When it comes to Christmas music I have to admit, I have a few favorites: Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” comes to mind along with various versions of “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Silent Night.” However, if we talk about Christmas Rap there are only a few choices, “Christmas Rappin’,” by Kurtis Blow or Whistle’s “Santa is a B-Boy.” However, until 1987, there were only a few singles being released until a record label, specializing in rap music, released the first Christmas Rap compilation album featuring a few well-liked Rappers of the time. This go-round on the Lil Rap Records we’re talking about the only single from this comp, a double-sided, red vinyl Christmas megablast, “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run DMC backed with “Let the Jingle Bells Rock,” by Sweet Tee, Profile Records, 1988.
A year before, in 1987, 2 prominent rap labels each released a Christmas Rap album. Christmas rap songs had already been done to some success, but these were the first full-length Christmas-themed rap albums to be dropped. One label was B-Boy records with their “B-Boy’s Christmas Album,” and the other was Profile’s “Christmas Rap.” Both featured Christmas themed raps by various artists, but only one of them, the one with an already successful roster of artists and an ample video budget, had any commercial success. “Christmas in Hollis,” has been played amongst the typical rabble of holiday favorites for years now. It features a groove lifted from Clarence Carter’s 1968 ode to cuckolding, “Back Door Santa.” and a music video with a guest appearance from DMC’s mom. The song and video were successful enough that Profile released a single of this song a year later (The song also appears on A&M’s Christmas Album “A Very Special Christmas”). The twelve-inch version included other, already well-known, Run DMC cuts. The seven inch, however, was pressed on red vinyl and featured another song off of the Profile compilation, Sweet Tee’s raw-ass dedication to the holiday season, “Let the Jingle Bells Rock.”
Sweet Tee’s joint kicks off acapella with “What? You didn’t know Christmas went Hip Hop? Check the clock and let the jingle bells rock!” and then BOOM! one of rap’s first super-producers, Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor, drops a series of drum breaks on us! That’s the reason I say that this record is raw, simply because there are nothing but drums and raps on this one! Immediately the hard smackin’ slaps from Funk Inc’s, “Kool is Back,” drop in (you’ll also hear these drums as the opener to Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”), overlaid with Cerrone’s unmistakable live take on his disco hit, “Rocket in the Pocket.” Tee warms us up with the Christmas spirit and tells us of her ideal holiday scenarios and the feeling of giving and love that people feel this time of year. You know, Christmas crap. Meanwhile, the beat occasionally breaks down so we can hear The Headhunter’s UBB classic “God Made Me Funky,” drums sparsely chopped under Funk Inc’s. There is some other percussion loop that jumps in from time to time, but I can’t call it… Tee wishes us all a merry Christmas on her 3rd verse and on the fourth, she takes us to the new year as she wishes us a good one.
Sweet Tee had a few other good songs, not to mention the ones released on 45, though not since the late 80s have many of her efforts been heard by the masses. However, she continues to record music and for my taste, Sweet Tee was giving MC Lyte a run for her money and can easily be listed with the best female rappers that ever put lyric to wax. This 45 pops up every so often and is definitely worth the couple bucks you might pay for it. Hey, here’s an mp3:
Tune in next time as we talk about Schoolly D’s hood anthem, “Parkside 5-2.” You can catch that cat Otto spinning all 45s every Monday, 2-4 CST on www.originalcutz.com and in rotation on RSE Radio and various dance nights at Honey, Clubhouse Jager, Triple Rock, First Ave’s Rec room and other venues and events around the Twin Cities.