#MusicSermon’s Cookout Essentials


It’s that time: After what feels like years of back and forth, we’re cautiously, but optimistically and longingly looking towards Summer! 🍗🍔🥃

We have officially reached the season of fellowship and breaking bread, again. Turning water into wine and feeding your entire neighborhood with loaves and (fried) fishes.

Wayyyy back in the “before”, #MusicSermon examined the sonic components of a proper soundtrack for said fellowships: The Cookout Essentials. We added a second volume the following year, and finally have a third installment in the series. But first … let’s review:

To keep order (because this could easily be a fight-inciting conversation), we’ll lay out some rules:

1. For the purposes of this discussion, the cookout is intergenerational (and in this house, we’re of the mind that “cookout is an event, BBQ is a sauce.”)

2. By #MusicSermon standards, the requirements of Cookout Music include:

  • Suitable for dancing (including 2-stepping, as to prevent drink spillage), shit talking & game playing.
  • Includes at least one selection from each Staple Cookout Artist/Genre (we’ll get into that)
  • Follows the parameters of the Cookout Time Lapse (we’ll get into that)

3. Even with all these rules, it’s somewhat subjective (obviously) and influenced by region. It’s inevitable that I’ll leave out something that someone thinks should have been included.

Before we get into the details, please stand (or just wave your hands in the air) for #MusicSermon’s official Summer Hymn, and one of the videos that best depicts the kind of Black cookout for which these playlists set the stage. This song is undefeated, henceforth and forever more. Amen.

First, we need to talk about KEY COOKOUT ARTISTS. The playlist isn’t complete without them, but you can chose damn near any song of theirs and you’re good.

First up: You gotta have something from The Commodores’ funk era (and shout out to my actual, real life Uncle David on drums in this clip).

The Commodores, Brick House

And while we’re in the funk, you gotta have some Gap Band. (Modern day Charlie Wilson features can be considered on a case by case basis if, and only if, there’s no one over the age of 50 in attendance.)

The Gap Band “Outstanding”

You must have either James Brown, the JBs, or Bobby Byrd. I actually think “Doin’ it to Death” is a requirement for the “You Don’t Know Nuthin’ Bout This Here” set (and we’ll talk more about them). Soul Train line optional, but encouraged.

Fred Wesley and The JB’s Doin’ It To Death, Soul Train

There has to be some O’Jays, or an alternate Philadelphia International representative.

I’m including “I Love Music” here, but my personal preference is “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby”, because it’s such a fantastic red cup/ two step jam.

There are some other funk inclusions that may vary based on where you/your family are located and how ya’ll roll:

The original “Summer Madness” (Kool and ‘nem) is perfect background early in the afternoon while your uncles start telling lies…I mean stories.

There’s probably gonna be some of the mighty elements: Earth, Wind and Fire. I skip “September” because overplay by the general population has ruined it for me, so we’re gonna go in another direction. EWF also gives you tempo options, so you can pick accordingly for time of day. This selection used to be “Let’s Groove,” but as I was updating some broken links, my mood changed.

You gotta have some Chaka. Maybe it’s Rufus-era Chaka for right when the liquor starts hitting, maybe it’s “Sweet Thing” for the Sundown segment (we’ll get into that), maybe it’s it’s “Ain’t Nobody”….

At my house it’s “I Know You, I Live You”

Stevie is another Key Cookout Artist. You gotta have a couple of Stevie joints. An average of one for every three event hours.

And of course there has to be some Michael Jackson. But which MJ songs may vary. For cookouts specifically I’m partial to Off the Wall cuts.

…and I’ve already told ya’ll how we love “Baby Be Mine” at any kind of gathering, especially if alcohol is involved, ‘round these parts (“these parts” meaning NYC & the tri-state area).

(I should point out here that yes, there will be some overlap with Your Parents’ Party Music…because jams.)

Then there are the “You Don’t Know Nuthin’ Bout This Here” jams. They start hitting about three, four hours in when folks are on their third cup and second spades game. For your parents and ‘nem, these can be funk, boogie, soul…anything that takes them back to their heyday.

You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This songs be having your parents telling you stories you don’t really wanna hear bout some memory involving the song in question.

When there are still little kids in the family, the You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This jams usually come out as part of the Sundown set, or the After Dark set, because grownups start cussin’ heavily when these go into rotation.

You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This jams are often interchangeable with THIS IS MY SONNNNG jams.

The latter — a fave of aunties everywhere — requires lifting your cup up to the sky in celebration as you begin to two step. This is my personal pocket.

Often found in the You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This set:

Classic sample sources…

We covered a bunch of these in the Disco and Boogie sermon. So many of them are sonically timeless (which is why they made outstanding sample material).

You can almost tell how many parties someone’s parents threw when they were growing up by how many samples they knew before you were old enough to explore music on your own.

And if your parents were heavy on the club & dance party scene back in the day, the You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout That segment is when they start getting it in (for my mom and her friends, this is basically the entire event).

I felt like I had graduated/gone through some rites of passage when I’d adopted these as my jams, also.

Speaking of dancing…

Ya’ll know what time it is once everybody had their first plate and the food is settled. Let’s get into it.

I’m going to also post the studio version, because that live one had Frankie riffin’ for like two minutes.

For god so loved the world that he gave us line dances, that we would be glad at every gathering of more than ten black people in one place at a time if there was music, forever and ever, amen.

And we can’t stop at just the Wobble.

I’m gonna skip the Cha Cha slide because the video is for a remix, and no. But let’s get another electric slide in with the millennial’s adopted slide jam (thanks to the movie The Best Man)

“Candy” ushers us into another segment: Auntie jams… (which also fall under THIS IS MY SONNNNNNG jams)


If you’re in New York and this Auntie Jam didn’t get played, the function wasn’t legit.

I’ve shard with the congregation several times that this Strictly Business joint is my personal favorite Uptown/Auntie/Two Step/everything anthem. Somebody played this while I was in Curacao for a wedding, and I acted like I was on 141st street.

Auntie (and Uncle) jams mean Gen Xers and Xennials now, so our late 80s/early 90s faves go right on in here.

We often have to show the 20-somethings that 40-something ain’t as old as they think.

We can literally be doing anything, but when that beat drops and them horns come in, you got your butt out.

There are a couple of early 90s joints that have been universally claimed as party and cookout jams transcending age, race and creed. But they’re highly divisive, so lemme get them out of the way.

The first is one of my mama’s faves, and people either think it’s the best song ever made, or the worst song ever in history.

The second one I can personally do without, but I know it’s still on enough people’s lists for me to include it. (It would be “Get it on Tonight” on my list.)

There are some damn near brand new joints (comparatively speaking), that the boomer set has claimed as their own, because they remind them so much of their tried and trusted classics. You know good n’ hell well they ain’t listened to the lyrics of “Blurred Lines”. They gon’ dance, though.

I’ll save the other new/old song for a little later, but we can’t rock “Blurred Lines” without the inspiration behind the song (which is usually part of the You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This set).

Now, if we (the junior elder and younger generations) are hosting the festivities, we got a couple of classic jams of our own we gotta include once the elders are too far gone in the cups to really be paying attention.

We gotta pull the ratchet out for at least two good songs before we go back to regularly scheduled programming.

We can also throw the songs with familiar samples in the mix with no issues.

Even your family members that ain’t never liked hip hop still be noddin’ their heads to the right joints while they’re on the card table.

At some point, you and your cousins gotta have a dance-off.

Obviously the New Era Aunties have to get some love.

Hell, Mary might show up a few times. You gotta have classic Mary…

…and your auntie who finally kicked your triflin’ ass uncle out the house and is ignoring him while he’s sitting right there at the cookout with her new haircut and fly nails’ favorite Mary cut (she knows a line dance to this song, too).

Then, the hour starts getting late. The little kids go in the house and the older kids go do whatever older kids do once they’ve spent the required amount of time with the family and are free to leave, and you get to the Sundown Set. Straight two-step jams.

This is when the good stories come out. You’ll learn some sh*t if you hang around for this part, because they either forget you’re there or just don’t care. However, you might ending up hearing some things that make you clutch your pearls a couple times.

During the Sundown Set, everybody is probably still more buzzed than straight drunk, except for a couple of folks. Cigars are out. There’s still a few games in play.

But there’s a line between Sundown and After Dark, and you gotta be in tune for when that line is crossed…

…it’s usually right about the time somebody plays anything by the Isleys.

If you get all the way to Al Green, EVERYBODY IS DRUNK.

And you’re moving into dangerous territory.

If you get to anything from our Juke Joint list, a fight breaking out is imminent.

And shout out for the more modern cookout/ red cup/ two step jams; the songs that’ll have folks saying You Don’t Know Nuthin Bout This in 20+ years. There are a few:

  1. (Which is aging rapidly, if we’re keeping it a buck)

2. Bruno has been reigning as the me-and-you, your-mama-and-your-cousin-too-jam, the one your auntie, your grandma, everybody getting it in to champ for a minute now…

Hate him or not (and if you hate him, I’m judging), ya’ll already know…

…but damn if that boy don’t know how to capture the essence…


And now, having run through the essential components, may these all-purpose Summer function playlists enhance good times, good drinks, good stories, and good food. There are later-night supplemental lists that I suggest you use with caution (I’m not responsible for nobody catching pregnant. OR nobody getting caught up).

Save me a plate!!

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