The summer sun is frying the concrete kingdom. Sweltering heat is parboiling millions of psyches around you. Tiny personal universes are collapsing under the dark matter of incessant stimuli. It's probably time to flee the city, but like many urbanites, you don't own a car. So book a rental: Fill it with fishing poles, folding bikes, cold beer, beach towels, books, and other chill factors. Bring these five songs and crank the factory-installed stereo in your getaway car.
Nothing sets the pace like the sounds of ignition coils and funky flute. Bobbi Humphrey's Blacks and Blues features the Mizell Brothers' soul infusion. Their classic 1970s production vibe has been the breakbeat origin of countless hip-hop songs: You can find traces of "Harlem River Drive" in Common's "Just In The Nick Of Rhyme," "A Touch Of Jazz" from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and Smif-N-Wessun's "Cession At Da Doghillee."
As you cross the Queensboro Bridge, you might feel like Snake Plissken in Escape From New York. (If it helps, feel free to wear an eye patch for effect.) This is not unusual. Leaving the watchful gaze of Manhattan surveillance cameras can feel like a maximum-security jailbreak. Flora Purim, the Brazilian singer and early member of Return To Forever, recorded Open Your Eyes You Can Fly after an 18-month stint in federal prison on California's Terminal Island. With her percussionist husband Airto, the polymath Hermeto Pascoal, and other fusion aces, Purim crafts a statement of personal freedom. Chick Corea wrote the title song, while Alphonso Johnson plays the killer bass groove.
Imagine for a moment that your midsize economy class is actually a juke joint on wheels. The band is playing some gutbucket roadhouse blues, and Miles Davis is blowing electrified trumpet licks over it all. Recorded just before Davis took a five-year sabbatical, Get Up With It offers some freebase electronic sorcery from the jazz legend and producer Teo Macero. "Red China Blues" is music for the Cultural Revolution.
As the skyline disappears from your rearview mirror, a momentary lapse of reason kicks in: "What did I forget?" While your brain scans the vacation inventory, the worst fears subside, and "Actual Proof" is there to put everything back in perspective. Herbie Hancock's space-funk classic, Thrust, is the perfect record for all that junk in your trunk.
Few songs evoke the relief of arriving at a destination quite like Roy Ayers' 1976 slow jam, "Everybody Loves The Sunshine." This is both elemental soul and a certifiable summer anthem; Tupac Shakur, Brand Nubian, and Mary J. Blige have all sampled this mellow classic, and Ayers himself re-recorded it with singer Erykah Badu. Nothing beats the original, especially with the volume set to maximum chill. Take a deep breath and enjoy life in the sunshine. You're officially off the grid.