It’s December and that means it’s the most wonderful time of the year everywhere. Even in the ghetto. Christmas doesn’t discriminate, but for a long time, Xmas music did. Since the first carol in the days of Scrooge, to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, the music of the season was all about jingling bells and the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah, yeah that Christmas crap is great and what not, but let’s keep it real– Christmas for us growing up was at least 70% about the gifting and the days off from school, right (or was that just me?)? Thanks goodness for hip-hop, because as soon as the genre emerged in the 80s, it set out to provide it’s own interpretation of musical holiday cheer!
Hip hop legend Kurtis Blow was one of the first rappers to pioneer the Christmas jam with his 1979 single “Christmas Rapping”, which went on to sell over 400,000 copies. The feel-good party jam was the first rap song to see a major label (Mercury) release, and saw Kurtis boast ” Now I’m the guy named Kurtis Blow and Christmas is one thing I know/ So every year, just about this time/ I celebrate it with a rhyme”. Still memorable to this day are the presents he spits about: “And a grownups got some presents too/ A new TV and a stereo”… personally, I’m still hoping those are under the tree this year. Ok, maybe not a stereo, but definitely a HD flat screen, and an iPod to boot…
When Run DMC came into the picture, the hood finally had a holiday anthem! 1987’s classic “Christmas in Hollis”, which appeared on the compilation album A Very Special Christmas, quickly became a holiday and hip-hop standard. The song was a street-worthy re-imagining of traditional Christmas themes like Santa Claus, the holiday meal, and gifting. Produced by Rick Rubin, the hit was so popular that it reached #78 on the Billboard Top #100 chart in 2000, a whole 13 years after it was released! Talk about a damn holiday miracle!!
After Run DMC paved the way, the late 80s and early 90s gave way to a slew of X-Mas hood-proof holiday songs. Some, like De La Soul’s “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”, weren’t even wintertime exclusives. Released on their second album, 1991’s De La Soul is Dead, the song didn’t quite spread the holiday cheer– “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” tells the story of a girl whose is molested by her department store Santa father. Not the most festive of songs, it was a hip-hop treatment of the holiday that by this time was largely about promoting a status quo materialism in American culture. Similarly, Cypress Hill’s “The Night Before Christmas” used the holidays standard to tell the story of some of the harsher realities that the lower class struggled with, including drug use and prostitution.
As gangster rap exposed a larger segment of mainstream America to the inner workings of the hood in the 90s, no one cashed in on a Hood Christmas better than The Dogg Father, Snoop Dogg. With Death Row Records in his corner, Snoop guested on the memorable compilation album Christmas on Death Row. Featured on Death Row’s ode to the jolly man in the red suit “Santa Clause Goes Straight to the Ghetto”, Snoop brought his laid back delivery to the holiday season. The song, which sampled Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing”, came complete with a dope video that replaced a sled with a low rider I’d be happy to go straight to the ghetto in! In the years since then, Snoop has released many Xmas tracks and mixtapes, including A DPG Christmas with DJ Whoo Kid. Snoop has also become the Christmas Hood ambassador to the Late Night Talk Show Community, reading his version of many a Christmas tales on shows like The Jimmy Fallon Show.
It wasn’t all about the dudes bringing you a Hood Christmas though– best believe the ladies had some things to say too! The ladies with the most-est Salt n Peppa put their own spin on Christ’s Born Day with their standout guest verse on the hip-hop supercollabo track “Santa Baby”. The ladies hooked up with the likes of Run DMC, Mase, Diddy, Onyx, and Keith Murray and kept it positive, noting “We need some jobs in the ghetto/ Too much gangbanging where kids are playing”. But maybe the best (ok, I admit, guilty pleasure!) ladies contribution to Xmas in the hood was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”. Admittedly, this song isn’t quite hip-hop, hood, or anything short of tame, but we all know that since it’s release in 1994, MiMi has built some hood cred by dueting with everyone from Camron to Gucci Mane. The broad’s got a ghetto pass, and you best believe “All I Want for Christmas” plays in more than one household during the holidays in the hood.
Whether you’re celebrating the holidays in the hood, in the burbs, or (if you’re lucky) in someplace fabulous like Aruba, the important part is to enjoy it with the ones you love– and a little bit of Snoop or Run DMC! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us here at the M.I.S.S Crew!
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