A hip-hop Christmas: 12 of the best holiday tracks

Rap music has been celebrating the festive season since the genre's inception in the 1970s

In 1996, Snoop Dogg released a Christmas song about St Nick rolling through the hood in a Cadillac. AP
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Christmas songs aren't confined to the pop world. While Mariah Carey and Wham! prove to be popular choices during the holidays, hip-hop has been celebrating the occasion since the genre's inception in the 1970s.

From Sleigh Ride by TLC to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by DMX, these 12 Christmas-themed hip-hop tracks are some of the genre's best.

1. Christmas Rappin' by Kurtis Blow (1979)

It's one of hip-hop's first Christmas songs. A rap version of A Visit from St Nicholas, Blow made it a seasonal hit with lyrics describing Santa as "a red suited dude, with a friendly attitude and a sleigh full of goodies for the people on the block".

2. Santa's Rap by The Treacherous Three (1984)

Initially appearing as a tongue-in-cheek performance in the 1984 film Beat Street, the track by the pioneering rap group works relatively well as a festive theme.

Just make sure you don't dig too deep beyond the zippy keyboards and handclaps, or you may find potent couplets exploring the holiday season from the view of disenfranchised communities.

"Man, you talk about a tree, it makes me wonder / Cause I never had a tree to put anything under,” raps Special K.

“If I ever did luck up and get a tree / There was never anything under it for me.”

3. Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC (1987)

One of the biggest pop groups at the time, Run DMC was tapped to record a Christmas song for the charity album Soul Christmas. The trio explored how the season was celebrated in their neighbourhood of Queens, New York.

Judging by the lyrics it was an absolute feast: "Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens / Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese / And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees."

4. Cold Chillin' Christmas by Juice Crew (1988)

Released the following holiday season after Run DMC's hit with Christmas in Hollis, the collective – featuring Big Daddy Kane, MC Shan and Roxanne Shante – tried their luck with their own holiday track.

Cold Chillin' Christmas has them recalling their favourite seasonal memories.

MC Shan's verse is a highlight that recalls running into Santa Claus driving a "Lamborghini with a spoiler kit," that came complete with "reindeer plate".

5. Sleigh Ride by TLC (1993)

Released as part of a Christmas album by LaFace Records company, this uplifting song captures the spirit of a family gathering with all the different characters, banter and goodwill involved.

"Like two birds of a feather would be / So let's take the road before us / Sing a chorus or two, oh”, members T-Boz and Chilli croon. “C'mon it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”

6. Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto by Snoop Dogg (1996)

It was 1996 and Snoop Dogg was at the peak of his fame, so a Christmas song about St Nick rolling through the hood in a Cadillac made total sense.

But it is done with the right amount of humour and sincerity, with Nate Dogg's baritone sounding at its most blissful.

7. Santa Baby by Rev Run and The Christmas All Stars (1997)

Hip-hop heavy weight Rev Run recruited an A-list cast of hip-hop stars for this smooth gem.

With artists spanning the east and west coast hip-hop scenes — such as Snoop Dogg, P Diddy and Salt-N-Pepa — the lyrics reflect on their humble origins with Christmas experiences ranging from family gatherings to engaging in nefarious activities.

8. Ludacrismas by Ludacris (2007)

Created for the 2007 film Fred Claus, the track is basically Ludacris's wish list of Christmas presents he hopes to receive.

"Tell Santa Claus to bring a 10-million-dollar check / So I could spread a little cheer, fly a couple leers," Ludacris raps.

"Tell him I need a jacket, new Jordans and a Xbox / New suits for church and a couple pairs of dress socks."

9. Christmas In Harlem by Kanye West featuring Teyana Taylor and Cyhi the Prynce (2010)

A lovely slice of soulful hip-hop, West surrounds himself with a great list of collaborators including rapper Cyhi the Prynce and RnB singers Teyana Taylor and Musiq Soulchild.

Each artist recalls their Christmas Day spent at home with family or working on the road.

The gritty, extended version, has a bumper list of rappers including Pusha T, Cam’Ron, Jim Jones and Big Sean.

10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by DMX (2012)

Taken from an impromptu performance as part of a US radio interview, DMX, who died last year, brought his signature gravelly drawl and barks to this seasonal classic.

It may have been recorded as a bit of a joke, but the song went viral and confirmed why the troubled rapper was so well loved by his fans and peers.

11. Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama by Chance the Rapper and Jeremih (2016)

A standout track from the duo's Christmas-themed mixtape, Merry Christmas Lil' Mama is a joyous and superbly constructed song. The lyrical nods to the festive season are met with great production and come with dollops of gospel, soul and electronica.

12. Man's Not Hot Christmas Edition by Big Shaq (2017)

The popular comedy track got a Christmas makeover only two months after the original went viral. While the zany and nonsensical lyrics remain the same, the festive spirit is heard through the addition of sleigh bells. It might seem like a minor addition, but it makes a big difference.