It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but there’s no doubt that things are looking a little different this time around. Due to the resurgence of Covid rates, we are all attempting to navigate the holidays while trying to keep our loved ones safe, making it difficult to get into the spirit. And trust me, this is coming from a girl who has watched just about every terrible Christmas movie you can find on Netflix. But even that hasn’t quite cut it. My family was already unable to celebrate Thanksgiving because of testing positive for the Coronavirus, so the desire to come together for the festivities is at an all-time high. But there’s still a lingering cloud of anxiety preventing us all from truly letting go, making the holidays feel a bit lonely. But I’m not letting that kill the magic of Christmas. I was that kid who believed in Santa Clause until an embarrassing age. Not only would I put out milk and cookies (the Rugrats frosted Reptar cookies to be exact!), but I would also put out my massive whiteboard like a dork, hoping and praying that Santa would read my note of appreciation and sign his name. He always did, and I never questioned why his handwriting looked exactly like my mom’s. I tracked his sleigh and would get especially excited every time I saw him fly over the Taj Mahal to visit my extended family, knowing that by the morning, he would have made his way to Maryland. So, in the spirit of Christmas and keeping that magic alive, I’ve compiled my favorite stories about Santa Clause as told by some of our favorite rappers.
In my opinion, our first song is one of the most compelling arguments as to why Die Hard is a Christmas movie, as this track is featured in it. Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis” is easily one of the most Hip-Hop Christmas songs you can find, making you feel just as jolly as you do funky. In the most wholesome of tales, Run starts the song by sharing his encounter with good ol’ St. Nick. After meeting an older gentleman in a park on Hollis Ave. (and mistaking his reindeer for a pet dog… happens to the best of us) he discovers that the man left a wallet full of cash. But upon seeing that the wallet belonged to Santa, he admitted that he could never steal from Father Christmas, despite the world of possibilities for all of that money. So as he prepared to mail the wallet back to the North Pole with absolutely no hesitation, he stumbled upon a letter. Turns out, the money was for him, showing that he was on the nice list all along. The rest of the song produces the setting for a Christmas in Hollis, showing how one of Hip-Hop’s greatest rap duos spreads holiday cheer: through family time and festive traditions. It really is one of the best songs to embrace the Christmas spirit.
In a slightly less innocent story, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg team up to tell us just what happens when “Santa Clause Goes Straight to the Ghetto.” Despite the song mentioning a few more drugs and featuring the rappers hanging out with gangstas and thieves, it’s quite endearing to hear them mention celebrating the Lord’s day, feeling compassion for the homeless, and exchanging gifts with their friends. With that being said, those gifts include “a sack of krazy glue,” and “a fifth of Henn-dawg.” Honestly, that sounds more up my speed anyway. Okay, the Krazy glue may be pushing it… What even is that? Are we huffing glue? Am I completely off? Moving on, it’s the second verse that makes the song for me. Bad Azz reminisces on believing in Santa, hoping to find that he visited his house on Christmas Day. It never happened, but that never spoiled the day for him. He was still eternally grateful, understanding that the day was more about family and love than gifts, even though there was obvious disappointment. It puts things into perspective for us when we realize that not every kid had the means to celebrate every aspect of Christmas, and some of us are far more privileged than others. But Christmas is what we make it, and Bad Azz shows that the holiday spirit far triumphs anything else. Tray Deee also shares his experience with Santa, rapping about discovering his mom putting gifts under the tree instead of St. Nick. But rather than reacting negatively, he kept the secret to himself, choosing not to spoil the festivities for others. Growing up, my brother, who is 4 years older, played along with the idea of Santa Clause for me until I finally admitted to myself what may be the truth. But thinking that he believed in the magic made it that much more special for me, and I cherish those memories of putting milk and cookies out with him even if he was just doing it to make me happy.
In The Cold Crew’s “Rappin’ Christmas,” the group also explores what happens when Santa Clause visits poorer neighborhoods. The track tells the tales of Santa’s adventures, first being taken hostage by rodents and critters who place bets on his toys. This sounds like a Christmas in Philly if I’ve ever heard of one. By the second verse, Santa is left with absolutely nothing, explaining that Reaganomics, which was relevant at the time, took all of his belongings and toys from him, leaving him with nothing to spread Christmas cheer. The third verse expands on this further, demonstrating that the current state of the economy couldn’t even take pity on someone like Santa, who simply wanted to use his capital for good. Instead, even he’s left with unemployment and welfare checks that got stolen from him because of the hard times. As a result, Santa had to face the children with nothing but a broken spirit, showing that when people are left to fend for themselves with no assistance, no one is spared.
The Treacherous Three’s “Xmas Rap” explores similar themes in which the idea of Santa isn’t quite as friendly. The group reminisces on growing up without Christmas trees and presents, once again demonstrating that Christmas looks different for everyone. Rather than meeting Santa with adoration, they meet him with aggression as their fight or flight instincts kick in. Their survival intuitions instead tell them to rob Santa, as some of them have memories of evil Santa imposters stealing from them. In the song, Kool Moe Dee plays Santa as the other rappers act as his kids, expressing that he’s also struggling to find free labor to get the gifts made. It’s a trickle-down effect, showing that the issue stems from the top. As a result, the other rappers have given up on believing since they’ve never received the things they’ve asked for, turning their back on Santa. As kids, we always compared how many gifts we had under the tree and if we received everything off our list. But the reality is that our parents spent their hard-earned money on material goods that we would outgrow in a year. And unfortunately, not every parent had the same ability to spend on their children. Although the song is a bit of a downer, it was reality for some of these artists.
Atmosphere’s “If I Was Santa Clause” embodies the giving spirit of the holidays. The song takes on some darker themes at times, but overall, he provides hypotheticals on what he would give his loved ones if he had the endless opportunity to just…give. As someone who shares their love with others through gift-giving, I understand the desire to give whatever you can, no matter how much it surpasses your own capabilities, and I’ve noticed this year how much we have tried to compensate through gifts. Atmosphere repeats the hook, “if I was Santa Clause, I’d fight for the cause. Wouldn’t expect nothing in return, I’d give you everything you want, I’d be everything you need,” showing just how much he’s devoting to this person. When you love others, you simply want to see them happy, and that’s why I love the idea of Santa Clause. There’s no end goal or ulterior motives. It’s simply to spread joy and make others happy.
Gucci Mane’s “St. Brick Intro” is personally a Christmas staple. The song is full of metaphors, using wintry, snowy imagery to describe the drugs Gucci Mane is selling. As a result, it’s only fitting that he takes on the role of Santa Clause in the track, supplying the whole neighborhood with goodies. It may not be the holiest of messages, but it sure is hilarious. After self-proclaiming that he’s the “East Atlanta Santa,” he continues on to his own version of “Jingle Bells,” in which you can only assume that he’s dashing through the snow because of all of the cocaine. If this song can’t get you in the spirit, then you may be a lost cause because “Guwop got gifts to give,” and this is definitely one of them.
In Ghostface Killah’s “Ghostface X-Mas,” he similarly takes on the role of Santa, introducing himself as he speaks to Mrs. Clause. Rather than using code words for drugs, Ghostface is actually just really excited for Christmas, describing the wintry day with the scent of pinecones, the sounds of children singing, the sight of reindeer with glowing noses, and the taste of candy canes, gingerbread, and marshmallows. He reminds us that he’s not just any Santa, but rather one in a “bareskin robe dragon with Versace slippers,” but that’s just about the only modern twist on this holiday song. He describes the things he grew up seeing on Christmas but continues on to say that “Christmas is Christmas from New York to Tennessee,” because some traditions are universal. Overall, the song is full of love and Christmas cheer, explaining the importance of sharing wealth and festivities with those around you. It’s the perfect way to sum up the holiday.
In another family-friendly Christmas track, Rev Run enlists the help of Ma$e, Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, Salt & Pepa, Fredro Starr, Sticky Fingaz, and Keith Murray to each tell their personal stories of Santa Clause on their own version of “Santa Baby.” In his opening verse, Run explains that his encounter with Santa encouraged him to do some giving of his own, “[dropping] some dollars up in Hollis and [going] on [his] way.” We actually hear him pay homage to his track, “Christmas in Hollis” a few times, sharing the festivities with the rest of his beloved community. Puff Daddy’s verse is extremely sweet, painting the picture of us as young children peeking in bags and shaking Christmas presents with excitement as we just can’t wait to see what’s inside. It perfectly captured our young spirits, bringing out the child in everyone on this special day. Despite Snoop Dogg describing Santa as a Blood for wearing red, he also transports us back to the days of putting out cookies and milk and waiting by the fireplace to catch a glimpse of Santa. Unfortunately, his verse ends with the harsh wake-up call that waiting on a large man to slide down the chimney “ain’t reality.” As the verses start to get more morose, the final verse is the most heart-breaking as Keith Murray looks back at the time that he saw his neighborhood Santa buying crack, robbing the rapper of his childhood. As a result, he knew he wouldn’t be getting presents, and instead used that as motivation to encourage change in his neighborhood so that other children could enjoy Christmas.
I like to imagine that Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin'” is exactly how things would play out if I encountered Santa Clause. Kurtis switches things up on the storyteller who opens up the track, letting listeners know that this isn’t a traditional song. Instead, he’s basically sharing how he’s getting LIT on Christmas. I get it. I’ve been there. We go pretty hard. So while he’s at this party where the music is poppin’, he hears a bit of clatter on the roof. He drunkenly goes to check it out thinking someone is breaking in and runs into none other than Santa, just trying to do his Christmas job! So he invites him in (as if he would turn him down???) and encourages Santa to join the festivities. After hearing the music, Santa’s like, fuck the kids, I’m in. He goes and shows off some incredible moves, winning over everyone, but still manages to shower everyone with gifts before departing. My favorite line of the song relates to when Kurtis is detailing the gifts left behind, rapping, “the best that money couldn’t buy, cause money could never ever buy the feeling, the one that comes from not concealing the way you feel about your friends.” And that right there is my life motto. My friends and the memories we make are the greatest gifts I could ever receive, and I will never ever be able to put into words just how much that means to me. And that’s why I’d like to end the post on this note:
To everyone in my life, thank you for gifting me your friendship, your love, your time, your support, your energy. It is the greatest thing I could ever receive. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays from Shaana at Spice on the Beat.♥
*Some notable mentions include DMX’s rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and Tyler, the Creator’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because of their innovative takes on some Christmas classics*
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