Christmas is a time for celebration and what better way to get the party started than with some Atlanta trap? While it's undeniable that Mariah Carey and Michael Buble have a monopoly on festive season pop, there is a bevy of hip-hop jingles that ditch the saccharine rhymes in favour of booming 808s, soulful melodies and all the exuberant arrogance that makes the genre great. While hip-hop and Christmas seem like strange bedfellows, its ties to the holiday season go all the way back to 1979.
As the burgeoning genre began to take shape in the late '70s, Kurtis Blow released Christmas Rappin'. Written by two Billboard music journalists, Robert “Rocky” Ford and J.B. Moore after they devised a plan to supplement their meagre writer salaries with a royalty cheque, Christmas Rappin' went on to become a classic, bringing joy to their banks and the rest of the world.
In the spirit of getting what you want for Christmas, we ranked 21 of the best hip-hop songs. Happy holidays!
1. Kanye West featuring Teyana Taylor, Cyhi the Prynce, Pusha T, Big Sean, Cam'ron — Christmas In Harlem (2010)
For those looking to transport themselves to another part of the world and to another era of Kanye West, Christmas In Harlem is an exuberant, joyous and sumptuous slice from the beginning of the decade. Teyana Taylor's mellifluous voice brightens up the hook while Pusha T brings new meaning to having a white Christmas.
2. DeJ Loaf – All I Want For Christmas (2016)
"Def Loaf? Kodak Black? Christmas record? Something you wouldn't expect!" DeJ Loaf writes in the description of the song on her Soundcloud page. For what it's worth, she isn't wrong. While the title suggests a hip-hop reimagination of Carey's pop anthem, All I Want For Christmas is instead a heartfelt meditation on loneliness, solitude and what it's like to experience a giftless festive season.
3. Justin Bieber feat. Busta Rhymes — Drummer Boy (2011)
A manic mix of EDM textures, this classic carol is turned upside down by Justin Bieber rapping about the Bible and Busta Rhymes' speedy wordplay. We can't deny that this will probably get played on repeat at our Christmas party after a few spiked egg nogs.
4. Jeremih and Chance The Rapper — Merry Christmas Lil Mama (2016)
Jeremih's sexiness and Chance The Rapper's spiritedness may seem at odds, but on this stripped-back R&B beat the two come together to create a rather naughty instead of nice bop.
5. TLC — Sleigh Ride (1992)
TLC are simply timeless, but their ability to create a Christmas song that fits in seamlessly with the rest of their catalogue is a sign of their talent. Left Eye's exuberant rapping arrives like an unexpected gift, a welcome injection of nostalgia from a star that's sorely missed.
6. Ying Yang Twins — Deck Da Club (2016)
Best described as the cleanest version of The Whisper Song, Deck Da Club is a boisterous, triumphant, and inappropriate Christmas song that begs to be played as soon as lunch begins to get a little tipsy.
7. Rihanna — It Just Don't Feel Like Xmas (2006)
As dramatic as it is catchy, Ri Ri puts on a sombre show for her only foray into the Christmas genre. It's an incredible vocal performance from the Barbados pop star, which is tempered by the silvery jingle of bells as she pines after a lost love.
8. Chance The Rapper & Jeremih — I'm Your Santa (2016)
If one Chance and Jeremih collaboration left you hungry for more, I'm Your Santa is a nimble, romantic, and sultry follow-up that leaves every mention of Jesus at the door. This is a Christmas song made for a party of two.
9. Run-D.M.C., Mase, Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Salt-N-Pepa, Onyx and Keith Murray — Santa Baby (1997)
Exuding soul and funk, Santa Baby taps every major player in hip-hop from the late '90s. This star-studded rendition isn't just sexy but full of grit. The sweet lilt of the hook plays off the booming verses depicting Christmas in New York, disappointing presents as well as beautiful imagery of Snoop Dogg wrapped in a quilt.
10. Gucci Mane — St. Brick (2016)
There aren't many things in this world that compare to Gucci Mane's dedication to Christmas, but in 2016 he outdid himself with St. Brick Intro which arrived on December 2. The video portrays a wonderful world where Gucci is Santa, elves are beautiful women, and Christmas day is stacked with money, opulent furs, and Atlanta trap.
11. Ludacris — Ludacrismas (2007)
Going off the demands Ludacris makes on Ludacrismas, he probably doesn't relate to the simple message of All I Want For Christmas Is You at all. Instead, he rattles off a wishlist, asking Santa to “bring a ten million dollar check/So I could spread a little cheer/Fly a couple leers/Eat a little chicken, drink a couple beers/Kick back and just chill like a player would do."
12. Run-D.M.C. — Christmas In Hollis
In 1987, Run-DMC was tasked with recording a Christmas song for charity. But instead of creating a cloying reimagination of a carol, they produced Christmas In Hollis, a meditation on life in Hollis, Queens over a signature '90s hip-hop beat.
13. Snoop Dogg — Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto
Using a clever sample of Isaac Hayes' Do Your Thing, Snoop Dogg and the late Nate Dogg create a West Coast-flavoured Christmas song. In 2017, Snoop delivered a sequel that featured Boyz II Men on the hook.
14. Outkast — Player's Ball (Christmas Version)
An insight on Andre before he added the 3000 and Big Boi before they released their celebrated 1994 release, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Player's Ball (Christmas Version) is a wry dedication to hustlers and street entrepreneurs, delivered with a wink. The best line? "Shut up that nonsense about some 'Slient Night'/ I gots it crunk/ If it ain't real, ain't right."
15. Mr. Lif — Santa's Got a Muthaf--kin Uzi (2009)
They said it couldn't be done, but Mr. Lif did the unthinkable and wrote a diss about Santa. But turns out, the North Pole native got what he deserved. "Sucks when Saint Nick steals your shit instead of dropping off gifts," Lif writes on Bandcamp. "Hence the fact that me and my boys went to the North Pole to buss a cap in datazz."
16. Tyler, The Creator — You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch (2018)
Tyler The Creator's You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch, produced for the 2018 release of the original motion picture soundtrack for The Grinch is unlike anything the rapper's released before. Singing alongside a sparse choir of children, the rapper is strangely hypnotic and even more surprisingly, kid-friendly.
17. David Banner — The Christmas Song (2003)
From the man that gave us Play, comes The Christmas Song. While on the surface it sounds like a gruff hip-hop number about hustling, Banner actually delves into an issue plaguing lots of low-income families during this time who struggle with homelessness, joblessness, and money.
18. Rae Sremmurd — Nothing for Christmas
Slim Jxmmi takes the reigns on this energetic trap hit, which takes a Grinchian turn, as the rapper declares his refusal to buy his girl anything for Christmas. “Your bad ass ain't gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas" is the frenetic hook in a confusing, albeit fun song.
19. Macklemore — It's Christmas Time (2019)
It's always exciting when someone drops a Christmas hit, and this year Macklemore gifted us with Home Alone-inspired, It's Christmas. UK soul singer, Dan Caplen jumps on the track, as the Seattle rapper runs through a list of holiday season nostalgia. "Listenin' to Bing Crosby by the fire/ Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mariah/ Turn off that Michael Bublé/ Turn on that one movie about the kid who licked the telephone pole on the Blu-ray," he merrily raps.
"At some point every holiday season, while watching Home Alone and drinking hot chocolate, the same idea hits me. 'You are the second grown rap version of Kevin McCallister. Now act like it and make a Christmas song.' So I did," Macklemore said in a press release. "[The music video] has the holiday spirit in every frame. The true purpose and meaning of Christmas. To give, to celebrate and to take back that sweater and end up with store credit at Macy's. We must not forget the magic and that in the end it's all about giving."
20. Fetty Wap & Monty — Merry Xmas
Fetty Wap's signature yodel and catchy hook finds its purpose here on Merry Xmas. Together with frequent collaborator, Monty, they create a harmonious, trap-infused moment of celebration.
21. Jermaine Dupri, Bow Wow, Mariah Carey — All I Want for Christmas is You (So So Def Remix)
No Christmas song list is complete without Mariah Carey, but when remixed by a young Lil Bow Wow and the infectious Jermaine Dupri it finds a new life as a hip-hop hit. With the addition of drums, ad-libs, and Dupri's signature laugh, All I Want For Christmas Is You is reinvented without tinkering too much with the classic hit.