For centuries, Christmas music was pretty conventional. Every once in a while, a "Jingle Bell Rock" or a "Santa Baby" would come along to spice things up, but most tunes made for a pretty predictable holiday music landscape.
But 41 years ago today, on December 7, 1979, "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow became the first rap song released by a major label (Mercury Records), ushering in not just the era of hip-hop, but of Christmas-themed hip-hop.
In honor of the anniversary, here are five Christmas rap songs to add some edge to your holiday season.
'Christmas Rappin'' (1979)Kurtis Blow
This is the one that started it all. Blow tells a story about a raging Christmas party unexpectedly crashed by the man himself — Santa Claus. Saint Nick "rocked the spot and danced like a pro," and before he leaves, he gives presents to all the girls, boys, and grownups. But that's not the best present, Blow claims: "'Cause money could never ever buy the feeling / The one that comes from not concealing / The way you you feel about your friends." In this socially distanced holiday season, the sentiment hits hard.
'Christmas in Hollis' (1987)Run-D.M.C.
More than 30 years after its release, "Christmas in Hollis" is still the best holiday rap song of them all. It starts out with a story about finding Santa Claus's wallet in a park in Queens, then segues into a celebration of the joys of the season, including Mom's mac and cheese, Christmas orchids, and carols. "Christmas in Hollis" even has a cameo in Die Hard, lending holiday cred to the oft-debated question of whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
'Merry Muthafuckin' Xmas' (1992)Eazy-E
Is this the filthiest Christmas song ever? Almost certainly. In six minutes, Eazy-E, along with Dolemite, Atban Klann, Buckwheat, and Menajahtwa, address a wide range of topics, from Christmas sex (like, a lot of Christmas sex), drugs ("All I want for Christmas is my indo wreath"), and (spoiler alert) the fact that there is no Santa Claus. This is one you definitely don't want to put on your Spotify playlist for the family gathering.
'Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto' (1996)Snoop Dogg
This track off the Christmas on Death Row compilation album was named after James Brown's 1968 tune "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto," but the similarities end there. Daz Dillinger, Nate Dogg, Tray Deee, and Bad Azz join Snoop on the song, which, a few references to Hennessey and "blazin' spliffs" not withstanding, is actually a warm-hearted look at the joys of a simple Christmas, with plenty of references to holiday classics thrown in for good measure. "Christmas still mean a lot / Cause it's the time to get together and give all you got / You got food, good moods, and what's better than together with your people?" the song asks. What, indeed?
'Holiday' (2020)Lil Nas X
The latest addition to the Christmas rap canon is one of the most fun. There's not a lot about the lyrics of "Holiday" that's explicitly Christmas-y; we guess Lil Nas X could be referencing Christmas Eve when he says "I can't even close my eyes / And I don't know why, guess I don't like surprises." But the video is a yuletide-themed delight — Lil Nas X portrays a freaky Santa, a dancing elf, and a rogue action figure in a futuristic North Pole workshop.