Sure, Michael Bublé and Justin Bieber are the current Christmas crown holders , but what if your yuletide tastes require a harder edge? While rappers aren’t exactly known for spreading holiday cheer, hip-hop has given fans plenty of rap carols. Run-D.M.C.’s 1987 classic “Christmas in Hollis” may be the most-popular, but new-schoolers like Ludacris and Kanye West have kept rap’s Xmas tradition alive.
If you’ve grown tired of listening to Nat King Cole’s 1946 “The Christmas Song” or even Mariah Carey’s more recent 1994 hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” MTV News has compiled a 12-song playlist of rap’s best Christmas-themed hits.
“Christmas in Hollis,” Run-D.M.C.
No doubt the greatest rap carol ever recorded, this 1987 classic found Run and partner-in-rhyme D.M.C. rapping about Christmas in their Hollis, Queens, New York, neighborhood. Who could forget Run spitting about finding Santa’s wallet with $1 million in it? Or D.M.C.’s verse that toasted his mother’s collard-greens-and-mac-and-cheese Christmas dinner?
“Christmas Rappin’,” Kurtis Blow
Run-D.M.C. may have done it best, but Kurtis Blow did it first when he recorded “Christmas Rappin’ ” in 1979. It’s not hard to figure out how Kurtis Blow became rap’s first bankable solo star — he represented something fresh and original. Putting a new twist on the Christmas carol, Blow rapped, “Don’t you give me all that jive about things you wrote before I was alive/ ’Cause this ain’t 1823 or even 1970.” Take that Santa!
“Christmas in Harlem,” Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T, et al
Leave it to Kanye West to present the grandest rap carol with “Christmas in Harlem.” Not only did the song feature the Louis Vuitton Don and his G.O.O.D. Music team, ’Ye also grabbed Dipset MCs Cam’ron, Jim Jones and Vado in addition to Musiq Soulchild, Cyhi da Prynce and Teyana Taylor to join in on the festivities. Produced by Hit-Boy, the six-minute, 32-second track found each of the rappers giving a different take on the holidays. Yeezy, who plays Bad Santa, recounts a December 25 sexual escapade, while Jim Jones goes on a shopping spree. Sounds like a hodgepodge, but in the end it all came together quite nicely.
“Christmas Rap,” the Treacherous 3
Every hip-hop fan should watch the 1984 cult classic “Beat Street” at least once in life. Kudos to those old enough to remember the Treacherous Three’s hilarious “Christmas Rap,” on which the Bronx, New York, MCs collaborated with Doug E. Fresh and dissed Santa for putting bootleg gifts under the tree.
If Ludacris was cast in the 2007 holiday film “Fred Claus,” why wouldn’t he add to the movie’s soundtrack? On “Ludacrismas,” the ATL MC gets busy by rapping lyrics like, “I tell ’em all I want for Christmas is two gold front teeth.” If not for the beat’s persistent sleigh bells, this one could bang all year round.
“Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” Snoop Dogg
Who says gangstas can’t roast chestnuts on an open fire? In the 1990s, Death Row Records made their bones making murderous music, but even the label’s menacing Suge Knight got into the holiday spirit. In 1996 he dropped the amazingly titled Christmas on Death Row. While the album’s cover featured Santa in an electric chair, the actual disc had some more appropriate holiday tunes. Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and the late Nate Dogg collaborated on the funky “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto.” Looks like murder wasn’t always the case.
“Deck da Club,” the Ying Yang Twins
Leave it to the Ying Yang Twins to transform “Deck the Halls” into a crunk club anthem. The highlight is when Kaine and brother D-Roc take the melody from “Jingle Bells” and apply it to the gentlemen’s club, singing, “We gonna keep on spendin’ that dough, just to see her do her thang/ Makin’ her booty roll, but just don’t spill my drank.” Strippers celebrate Christmas too.
“Bad Santa Intro,” Jim Jones featuring Sen and Shoota
No rapper has consistently represented more for St. Nick than Dipset’s Jim Jones. In 2008, Jimmy dropped A Tribute to Bad Santa the second holiday album in his catalog. It was totally street though and included the standout “Bad Santa Intro,” where Capo rhymed about sending commissary to his friends locked in prison and the rising price of snow and poverty in the ’hood.
“Jingle Bellz,” Juelz Santana and Starr
Jim Jones isn’t the only Dipset MC who gets into the holiday spirit. Juelz Santana got cozy with R7B singer Starr on a remixed version of “Jingle Bells” — with a z at the end, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go dashing through the snow in a four-door white Bentley?
“Cold Chillin’ Christmas,” the Juice Crew
In the 1980s, Marley Marl’s Juice Crew was a lyrical juggernaut. Comprised of MC Shan, Roxanne Shanté, Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Craig G and Kool G. Rap, the Juice Crew released some of the rawest raps in their day. They also showed diversity in 1988 by releasing “Cold Chillin’ Christmas.” Definitely worth a listen.
“The Christmas Song,” David Banner
Mississippi MC David Banner has never been one to bite his tongue, and on “The Christmas Song,” he stays true to form. On December 23, 2003, Banner released his second solo album, MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water, and on it was the grim-sounding “Christmas Song.” Don’t let the song title fool you: DB did not spread any holiday cheer. Instead, on the song’s hook, he sings, “It’s wintertime and we still cannot find a job/ We fill out applications but you treat us like we’re slobs/ So we rob and we steal ’cause we’re tryna get a meal.” Santa better watch his back.
“Merry Muthaf—in’ Xmas,” Eazy-E
Now you know Eazy-E couldn’t just do a traditional Christmas carol. The West Coast legend did make a classic, however, when he recorded “Merry Muthaf—in’ Xmas,” a pornographic yet hilarious interpolation of “Jingle Bells.” Trust us, it’s not for the squeamish.
Which is your favorite Christmas hip-hop song? Tell us in the comments!