Looking to freshen up your faithful ol’ holiday playlist with a little hip-hop? Well nix thoughts of falling back on that foul-mouthed Christmas On Death Row album — rappers were penning joyful and funked-up holiday ditties long before Snoop and Dre and Suge decided to congregate around the metaphorical fireplace. Here’s a run-through of a bunch of fine old-school and golden-era hip-hop tracks that pay homage to the holiday season with a festive swagger. (Disclaimer: We’ve skipped over Run-DMC’s “Christmas In Hollis” and Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin'” as they’re pretty much on any holiday playlist these days anyway.)
9. Audio Two, “A Christmas Rhyme”
The Audio Two’s Chrimbo ode isn’t exactly a joyful tale, as the men behind the “Top Billin'” anthem talk about the trials of a penniless holiday season and a sick Santa. Seasonal salvation comes when Milk Dee steps up as a holiday hero though, as he takes on delivery duties and disperses gifts including Adidas goods along a route that focusses on Bed-Stuy. Bonus off-key trilling also ensues throughout the ditty.
8. Sweet Tee, “Let The Jingle Bells Rock”
Consider Sweet Tee’s holiday outing as nothing more than a touching Christmas poem: “Snow on my window pane, eating candy canes/ Christmas is here, I feel it in my veins/ Celebrate, the 25th is the date/ It’s time for love, it’s not too late/ Sit by the tree, shining bright/ Listen to the carols on the radio, all night.” Also goes on to include an all-important reference to chestnuts being roasted.
7. The Treacherous Three and Doug E Fresh, “Santa’s Rap”
Hailing from the Beat Street flick, “Santa’s Rap” is a genuine old-school holiday staple. In a pre-Festivus nod, the tree is disparaged as looking like “nothing but a decorated pole to me.” Spoiler: As an unexpected twist, Doug E Fresh saves Christmas with his beat-boxing skills.
6. Dana Dane, “Dana Dane Is Coming To Town”
Here Slick Rick’s story-telling pal teams up with Salt-N-Pepa producer Hurby Luv Bug to weave a jolly seasonal yarn. The obligatory interpolation of a classic this time pulls from “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” while a pair of Bally shoes somehow help Dana pull off a successful Christmas.
5. Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane, “XXX-Mas Freestyle”
Not up on the back story about how XXX-Mas was birthed? Allow Juice Crew revellers Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie to kick a tale that involves Santa ditching his customary gift giving in favor of shopping for hookers down on the ave. “Fuck the children, I don’t care anyway/ If they can wait 12 months they can wait one more day,” he muses, before celebrating the season to get laid.
4. Cut Master DC, “Santa’s Beat Box”
Brooklynite Cut Master DC’s offering to the Christmas canon is a funked-up workout that’s heavy on the festive bells. The instrumental take should also be a seasonal playlist staple.
3. Derek B, “Chillin’ With Santa”
British-born Derek B notched a hip-hop holiday favorite with his 1987 contribution to the Christmas Rap project. The track also includes the vital edutainment factoid, “A celebration of the time when Jesus was born/ December 25, he’s a Capricorn.”
2. Busy Boys, “Funky Fresh Christmas”
For all those dreaming of a funky fresh Christmas, allow the Busy Boys to satiate your needs. Stepping into the festive spirt, Santa is cast as “my right-hand man,” while a familial roll call gives the track a warming ending.
1. Juice Crew All-Stars, “Cold Chillin’ Christmas”
Assembling for perhaps the greatest holiday banger of them all, the fabled Juice Crew rappers step up and take turns to kick frosty raps over a Marley Marl production. Not totally getting into the sharing spirit of the occasion, Roxanne Shante says that all she wants for Christmas is a a BMW, a Jaguar or a Benz — though she’s not picky.