Summer Fun: Jean Grae on the San Marcos River

Femcee summer floats of days gone by

Summer Fun: Jean Grae on the San Marcos River

None of my friends like floating the San Marcos River. Objectively, I get it. It’s a short float, a half hour to 45 minutes, with little to no turbulence, and a whole lot of prickly river weeds guaranteed to wrap around the ankles of unsuspecting swimmers.

And yet spending a year living in San Marcos gave me a fierce and unapologetic bias for this river over the Guadalupe or Comal. The water is bracing, just as I like it, and the float, while mild, remains short enough that I can swim half the way without getting wiped out. Twenty minutes down, there’s a swimming hole with a jangly rope swing, and turtles snap from exposed tree roots on the muddy banks.

San Marcos offers paradise in the summer, especially if it’s had a rainy spring. The summer before I started high school, I was in and out of the water so many times I nearly grew gills. When I wasn’t begging any adult in the vicinity for a trip to my favorite place, Sewell Park, I was feeding my new obsession with female MCs.

I went to Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium on University Drive with burning questions about women in hip-hop. The guy with amazing dreadlocks at the counter nodded and pulled out a scrap of paper. Over the counter, I watched as he methodically listed out the acts I should look into.

Salt N Pepa, I knew, but I wanted something more raw. More real. Scanning the names, I became acquainted with the queens of Nineties rap: Lil Kim, Rah Digga, Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah. Finally there was New Yorker and Talib Kweli affiliate Jean Grae.

Kicking off an eight-year love affair, that whole summer I listened to Jeanius, Grae’s fifth solo release. Filled with sturdy beats and wicked flow, the album later disappeared from iTunes because of rabid pirating. “Don’t Rush Me” became the anthem of an Austin native who knew Joe Ely, Patsy Cline, Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears, and not much hip-hop.

“I yell too much, get stressed too quick, but the best thing about it, I can change that shit.”

Like the San Marcos River, my favorite rapper remains woefully underappreciated in my circle of friends. (I know what you’re thinking: I should get new friends.) But it all sticks with me. Toeing the ledge at Sewell Park as I learned to dive. Yelling Jeanius out my bedroom window during the dog days of summer. Loading up my first iPod shuffle with “Love Song” and “The Time is Now.”

Since 2008, the South African rapper has retired, returned, lectured the Huffington Post about the word “femcee,” released two more LPs, and starred in a wacky webcom Life with Jeannie. I grew up, moved back to Austin, and stayed thirsty for more women in hip-hop. In a genre where my gender is expected to deliver material raunchier than the men, I appreciate the foundation of no-apology, introspective lyrics.

Eight school cycles later, summer approaches. I’ll never forget that idyllic year of pure hip-hop and tenacious currents. I’m ready for some tubing.


Read more Summer Fun stories (and check out the last few years of fun) at austinchronicle.com/summer-fun as we slather on the SPF and lead up to the release of our special annual issue celebrating Austin's sunniest season. The Austin Chronicle’s 2014 Summer Fun Issue hits the stands Thursday, May 16.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Jean Grae
Weird City Hip-Hop Live Shot: Phranchyze, Jean Grae, Homeboy Sandman
Weird City Hip-Hop Live Shot: Phranchyze, Jean Grae, Homeboy Sandman
First-year fest sends home its vets with noodles for brains

Nina Hernandez, Sept. 28, 2014

Weird City Hip-Hop Festival: Jean Grae
Weird City Hip-Hop Festival: Jean Grae
Call her a femcee and risk ‘Fight Club’

Nina Hernandez, Sept. 26, 2014

More Summer Fun 2014
Summer Fun: Last Call for <i>Surf Texas</i>
Summer Fun: Last Call for Surf Texas
Autumn's a few weeks away; it's not too late to catch some last Summer Fun

Nina Hernandez, Sept. 3, 2014

Summer Fun: A [Revised] Guide to Floating the River
Summer Fun: A [Revised] Guide to Floating the River
Lessons learned during a Texas summer staple

Adrienne Whitehorse, May 21, 2014

More by Nina Hernandez
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Taking to the skies with iFly's latest immersive VR

March 27, 2019

New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
Puzzling over a variance on Avenue D, and spending the first of the 2018 bond funds

March 15, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Jean Grae, Summer Fun 2014, Summer Fun, San Marcos River, Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium, Salt N Pepa, Lil Kim, Rah Digga, Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah, Talib Kweli

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle