By Saidif Mejia
With the holiday season right around the corner, now seems like an appropriate time as any to throw on an ugly sweater, fix a cup of hot chocolate and crank out the classic Christmas tunes. For many, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” remains an obvious go-to track for the upcoming eventful month. Others prefer to play the classic Bing Crosby song “White Christmas” while they decorate their mountainous Christmas trees with intricately detailed ornaments and hang up the bright, colorful lights outside.
But for hip-hop heads, last year provided a truly wonderful gift: a holiday-themed collaboration album from hip-hop producer Cookin’ Soul and rap veteran MF Doom, called DOOM XMAS. Even though the mixtape was released in 2018, each track will live eternally in the hearts of hip-hop listeners who have always felt that the holiday season always lacked any jolly rap pieces.
Hip-hop has evolved tremendously in the past 30 years, but anyone who possesses a passion for the rap-intense genre knows that the golden age of hip-hop occurred in the 1990s. During this time, boom-bap, gangsta rap, and jazz and soul-inspired rap ruled the then underground hip-hop community. Spanish hip-hop producer Cookin’ Soul took this into account when he blended multiple acapella pieces from old-school rapper MF Doom to create DOOM XMAS, as hip-hop from that era tends to resonate more deeply with people from Generation X, Millennial, and Generation Z demographics alike, unlike other subgenres from different decades.
Most of this kind of hip-hop features samples from jazz music from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as well as soul and Motown classics from around the same time. In other tracks, small bits from old cartoons part of the Hanna-Barbera age appear, adding on to the classic and mature nature of these songs. The fact that Cookin’ Soul incorporates each of these elements seamlessly into the mixtape is a genuine accomplishment, but what truly completes the album is the presence of MF Doom and his distinct lyrical style.
The album begins with the track “Xmas with DOOM (intro),” a prelude consisting of an older man who encourages the listener to “experience the unique perspective and magical wordplay of America’s most beloved rap singer: Doom.” Already, the anticipation builds up because of the introduction, and the payoff becomes evident with Doom and Cookin’ Soul’s following track, “Naughty or Nutz.”
A transition unfolds through a sample from 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas which morphs into Nat King Cole singing the opening to his holiday classic “A Christmas Song.” The opening notes of Cole’s song loop throughout the rest of the track as Doom raps his verses, establishing a novel contrast between the cheeriness of the holidays and the cynicism of inner-city life through lyrics like “Rubbin’ shoulders with pigs who don’t fly straight.” The following track “Let it Snowwwww” seems reminiscent of Doom’s days with iconic hip-hop producer Madlib, as it repeats the somewhat melancholic beats alongside Doom’s deep and alluring vocals.
“MF Grinch,” the fifth track on the mixtape, contains the most obvious nod to the darker Christmas themes of the album with its sampling of the famous despicable jingle from Chuck Jones’ classic TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Phrases in the track such as “You see some deal dope, others steal hope…” illustrate Doom’s tough upbringing in Long Island, while the scratchiness in the background of the song, almost as if a record player plays the song, adds to the realism of the distant yet vivid memory that Doom describes.
The following track called “Wonderfull” features a sample of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” an instrumental that Cookin’ Soul includes masterfully. The classic synthesizer of the sample in combination with the boom-bap beat and Doom’s bizarre lyrics characterize this track as quite possibly the best on the album. One of the album’s final songs, “The Holiday Agenda,” embraces some of Cookin’ Soul’s original instrumental beats alongside Doom’s atypical rapping, constructing a soothing and peaceful conclusion to the album that feels right in ending a Christmas mixtape.
There has never truly been a definitive Christmas album for the hip-hop genre, despite nearly every other genre having at least one or two. This album may very well be that long-awaited hip-hop themed Christmas album. The album replaces the samples from classic oldie songs from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, and replaces them with samples from other Christmas classics from a similar period in time. What the mixtape lacks for in references to cartoons like Johnny Quest and Fat Albert, it makes up for other specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. We may be one year late, but the mixtape will likely become a holiday classic through time.
Featured image via Teriyaki Donut.