In the spirit of ringing in the holidays, and in light of Tyler, the Creator gift-wrapping then shipping his talents over to Chris Meledandri and his team of overly fluffy animators at Illumination Entertainment, it only seemed fair to concoct a list of gems that shine to their brightest potential through the dead of winter.
Between the midpoint of October up until whatever day it is that department stores around the world completely rid their shelves of chipped candy canes and suspiciously stale, Christmas-tree shaped Reese’s cups is one of the best 10 – 11 week stretches of the year. But, of course, there’s no use for the holidays without listening to the music that fits the season most; and with albums like these, you can be sure to find your way in to the holiday spirit.
1. “The College Dropout” by Kanye West
Premier Tracks: “Never Let Me Down” (featuring JAY-Z and J. Ivy), “School Spirit,” “Family Business,” “Last Call”
Alright, listen to this s— real quick: “This n—- graduated at the top of our class / I went to Cheesecake, he was a motherf—– waiter there.” Thanks to “School Spirit,” I was enamored with Kanye’s debut project from its initial track. It’s not only the fact that he had the balls to namedrop this mere mortal that served him at The Cheesecake Factory, but it’s all about the inflection in his voice, my man.
If this isn’t some sort of signification that the holiday season here, then the sonic rendition of turkey dinner in “Family Business” will suffice for meeting your seasonal needs. In retrospect, it’s funny to say that this is easily Kanye’s purest form, at least by way of a listener; if one were to ask him, he’d probably say that this “Rick and Morty” thing he’s been doing is who he truly is.
2. “Section .80” by Kendrick Lamar
Premier Tracks: “F— Your Ethnicity,” “Ronald Reagan Era,” “Poe Man’s Dreams (His Vice)” (feat. GLC)
The smoky undertones and literal campfire crackle that weave from track to track throughout King Kendrick’s debut LP were what made it such a vital project in any rap listener’s library back in 2011. His unparalleled storytelling ability managed to take the rap game by storm over the course of a half decade.
Ignoring the fact that “Section .80” is my second favorite project of his, falling right behind the masterfully concocted sonic fusion in “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the project also resonates with me for other reasons. In fact, this album is one of the most meaningful ones I have listened to, as I remember falling asleep to it in the car on the way back from Disneyland in the winter. Don’t ask me why I remember that so vividly, because there’s no way I could even describe it. Just pour a little bit of hot chocolate in a glass (or something), play this front to back and have a listening party for yourself. It really is a masterpiece.
3. “Dipset Christmas” by Jim Jones
Premier Tracks: “Dipset X-Mas Time,” “Wish List,” “Letter to the Game”
This is easily the most important holiday album for anybody who wore various, perplexingly oversized forms of denim. Let’s be real here, it may not be Killa or Santana, but throw some love over to the third most notable member of my favorite New York-bred rap posse.
From the moment this project kicks off, the Christmas joy shoots you in the eye like a pellet, as you’ve got Jones flowing over a bodacious sample of Paul McCartney’s holiday-exclusive radio station classic, “Wonderful Christmastime.”
The follow-up track is a bit more toward the sentimental side rather than the click-clack side, as on “Have a Happy Christmas” he reminisces about hard his mother used to work in order to make payments and looks forward to having a “merry Christmas … and happy holiday!”
Paling in comparison, “Wish List,” leans far more toward the click-clack stuff. He spits about how rough Christmas was in the slums and about slinging on the corner: “When I was dreamin’ of a white Christmas, it never came / Hit the fiends, they was fiendin’ for a white Christmas, I got the cain,” and a whole lot of snow-to-coke references along the way.
Take a sip of the Kool-Aid and listen to this s—, eh!
4. “Christmas On Death Row” by Death Row Records
Premier Tracks: “I Wish” by Tha Dogg Pound, “Be Thankful” by Nate Dogg and 6 Feet Deep’s sultry rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Ah! I’m going to end this with a curveball and one of the dopest, actually, the dopest Christmas album that has ever donned shelves and streaming services. This is a god—- Death Row Christmas album!
There’s Snoop, Daz, Nate Dogg and a whole bunch of ‘90s West Coast crooners absolutely killing s—, singing holiday favorites along the lines of “Frosty The Snowman,” “Silver Bells” and “Silent Night.” And don’t even get me started on Nate Dogg’s incredible vocalizing on “Be Thankful,” where he belches out, “This morning I woke up, no presents were there for me / But this morning I woke up and could breaaaaaaaaath!”