There was a collective yearning for freedom that accompanied each approaching summer of my childhood. When it finally did arrive, we headed for our bikes (and eventually our cars), navigating green grass, dirt roads, and concrete streets until we landed under the shade of Texas-size trees. Sometimes, we ended up on long stretches of highway, driving through this state’s sprawling cities, road-tripping to the beach, to the country, or to the next metropolis. We congregated in parks, backyards, ranches, fields, and, of course, parking lots. No matter where we landed, we reached out our hands, hoping that they would be met with cold beverages, hearty plates of food, friends, family, willing dance partners, and potential lovers. Cruise this season to a few tunes by Texas-bred artists.
Song: “Captive of the Sun” (featuring Bun B)
Artist: Parquet Courts
Hometown: Beaumont, Denton, Port Arthur
Who could have imagined Bun B rapping on a punk rock track? And each passing summer, the title of this song gets more and more relevant; its genesis was a Nardwuar interview where the Canadian journalist gifted the Texas punk band an autographed copy of Bun B’s debut solo album, Trill, on vinyl.
Song: “Satisfy My Mind”
Artist: Aaron Stephens
Start your day with this light, soft tribute to the lover who satisfies your mind as much as your body. When he writes like this, Aaron Stephens hovers between Bill Withers and John Mayer with ease.
Song: “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long”
Artist: Erykah Badu
Paul McCartney was at his most Yacht Rock when he made “Arrow Through Me,” but Badu took it to 11 when she sampled the song on her fifth studio album, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh).
Song: “Slick” featuring Ladybug Mecca
Artist: The Hue
When the Hue released “Slick,” a tribute to the Grammy-winning trio Digable Planets, they got the blessing of Digable’s own Ladybug Mecca on the intro.
Song: “H-Town Kinda Day”
The silky smooth beat on “H-Town Kinda Day” could only come courtesy of Houston’s most melodic producers: Beanz N Kornbread. This playlist just wouldn’t be right without a beat from them.
Song: “Relax” (featuring Slim Thug)
Hiram Clarke’s Lenora has the perfect voice for this 1970s smooth beat, and a guest verse from a legend like Slim Thug doesn’t hurt, either.
Song: “Choppin Blades”
Hometown: Port Arthur
As you hit the highway and roll your windows up, let UGK’s country rap hat-tip to the Bay Area’s own E-40 be the wind in your sails, and let the highway be your ocean of funk.
Song: “Savage” (remix) featuring Beyoncé
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
It was only a matter of time before Megan Thee Stallion landed on Queen Bey’s radar. This iconic collaboration led to three Grammys for Megan and also made Beyoncé the most awarded singer in Grammy history.
Song: “Money in My Pocket”
Artist: Jiffy Rockets
The synths on “Money in My Pocket” are so reminiscent of Pharrell’s remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebaum,” we can’t help but think that Skateboard P will be proud when he hears this one. Let Jiffy Rockets help you manifest an abundant summer.
Song: “Bangin’ Screw”
Artist: Paul Wall
Few songs in Paul Wall’s catalog capture the euphoria of driving across town with your windows down like “Bangin’ Screw.”
Song: “I Gotsta Get Paid”
Artist: ZZ Top
While ZZ Top’s main studio was being remodeled in the late 1990s, they wound up off Chimney Rock, where DJ DMD was working on a future Texas classic called “25 Lighters,” a song that would remain stuck in lead singer Billy Gibbons’s head until the band got together to record its 2012 album La Futura. The rest is Texas history.
Song: “Texas Cookin’”
Artist: Guy Clark
This track is a timeless country ode to Texas cookouts from Guy Clark, who spent most of the 1960s playing in Houston’s folk revival scene before relocating to Nashville, where he walked the line between Americana and outlaw country. Over the years, many of his songs became country hits when they were covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, John Denver, and Kenny Chesney.
Song: “Texas Sun”
Artist: Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
Hometown: Houston & Fort Worth
In a little over four minutes, this song uses elements of flamenco, soul, blues, zydeco, outlaw country, and R&B as its palette and paints a picture of a daylong drive across the vast expanses of the Lone Star State.
Song: “The Governor”
Artist: Gary Clark Jr.
There’s nothing like some stripped-down country blues on a summer day, and no one does it better than Gary Clark Jr. This song was the visual B-side of the music video for his multi-Grammy-winning hit “This Land.”
Song: “Neon Moon”
Artist: Kacey Musgraves
When the sun goes down on our side of town, this song comes up in our queue, and so begins the evening side of our playlist. Much like ZZ Top’s version of “25 Lighters,” we love this psychedelic and introspective cover of the Brooks & Dunn original because Kacey made it her own.
Song: “My Mind Went Blank”
Artist: Point Blank and DJ Screw
When Aaliyah decided to cover the timeless Isley Brothers song “At Your Best (You Are Love),” there’s no way she could have known that the guitar, when slowed down, would sound just like a hot night in Texas. This choice parking-lot cut from Point Blank (of the South Park Coalition), brought to a crawl by DJ Screw, just oozes summer.
Song: “Origami Dreams”
Artist: Christelle Bofale
Hometown: Austin via San Antonio
Christelle Bofale’s music soundtracks any Texas night ride, as if the wheels of your car are making such an effort to keep up with the drums and guitar that they become an instrument themselves. Whether you’re driving across town or cross-state, cue this one up before you hit the freeway.
Song: “Wanna Be a Baller”
Artists: Lil’ Troy, Fat Pat, Yungstar, Lil’ Will, Big T, and H.A.W.K.
With a sample of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and a hook for the ages absolutely belted by Big T, Lil’ Troy managed to make an all-time classic song without actually contributing a verse to it—perhaps a young DJ Khaled was studying Troy back in the day.
Song: “In the Night”
Artist: Charley Crockett
Hometown: San Benito
Although Charley Crockett grew up loving rap music and plays a nostalgic brand of country sewn together with echoes of the blues and Americana, this song is some straight-up, barnstorming Southern rock.
Song: “El Chico Del Apartamento 512”
Hometown: Corpus Christi
No summer playlist is complete without Selena. This cumbia is about a woman who is crushing hard on the boy next door; when she finally works up the courage to give the door a knock, she’s dispirited to see a woman answering the door, but her hopeful romanticism is renewed when the woman asks, “Are you looking for my brother?”
Song: “Don’t Bother Me”
Artist: The Suffers
After almost two years of being stuck inside, we’ve all been waiting for music to cut loose to—thank goodness for the Suffers.
Song: “Jumpin’, Jumpin’”
Artist: Destiny’s Child
You know what time it is when this song comes on. Literally, it’s 11:30 p.m., and the club is ... well, I don’t have to tell you.
Song: “Lovers in the Parking Lot”
After the club, it’s the parking lot, but what if the parking lot was love’s lost and found? That’s the thesis on one of Solange’s most timeless records. For fun, watch the video to see Mannie Fresh and Bun B partake in what is perhaps the only choreography they’ve done in their careers.