From summer blockbusters to beach reads, the hot months of June through August can transform almost anything they touch. Hip-hop is no exception. Summer is  the only season with its own soundtrack competition (who has ever heard of a song of the spring?) and the competition for the signature song remains fierce as ever. This year, everyone from DJ Khaled to Lil Nas X have already thrown their hats into the ring. But no one can predict who will gain the sought-after position until after it happens—when you know, you know.

Like the season itself, summer anthems encapsulate the promise of youth, summer flings and fun for the sake of it. They give reason to celebrate the heat with shiny, earworm hooks and feel-good lyrics tailor-made for cookouts and driving with the windows down.

It’s impossible to imagine where we’d be without them. What would 2004 have been without "Lean Back" becoming an ironic addition to dance-floor playlists? How would you remember 2009 without "Pursuit Of Happiness" playing at nearly every commencement ceremony and prom party across the country? How would hip-hop look today if "Bodak Yellow" hadn’t blared at maximum volume from every second car inching along the sticky July pavement in 2017?

At their best, summer anthems can jumpstart careers while defining the season for a generation of listeners. Once the heat fades and the leaves turn orange, their melodies become timestamps for memories of the hottest months of the hear.  XXL takes a look back at the biggest summer songs of this century. All you need to do is listen to be transported back through the years. Nostalgia is a powerful drug. —Claudia McNeilly

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