Sometimes, at Christmas, the cheesy tunes we all know and love consume our lives as we hear them everywhere – the office Christmas party, retail stores and on those amazing adverts. But if you’re looking for some songs to jazz up your playlists, try a rap song or two from this list. The festive season is all about coming together and celebrating what a joyous year we’ve had, despite 2021’s setbacks – so treat yourself!
Run-DMC, ‘Christmas In Hollis’ (1987)
Let’s take it all the way back to the early days of hip-hop: Run-DMC created the coolest throwback rap Christmas song that still gets played nearly 15 years later. The hip-hop duo captured the upbeat spirit of Christmas with their spritely tale of having yule logs by the fireplace whilst drinking eggnog under the mistletoe.
Most festive moment: At the start of the song, our favourite rapper-turned-reality star Rev Run mistakes Santa and a reindeer as a “a man chilling with his dog in the park”.
Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, ‘Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto’ (1996)
Need some gangster rap from the ‘90s? Add this to your Christmas playlist. When Death Row Records was the biggest label of the West Coast, they made a Christmas-themed album, ‘Christmas on Death Row’. This was the lead single, on which all the featured artists cruise around a wailing R&B beat, interpolating the ‘12 Days Of Christmas’, which we’ve all recited in primary school one too many times. A heady mix.
Most festive moment: Snoop’s Christmassy quip: “Santa Claus on the ceiling, Jack Frost chillin’ / Pinch the Grinch for being a holiday villain”.
Rev Run & The Christmas All Stars, ‘Santa Baby’ (1997)
‘Christmas In Hollis’ might be the Christmas anthem, but ‘Santa Baby’ is a star-studded bi-coastal gem that’s all too often forgotten about. The ‘90s’ biggest rap stars – Salt-N-Pepa, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy and Mase feature on the song, showing what Christmas is all about: togetherness. This was especially potent amid the whole West Coast-East Coast rivalry notorious at the time.
Most festive moment: Snoop Dogg – again – lays a great couple lines on Christmas: “I’m waiting on this fat Red Suit wearing-comparing / My gifts to my home boy next door to me”. He’s definitely the most dedicated rapping elf.
Ying Yang Twins, ‘Deck The Club’ (2008)
Everyone needs a little bit of trappy southern hip-hop in their life, and the Ying Yang Twins are a reliable group for it. If you’re in need of something comical and overtly clichéd, ’00s gem ‘Deck The Club’ is for you. This cheeky track should be just as iconic as Southern smashes ‘Wait The Whisper Song’ or ‘Get Low’; after one listen, you’ll make it a Christmas tradition to sing, “Deck da club with piles of money / Falalalala, lala, la, la”.
Most festive moment: Considering the production still sounds like it’s stuck in ’00s Atlanta ’00s, the chiming bells offer are the real differentiation here, letting you know it’s the Ying Yang Twins doing Christmas.
DMX, ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ (2012)
This simple a cappella take on ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’ is everything we loved about the late, great Yonkers-raised DMX. His signature gruff delivery is front-and-centre as he bangs onto US radio station Power 106 FM’s desk, singing the song with the added “Come on!” or “Uh!” in between. DMX was often seen as an aggressive tough guy, and this was a fun and light moment that’s always joyous to revisit at this time of year.
Most festive moment: DMX’s excitement – before he even sings the song – as he recites the introduction: “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen / Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blizten / But do you recall / The most famous reindeer of all? / COME ON!”
Bali Baby, ‘Bomin for Us’ (2017)
Changing the word ‘Coming’ to ‘Bomin’ to show her former gangster blood ties, Atlanta rapper Bali Baby’s cover of Sia’s Christmas song ‘Coming For Us’ is just as quirky and light-hearted as the original. Bali Baby has such a distinctively high and squeaky vocal delivery, making it perfect for a festive tune. A small gem from the SoundCloud era.
Most festive moment: Bali’s “Oh la la la / oh la la la”s is note-perfect.
Boy Better Know, ‘Christmas Riddim 2017’ (2017)
Most of the good Christmas rap songs come from America, but this grime riddim is a hidden gem that only die-hard grime fans know about. It’s unlisted on YouTube – meaning that you wouldn’t know about this song without a link – but those in the know have long been bopping along Frisco, Jammer, Shorty, Skepta and JME.
Most festive moment: They all lay formidable verses, but the endless Santa Claus references are delightfully tongue-in-cheek – and the last thing you’d expect to hear in a grime set.
Kanye West featuring Teyana Taylor and Cyhi The Prince, ‘Christmas In Harlem’ (2018)
Featuring the charming vocals of then-rising juggernaut Teyana Taylor, ‘Christmas In Harlem’ is a sweet little track – the kind you’d expect to hear in an offbeat, New York-set Christmas movie. Kanye takes the lead with his ‘The College Dropout’-style, kid-next-door vibe, while Christmas comes early for Kanye-cosigned Georgia rapper and singer Cyhi The Prince. If you can’t get enough of the soothing track, there’s an extended, nine-minute version with your favourite New Yorkers – Jim Jones, Cam’ron and more. This tune harnesses that true main character energy we all want at Christmastime.
Most festive moment: Kanye West admitting himself that he’s “a little late with the Christmas gifts”. For some of us out here, that’s reality.
Tyler, the Creator, ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ (2018)
Appearing on ‘Music Inspired by Illumination and Dr. Suess’ The Grinch’, the six-track soundtrack Tyler made for the animated remake of the classic Christmas film The Grinch, ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ is a fun rap song that both children and adults can enjoy. Covering the original track from the first Grinch animated movie, 1966’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Tyler made a grumpy and dark hip-hop track that could actually have nestled on on his critically-acclaimed ‘Flower Boy’ album the year before.
Most festive moment: Like many do at this time of year, Tyler absolutely rips The Grinch a new one: “Who is this mean fellow / With his skin all green and his teeth all yellow?”.
Ms Banks, ‘On My Way’ (2021)
There are too few new Christmas rap songs, if you ask us, but Ms Banks’ newest release ‘On My Way’ harnesses all the greatness of the other songs on this list. It’s cheeky and boasts great Christmassy wordplay (“Santa’s about / I wanna slay”), though there are unfortunately no sleigh bells in the background. However, the zippy drill production will suffice. Reeking of bad bitch energy, Banks has made a certified anthem for all the independent ladies having fun this Christmas, no matter what the UK Government says.
Most festive moment: There’s a bunch of amazing one-liners – the best being: “Santa is a no-show / But I’ve been bad five years in a row”.