Sure, visions of sugarplum fairies might be dancing in your head this time of year.
But it's going to take a little more to bring your Christmas party to the next level.
While the traditional seasonal standards are… standard, the surefire way to put the star on your tree — or the eggs in your nog — is to put on the best rap Christmas classics.
Our suggestion: put the computer beneath the mistletoe and bump these classics.
“Christmas Rapping” (1979)
Kurtis Blow's break-out single helped land him rap's first major, with CBS, in 1979. It's since become one of the most sampled rap songs in hip-hop history, with snippets heard everywhere from Beastie Boys' “Hold It Now Hit It” to Next's “Too Close.” (It was also the first rap song performed on television in several countries.) Blow still performs it to this day, affirming that Christmas is indeed one thing he knows.
The Treacherous Three & Doug E. Fresh
“X-Mas Rap” (1984)
“X-Mas Rap” was released at the same time as the movie Beat Street, to capitalize off of the live performance of it in the movie. Because the scene got so popular, later pressings of the song changed the title to “Santa's Rap” and took out the foul language to make it suitable for the whole family. It's clearly more than a novelty song; the energy and strength of the performance is as strong live as it is on wax. Kool Moe Dee's disenchanted Santa captures the frustrations of the holidays, and Doug E. Fresh blesses the track with one of his best recorded beat-box performances.
“Christmas in Hollis” (1987)
With the popularity of the A Very Special Christmas compilation, many of us grew up with “Christmas in Hollis” as the only rap song we were allowed to play on our parents' stereo during the holidays. A charity single that's become the “cool Yule” signifier in media rangingeverything from Die Hard to “The Office”. A 1997 A Very Special Christmas compilation had a Reverend Run-led posse cut of “Santa Baby” featuring all the top rappers 1997 had to offer.
“Merry Muthafuckin' X-Mas” (1992)
Before Christmas on Death Row became the compilation CD making you do a double take every time you flipped past it in a used CD bin, Eazy-E made Christmas gangsta with “Merry Muthafuckin' X-Mas.” The final cut from his 5150 Home 4 Tha Sick EP, E's wishes for a “fucked up New Year” certainly came true for Master P who years later forgot in which order the winter holidays fell. “Merry Muthafuckin' X-Mas” is also notable for an intro that connects rap to the party records of forefathers like Dolemite and Blowfly, as well as vocals from the boy who would group up to be Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am.
“Player's Ball” (1993)
Yes Virginia, Outkast's first single was a Christmas song. Off the A LaFace Family Christmas compilation, the original lyrics specified that the Player's Ball was happening “on Christmas day.” With sleigh bells being so common in mid-'90s rap, transitioning the song into a year round party staple was as easy as editing a few words out and shooting a (Sean Combs directed) video that had absolutely nothing to do with the holiday. This is the original version.
Busta Rhymes and Jim Carrey
“Grinch 2000” (2000)
With all the recent holiday hoopla over his “Little Drummer Boy” duet with Justin Bieber, what better way to impress your party guests than by digging in the crate of decorations and pulling out Busta Rhymes' first attempt at Holiday cheer. Off the soundtrack to the wretched live action How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Busta trades bars with star Jim Carrey (in character, but flowing with the same precision we saw him bring to Vanilla Ice and Snow parodies). They keep things clean, with the only glaring censored edit being a name drop of Heineken.
“Dipset X-Mas Time” (2006)
Hip-hop's greatest minds have speculated for years why Dipset has such an obsession with the Christmas season. I believe they developed their penchant for repetitive song structures out of love for “Jingle Bells.” In 2006, at the height of their movement, they released A Dipset X-Mas. While it's a mixed-bag, the opening track “Dipset X-Mas Time” combines all the excitement of a Harlem Holiday with an almost unrecognizable re-imagining of “Wonderful Christmastime.” Sadly, Byrd Gang member Stack Bundles would die six months later. Several Dipset Christmas endeavors have followed, most notably Jim Jones' concept mixtape based around the movie Bad Santa.