Today is about rappers

Temperatures are set to hit the 90-degree mark out here in the Western Provinces.

People of Moistworks, hear me: William DeVaughn is not Curtis Mayfield. On blogs and bulletin boards across the land, people get snotty in lowercase, preaching false gospel. I won't claim DeVaughn invented the gangster lean, but he, not Mayfield, captured it astutely in a precise turn of phrase (which makes him a hero to me). Hence, his persistent decontextualization as "early gangster shit." Dude was a Jehovah's Witness and did you listen to the song? Yeah, that's what I thought. Never fear; in the name of future generations, Moistworks will provide. (MW loves the children.)

If DeVaughn is cruise music par excellence, Lauryn Hill's love letter to South Orange represents an equally distinguished tradition: the shout-out to the hood. But she transcends the particularity of her location - next to Ivy Hill, in Carter Park, on Central Ave - to deliver a universal message of thanks much like DeVaughn's. I like the positivity, but the skeptic in me reads these repeated exhortations to gratitude as make-the-best-of-it logic. Which suggests that the grounds for gratitude might be overstated in the first place.

Next, a celebration of life in the hood, doo-wop style. Only, if you listen closely to the lyrics, everybody's leaving the hood behind:

Uncle Evan lost all his dreams

Checked into rehab so he could save his soul

Found a god that he could trust

Last thing I heard, he had a family of three

Flippin burgers at a restaurant

He don't come round the hood no more

But it's a great day in the neighborhood

Beautiful and cynical: now that's what I like. I wish, I wish the production on this track were better; this song was consistently amazing live and the recording doesn't do justice to the four voices that powered Chicago's late, lamented D-Settlement. It was a great day in the neighborhood when I got to take my daughter to one of their shows; they did a gig at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where I could be reasonably sure front man Marvin Tate would not drop his pants. In the bathroom after their set, we ran into Renee Ruffin, goddess of song (she's the lead voice here). Renee was gracious and gorgeous, my (then) six-year-old was appropriately awed, and I got a picture of them together that didn't come out. Regrets! Regrets. Still, I love this song, which even comes with an oi surprise in the middle. Alas, D-Settlement: 10 of the best live shows I've ever seen.

If East Coast hip-hop had an award for Most Sampled Artist, I'm thinking smooth groove king Roy Ayers shows up in the top five. I don't mean to sound authoritative, I'm just guessing; I stopped tracking samples in the mid-90s. The definitive summertime groove, this cut has been sampled and repurposed and covered to death, often by Ayers himself. Class, how many musical quotes can you identify? I'd be curious. Another Ayers track I like, "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby," could be considered a shout-out to the hood, but when you listen to the song, it makes you think living in Brooklyn is maybe not such a good thing. We're going for a different vibe today, a chilled-out, barbeque-in-the-park, in-the-fire-hydrant-or-on-the-lakefront, hanging-in-the-street kind of thing. Public space, man. It's what living in the city's all about.

Summertime. From our booming system to yours...Now, y'all go get brown in the sunshine.