism (Gettin’ Free)” by Digable Planets
On a hot summer day, there’s nothing like the understated chillness of Digable Planets. From its 1993 album Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), this tune starts with the silky potent Brooklyn cant of Ladybug Mecca, matriarch of the Planets. The rest of the weirdo group of bugs, Butterfly and Doodlebug, follow over the extraterrestrial funkadelic hodgepodge of samples, including Herbie Hancock and Parliament. If we internalize anything from this song, it should be Mecca’s refrain, “Get free, get free y’all.”
“Freedom” by Charles Mingus
These last days of summer may not feel like an orchestral whirlwind of anthropomorphic fireworks out of Disney’s “Fantasia,” but they’ll feel more epic than otherwise if you play some Mingus. Not for the faint of heart, Mingus’ cathartic meditation on slavery takes the listener through every trough and crest of the symphonic wave, evoking the tension of confinement and dynamiting it with brass-ridden exaltations. The group line, “but no freedom for me,” arrives at the end of the playlist, instilling a somber chill that redefines freedom and recontextualizes the preceding songs. Between his moralistic and his scorched earth arrangements, Mingus holds nothing back from the listener. “Original Faubus Fables,” from Mingus’s self-revealing Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, is a good follow up. That is, if you’re not afraid to hear what he’s not afraid to say.
Contact Jacob Dickerman at [email protected].