Every year, a small number of artists drop a track or two just for the holidays; from covers of iconic Christmas classics to original bangers, the winter months are always full of some special musical surprises. If you're like me, though, and you start to get tired of pop stars' mid-tempo acoustic takes on Bing Crosby tracks by mid-November, it's time to switch it up. My gift to you? Here's a list of the best hip-hop holiday songs to bring a little bass to your holly-jolly season.
Some rappers lean more into the spirit of the season than others (Gucci Mane certainly takes the throne as the official East Atlanta Santa), but a lot of our favorite winter playlists often lack the certified holiday hits by hip-hop's key players. Why doesn't Chance the Rapper and Jeremih's wintry masterpiece, Merry Christmas Lil' Mama, get the same love as "Santa Baby," when it stood alone as a massive viral hit in December 2016? I'm not telling you to stop streaming "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Mariah is the Christmas queen), but give these bangers a spin or two in between streams.
1. "Holiday" by Lil Nas X
A year and a half after his last single "Panini" dropped in June 2019, Lil Nas X finally decided to gift his fans with a new single right in time for the holidays. While the track, fittingly titled "Holiday," is nothing new sonically, following Nas' usual lyrical and melodic formula, the music video is what makes it especially festive. Watch it to see the rapper take on the role of a super-fly, glitzed-out Santa Clause ringing in Christmas in a futuristic reimagining of the North Pole.
2. "St. Brick Intro" by Gucci Mane
Gucci Mane is undoubtedly the millennial Santa Claus. He dropped his first holiday mixtape, East Atlanta Santa, back in 2014 and hasn't stopped dropping new Christmas tunes since. "St. Brick Intro," the lead track off of his 2016 album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, is quintessential Gucci — and good fun for everyone.
3. "Nothing For Christmas" by Slim Jxmmi, Rae Sremmurd & Ear Drummers
"Your badass ain't getting nothing for Christmas!" is the key phrase here. Rae Sremmurd's promise to all the baddies out there on the naughty list isn't a comforting one, but at least they put some jingle bells in the background to cushion the blow of no presents under the Christmas tree.
4. "You're a Mean One" by Tyler, the Creator
"Who's this mean fellow? With his skin all green and his teeth all yellow," Tyler, the Creator spits out in his rendition of the children's classic. Backed by a surging choir of kids' voices, the hip-hop-inspired take on the cartoon's most famous song is enough to make you want to steal all the gifts in Whoville.
5. "Minnesota (feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa)" by Lil Yachty
Don't celebrate any particular holiday and just want to get your secular winter playlist in the snowy spirit? "Minnesota" is the track for you. One of Lil Yachty's original hits may not be the first song that comes to mind when you think about the holidays, but start scraping the ice off your windshield and you'll "get cold like Minnesota," too. The music video adds to the chilly ambience of the track, but don't forget to stream the remix, too — Young Thug delivers one of the best verses of his career.
6. "Dear Santa" by Dax
The Canadian rapper's slick Grinch-inspired rhymes take this winter playlist from 0 to 100. If you weren't turning up already, break out the eggnog and get ready to turn the volume up to the max.
7. "Winter Wonderland / Here Comes Santa Claus" by Snoop Dogg and the Cast of Pitch Perfect 2
Hear me out: this one has a special place on every holiday playlist. Snoop Dogg's appearance on the song is a highlight of the Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack, and the hip-hop drum kit adds a little bounce to the caroling classic. Not into acapella groups? Keep scrolling.
8. "Ice Ice Baby (Too Cold for Christmas Mix)" by Vanilla Ice
"Ice Ice Baby" is the nostalgia pang this winter playlist needs — and I bet you didn't know there was an official Christmas remix, too!
9. "Santa Baby" by Khia
After the first few listens of "Santa Baby" during your annual gift shopping trips at Target, you're about ready for a new track. Khia's remix adds a beat to the sensual melody, along with some fast-paced verses that'll keep you dancing while you wrap presents.
10. "Christmas In Harlem (feat. Cyhi the Prynce and Teyana Taylor)" by Kanye West
What a gem of a track. "Christmas In Harlem" was released far before Teyana Taylor would go viral for her appearance in Kanye West's music video for "Fade," but it's a classic nonetheless. She's got soothing vocals to warm you right up while you skip in the snow.
11. "Snowed In" by Jeremih & Chance the Rapper
Besides the extremely cute cover art, Merry Christmas Lil' Mama is full of some truly merry holiday hits. Chance's verses mirror his flow from some of his early mixtapes, complementing Jeremih's choruses perfectly. Bring "Snowed In" out caroling and leave "Baby It's Cold Outside" at home.