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R&B/Hip-Hop Songs of the Summer Picks: Maxwell, DJ Khaled & Drake

Who'll score R&B/hip-hop's biggest hits in summer '16? Programmers make their picks.

Billboard has already handicapped what might be the biggest smashes this summer, with safe bets pointing to, among others, hits by Drake, Justin Timberlake and Calvin Harris and Rihanna.

Plus, the annual Songs of the Summer chart has returned, ranking the top songs all season long based on cumulative performance on the Billboard Hot 100.

But, those songs tend to represent the biggest hits among mainstream pop audiences. What about other genres?

Yesterday, country radio decision-makers weighed in with what might be the biggest country hits from now through Labor Day. Today, programmers in R&B/hip-hop and rhythmic radio pick what might rule their format in summer ’16.

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Pio Ferro, program director, WQHT (Hot 97) New York
“For me, it’s a Drake/Rihanna summer. ‘One Dance’ seems unstoppable and is crossing over – there’s even a Spanish version.  Also: ‘Controlla’ from Drake and ‘Needed Me’ and ‘Sex With Me’ from Rihanna.

“I’m also loving the vibe from Kent Jones’ ‘Don’t Mind,’ Charly Black’s ‘Gyal, You a Party Animal’ and Tory Lanez’ new Tanto Metro and Devonte-inspired ‘Luv.'”

Dion Summers, PD & Jackie Ross, assistant PD, SiriusXM The Heat/Hip-Hop Party
“For Free,” DJ Khaled feat. Drake. “The beat. Drake’s flow. Everything about it is infectious! Khaled’s got ‘another one’ here.”

“Sorry,” Beyonce. “Every girl has her middle finger up when this song comes on.”

“Controlla,” Drake. “You can’t go wrong with a dancehall-inspired record in the summer. Can’t help but dance, either!”

“Don’t Mind,” Kent Jones. “It may take you a while to figure out what language he is speaking, but it definitely won’t stop anyone from singing along.”

“All the Way Up,” Fat Joe, Rema Ma & Jay Z feat. French Montana & Infrared. “This is ‘Lean Back’ 2.0. Must we say more?”

Joe Dodd, associate manager programming/PD urban formats, Music Choice
“Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1,” Kanye West. “This was the one song that every Kanye fan gravitated toward off The Life of Pablo. Before it was being played nationwide, you could not walk two blocks in NYC without hearing it.”

“Nothing Is Promised,” Mike WiLL Made-It x Rihanna. “Rihanna’s cadence fits perfectly with Mike WiLL’s instrumentation. The song serves as a warning that makes your head nod and reminds you not to take things for granted.”

“Look Alive,” Rae Sremmurd. “The duo does it again with another record that makes everyone turn up.”

Dylan Sprague, senior vp programming, Boston region, iHeartMedia
“For Free,” DJ Khaled feat. Drake. “Massive response when it dropped.  Khaled promised the summer anthem and delivered.”

“My PYT,” Wale. “The song sounded familiar on first listen. Already hearing this one playing loud at summer spots.”

“Panda,” Desiigner. “With airplay on pop stations, too, this one won’t go away.”

Summer Songs 1985-2015: The Top 10 Tunes of Each Summer

Bill Black, operations manager, Radio One Cleveland
“For Free,” DJ Khaled feat. Drake. “It just feels like summertime … by the pool … ladies dancing …”

“Say Sum,” Migos. “This has the potential to be a No. 1 song this summer.”

“Look Alive,” Rae Sremmurd. “It just feels like top down, riding through the city. Plus, the message is kind of cool.”

“That Part,” ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West. “Summertime party-starter.”

Skip Dillard, OM, adult R&B WBLS, New York
“One Dance,” Drake feat. Kyla & WizKid. “Hard to leave that one out of any summer playlist!”

“In Common,” Alicia Keys. “Like ‘One Dance,’ its Afrobeat style and free-spirited lyrics make for a winner.”

“Lake by the Ocean,” Maxwell. “Perfect return for Maxwell, with this song from BlackSUMMERS’night, the second release in his trilogy.”

Raphael George, assistant PD, adult R&B WNBM, New York
“Too Good,” by Drake feat. Rihanna. “Very melodic, almost hypnotic. Another great collabo for them.”

Country Songs of the Summer Picks: Cassadee Pope, Thomas Rhett & Maren Morris

Al Payne, director urban programming, Alpha Media Louisville, Ky.
For mainstream R&B/hip-hop WGZB:
“Controlla,” Drake. “During months 6-7-8, R&B/hip-hop radio will be dominated by the man from the 6.”

“Sorry,” Beyonce. “Lemonade will continue to keep us cool. Other songs from the project might be even bigger, like ‘Hold Up’ and ‘6 Inch,’ featuring The Weeknd.”

“Don’t Mind,” Kent Jones. “Hook that sticks in your mind all day and an overall feel-good song. This one had a slow rise, but it’s here to stay.”

And, for adult R&B WMJM:
“Lake by the Ocean,” Maxwell. “No-brainer. He’s back, and he’s bad.”

“Permission,” Ro James. “Sexy song. Calls and active social media each time it plays: ‘Who is that?'”

“In Common,” Alicia Keys. “Great to have new music from her.”

Traci LaTrelle, music director, adult R&B WHUR, Washington, D.C.
“Lake by the Ocean,” Maxwell

“Waiting On You,” Tyrese

“One Dance,” Drake feat. Kyla & WizKid

“Struggle Love,” Jaheim

“Dammn Baby” (Cafe Mix), Janet Jackson

And … “Bubbling under: Maxwell’s ‘1990x.’ It’s ‘grown-folks music!'”

Part 2 of 3. Tomorrow: Rock Songs of the Summer Picks: Bishop, Beck & More