Hip Hop Christmas Songs
Hip hop and Christmas music aren't necessarily two things you'd put together but then this is a relatively new genre of music and time is on its side for producing classic yuletide songs. Christmas hip hop songs spectacularly came into being courtesy of Run DMC's 1987 tune 'Christmas In Hollis' for the charity album ‘A Very Special Christmas’ which sampled Clarence Carter’s equally bombastic 'Back Door Santa'. What emerged was one of the greatest hip hop Christmas songs, as much for its liberal nods to festive standards like ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Frosty The Snowman’ and ‘Joy To The World’ as its clever storyline of Santa’s stuffed yet ultimately lost wallet. ‘Christmas In Hollis’d legend was further enhanced when it was used on the original ‘Die Hard’ movie soundtrack which was, appropriately enough, set at Christmas time. The icing of course was applied when Sweet Tee’s ‘Let The Jingle Bells Rock’ was added as a b-side to ‘Christmas In Hollis’s inevitable release as a single.
Beating Run DMC’s epic by almost a decade was the decidedly innovating, and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ sampling, ‘Christmas Rappin’ by Kurtis Blow. With Blow’s effortless patter Christmas rap was put on the map. So why do we put Run-D.M.C. in (north) pole position, well because nothing compares to its insane genius. And anyone planning a hip hop Christmas can expect plenty of loopy times with the likes of Eazy E’s ‘Merry Motherfucking' Xmas’ on the turntable. Running the gauntlet of ‘Jingle Bells’ this 1988 beast is certainly something for when the kids go to bed but for all the profanity on show it is a jolly old ride all the same.
Another one of the earliest Christmas rap songs to cause ripples was recorded by LL Cool J in 1985. ‘Rock The Bells’ was a stripped back affair compared to its modern equivalent but it showcased a rapper with the attitude and voice to be an inspiration for millions. For something a little more mainstream there is TLC’s ‘Sleigh Ride’ which featured on the second ‘Home Alone’ soundtrack, a movie that is synonymous with the season. This much praised girl group take an old favourite, give it a complete makeover and in the process presented hip hop Christmas music with a tune that can be lapped up by all the family. It makes a change for Santa too who more often than not ends up in the ghetto rather than in his sleigh courtesy of hip hop's pioneers.
If you are looking for a snapshot (1987 and backwards) of Christmas past then ‘Christmas Rap’ may well be the greatest collection of rap Christmas songs ever assembled. It includes the Sweet Tee and Run DMC classics we've mentioned already but there are also other tracks from the likes of Derek B (‘Chillin’ With Santa’) and Surf M.C.’s (‘A Surf M.C. New Year’) that make it indispensable for the holidays.
It may have struck you by now that the best hip hop Christmas songs are those that come from a distant yesteryear and that’s not just because the most high profile contemporary MC’s raid past glories (Jim Jones’ ‘Ballin’ On Xmas’ shamelessly rips ‘Christmas In Hollis’ for one) but there is also seems to be a dearth of new hip hop Christmas songs of late. Kanye West, as is his mission it seems, turns this tradition on its head with his epic ‘Christmas In Harlem’ from 2010. With an impressive role call of contributors that included the aforementioned Jim Jones and Teyana Taylor this was as close as hip hop Christmas songs have gotten to creeping onto ‘The Best Christmas Album In The World….Ever’. The fact that West gave it away as a free download perhaps enshrined its status as a gift to all of his people, even the poor ones.