The Best Christmas Rap Songs

From DMX’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to Lil Nas X's "Holiday," here's a list of our 25 favorite Christmas rap songs of all time (thus far).

Gucci Mane

Image via Atlantic Records

Gucci Mane

Rap and Christmas have been intertwined since the former began. Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’,” a rhymed update of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) came out in 1979, the same year as “Rapper’s Delight.” From that day to today, hip-hop has had way more than its share of Christmas spirit. So during this most wonderful time of the year, we wanted to share some of the best holiday raps of all time, from 1979 to the present. They reflect all ages of rap’s development, from early ‘80s crews reduced by Reaganomics to fighting rats for candy canes, to West Coast gangstas partying with Santa, to crunk icons having fun underneath the mistletoe to Tyler, the Creator’s festive offerings. And, of course, we had to include the East Atlanta Santa, himself. Below are 25 of our favorite Christmas rap tunes. Enjoy, and happy holidays.

Kurtis Blow, "Christmas Rappin'" (1979)

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Album: Kurtis Blow, Christmas Rappin' 12" (1979)

As you surely know because you read our Best Hip-Hop Producer Alive, Every Year Since 1979 list from the beginning (didn’t you?), “Christmas Rappin’” had an origin story far more fiscal than artistic. Two Billboard writers saw the checks one of their co-workers got for writing Christmas songs, and wanted in. So they penned a rap version of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and got a charismatic MC named Kurtis Blow to recite it, throwing on some of his own party rhymes at the end. But however cynical its start, the results were magical. The song was a hit from winter 1979 straight through to the spring of 1980, and it made Kurtis the first major-label rap star. To this day, almost forty years later, all it takes it hearing Kurtis interrupt Clement Clarke Moore’s nineteenth-century poem with a “Hold it, wait, hold it. That’s played out” to set off any holiday party. —Shawn Setaro

The Cold Crew, "Rappin' Christmas" (1982)

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Album: The Cold Crew, “Rappin’ Christmas”/“Rappin’ New Year” Single (1982)

The Cold Crew, as far as I’ve been able to tell, only ever released one single. But what a single it was. In late 1982, the country was in the middle of a recession, so the group produced a song to fit the times. In “Rappin’ Christmas,” Santa has fallen on hard times due to Reaganomics. The economic downturn has cost him his reindeer, his toys, and even Mrs. Claus. And when he decides to brave the odds and visit the big city anyway, his sleigh breaks down and he gets mugged. The only ones who seem to be having a good time are the rats, who are busy stealing candy canes. If you wanted an accurate picture of the beginnings of the Reagan era, you could do a lot worse. —Shawn Setaro

The Treacherous Three, "Santa Rap" (1984)

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Album: Various Artists, Beat Street (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Vol. 2 (1984)

From the 1984 hip-hop drama Beat Street, “Santa’s Rap” is an old-school rap artifact that is musically washed up, but contextually just as relevant as it was back in the ‘80s. Though it was performed as a nightclub skit in the film, “Santa’s Rap” works perfectly well as a full-force, pre-Golden Age rap song in the form of a conversation between Santa Claus and two giftless adversaries who are tired of his classist bullshit. The patterned claps and keyboard riffs are quintessential of the dawn of rap music in New York City, but it’s the song’s lyrics (“Jingle, Jangle, Jingle for the poor/And once you get your welfare check/Y’all can kiss my mistletoe”) that make it both a catchy Christmas number and a striking think piece on socioeconomics. —Mallorie List

Sweet Tee, "Let The Jingle Bells Rock" (1987)

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Album: Various Artists, Christmas Rap (1987)

Sweet Tee stayed true to her name and recorded one of the sweetest, most oxymoronic Christmas raps of all time with “Let The Jingle Bells Rock.” Despite her emphatic tone and the rock-inspired beat just shy of “Bust A Move” excellence, Sweet Tee raps about snuggles, candy canes, and soaking up the joy of the Christmas season while you can. It’s musically just another ’80s rap beat drawn from the likes of the Sugarhill Gang and Marley Marl, but Sweet Tee’s willingness to spit bars about something as soft as kissing under the mistletoe is admirable and the epitome of good, clean Christmas fun for the whole family. —Mallorie List

Run-DMC, "Christmas In Hollis" (1987)

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Album: Various Artists, A Very Special Christmas (1987)

In 1987, Bill Adler, then head of PR at Def Jam and noted Christmas music nut, was headed to a studio session with Run-DMC as they were tasked to record a Christmas song for a charity album. From two things he brought with him—the idea that the group should write about their home neighborhood, and a copy of the 1968 compilation Soul Christmas—hip-hop’s single greatest Christmas song was born. If you don’t automatically start filling out DMC’s mom’s menu once you hear “It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens…” then there’s no hope for you. Bonus trivia: The song’s video was directed by Graffiti Rock creator and former Basquiat bandmate Michael Holman, and makeup for the clip was done by Entourage’s Debi Mazar. —Shawn Setaro

Eazy-E f/ Menajahtwa, Buckwheat from the Lil Waskals, Will 1X, & Atban Klann, "Merry Muthaf****n' Xmas" (1992)

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Album: Eazy-E, 5150: Home 4 tha Sick (1992)

Eazy-E wasn’t anointed “The Godfather of Gangsta Rap” for nothing. Only someone who lived and breathed the dirty rap genre could take something as pure as Christmas and make it nasty in the best way possible. “Merry Muthafuckin’ X-Mas” is more like a celebration of getting your freak on with just a hint of Noël sentiment, but any song that mentions Santa is fair game for a ‘Christmas Music’ stamp. Eazy-E and company’s collective hip-hop genius shines through in every aspect of this song—the unadulterated American rap beat, the featured verses, the tampered Yuletide sound effects. It’s raunchy, explicit, and almost exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from a Christmas song. Yet somehow, it still feels less dirty than any rendition of “Santa Baby” ever recorded. —Mallorie List

C-Murder & Master P, "Christmas In Da Ghetto" (1994)

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AlbumMaster P Presents West Coast Bad Boyz, High Fo Xmas (1994)

“Christmas in the ghetto just ain't worth shit/Tell Santa Claus he better watch his back.” If you ever needed a general idea of how disadvantaged people feel about Christmas, the first line of Master P and C-Murder’s “Christmas in the Ghetto” speaks volumes. The production threads in the memorable stylings of “Deck the Halls,” one of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time. But the beat largely props itself up on a West Coast foundation that would have been well-suited for an artist like 2Pac. Instead, the New Orleans brothers P and C (who were then Northern Cali transplants, shortly to move back home and take over the game) rhyme back and forth about the unfair ways Christmas plays out for people who can’t afford to give their family and friends the monetary equal of their love. —Kiana Fitzgerald

Snoop Dogg f/ Daz, Nate Dogg, Tray Deee, & Bad Azz, "Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto" (1996)

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Album: Various Artists, Christmas on Death Row (1996)

The first time I heard “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” I felt like it was custom-made for me. I was 7 years old when it dropped, and I was already well-aware of the fact that my family lived in poverty. In Texas, where I’m from, there’s a program called Blue Santa, sponsored by the local police, who visit kids in underserved communities and bring small gifts for them. It was always a joy to have someone come by and bless my sister and me with gifts, but even then, we knew that it was fuck 12. We wanted a more authentic representation of the figure we already knew was fake. (My mom did not let Santa have an ounce of credit for shit: “I bought them damn gifts!”)

So when I heard this song, and even further, watched the accompanying music video, I was stunned. This was it for me. Seeing Snoop driving a ‘Lac in the sky, whilst wearing a black Santa hat over a silk press; watching Nate Dogg sing in his unparalleled baritone in a choir; and hearing the individualized retellings of troubled Christmases past, courtesy of the extended Dogg Pound family, made me feel represented. It’s been more than two decades since this song dropped, and I still feel like a little girl, waiting for my own Black Santa to come through and bless the ‘hood with treasures. —Kiana Fitzgerald

Jim Jones f/ Stack Bundles & JR Writer, "Ballin' On X-Mas" (2006)

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Album: Jim Jones, A Dipset X-Mas (2006)

Using the “Christmas in Hollis” beat for your holiday rap song is a high risk, high reward endeavor, but Stack Bundles rapping “I want to kiss her like I got a mistletoe in my pants” aside, the Dipset crew all acquit themselves nicely with “Ballin’ On X-Mas.” Stack and Jim Jones carry the track through sheer force of personality, while the Capo drops a few frank bars about the added pressure Christmas expenses put on a hustler: “They say Santa know you good or you bad/Gotta make an exception—we in the hood, living fast.” Jones’ interpolation of “Jingle Bells” on the song’s hook is a bit unpolished, but it’s also the kind of self-aware, campy gag that is essential to a project like A Dipset X-Mas working in the first place. —Grant Rindner

Ludacris, “Ludacrismas” (2007)

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Album: Fred Claus Soundtrack

Ludacris’ “Ludacrismas” finds him listing all the things he wants for Christmas as he awaits Santa Claus’ arrival, but his requests are far from an ordinary wishlist. “Tell Santa Claus to bring a ten million dollar check/So I could spread a little cheer/Fly a couple leers/Eat a little chicken, drink a couple beers/Kick back and just chill like a player would do,” he raps. The song, which was featured on the Fred Claus movie (2007) soundtrack, samples the classic 1947 holiday record of the same name. But thanks to a menacing, chopped and screwed beat, as well as Ludacris’ aggressive tone, the once wholesome track transforms into a banger that you can imagine hear blasting from candy-painted whips. —Jessica McKinney

Kanye West f/ Teyana Taylor, Cyhi the Prynce, Pusha T, Big Sean, Cam'ron, and More "Christmas In Harlem" (2010)

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DMX, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (2012)

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Album: N/A (2012)

DMX was well past his popularity's peak by 2012, but most hip-hop heads are open to getting that 1998-2003 energy in some form—including a Christmas remix. After starting that year by dissing Drake, DMX became a one-man band with this impromptu a capella performane of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Disregard the Spotify single that adds the corny instrumentals: There's a purity in DMX laying down the vocals, beat, and the ad-libs. Yes, his signature gravelly voice shouldn't mesh so well with a childish holiday tune. And yet, it takes DMX just a few seconds to flip it into a joyful moment. Ain't that the Christmas spirit? —Brian Josephs

Sean Price, "How Sean Price Stole Christmas" (2012)

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Album: Sean Price, “How Sean Price Stole Christmas” Animated Music Video (2012)

The late, beloved Sean Price (who sadly died in 2015) had a gruff exterior, a heart of gold, and a wicked sense of humor. So it made perfect sense during Christmas season to have him in the role of the Grinch in a song and animated video. Instead of giving gifts, P-as-Grinch robs kids for their sneakers, does unspeakable things with toothbrushes and candy canes, and burns down Christmas trees, all while pulling off some nice b-boy routines (the non-animated Price began in hip-hop as a dancer, like some of his other Duck Down compatriots, and could still pull off moves when he needed to until the end). “I don’t give a shit, I ain’t getting shit/I hate spitting this, plus I hate St. Nicholas,” P rhymes. Luckily, he spit it anyway, so we have a permanent holiday season reminder of Sean Price’s ability to make us all feel a little better with just a few punchlines. —Shawn Setaro

Ying Yang Twins, "Ho Ho Ho (Dirty Christmas)" (2014)

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Album: Ying Yang Twins, “Ho Ho Ho (Dirty Christmas)” Single (2014)

You wouldn’t expect a long-past-their-heyday Ying Yang Twins to release a great Christmas song in 2014. And yet, they managed. “Ho Ho Ho (Dirty Christmas)” shows a more mature group who tempers their lewd side (“kissing a bad hoe” under the mistletoe) with realistic and touching portrayals of spending time with their kids on the holiday. You may not have realized you needed to hear the guys who did “Salt Shaker” rap about “Kids running around, playing with all they toys/You better sit your ass down, making all that noise,” but you do. Bonus points to the guys for making sure the kids wear their coats when they’re playing outside. It is snowing, after all. —Shawn Setaro

Fetty Wap & Monty, “Merry Xmas” (2015)

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Album: Merry Xmas

Fetty Wap is known for creating trap-infused love songs with irresistibly catchy hooks, and “Merry Xmas” is no exception. What makes it a standout among the new wave of modern holiday songs is Fetty and Monty’s unique harmonies. Their vocals are soft and sweet, but still infectious with flashy one-liners and pop culture references. —Jessica McKinney

Dej Loaf & Kodak Black, “All I Want For Christmas” (2016)

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Album: N/A 

On “All I Want For Christmas,” Dej Loaf and Kodak Black tread over an enchanting J-Vaughn-produced beat, reflecting on how they’ll never have to experience a no-gift holiday season again. Differing from the usual feeling that we often get when we hear a Kodak Black verse, he drops off some heartfelt words here, thanking God for the gift of rapping and confessing that even at the top, he feels solitude. “And all I wanted for Christmas was to be here/Now I'm hoping I could spend it with you this year/God bless me with a talent, gotta make it happen/You see this rap shit is my gift, I gotta unwrap it,” he raps. Dej Loaf tranquilly glides over the song in a melodic pocket that’s widened by her simple approach to each line. Between Kodak and Dej, it’s quite the unusual Christmas-flavored combination. But conceptually, when rappers take listeners through an honest journey of triumph, songs like this often breed the best gems. —Kemet High

Yo Gotti, Fabolous & DJ Khaled, “3 Kings” (2017)

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Album: A Very ROC Christmas

The hustle is a 365-day commitment. And even on the Christmas, Yo Gotti and Fabolous remind us that the game doesn’t ever sit still. “3 Kings” is filled with bars about wrapping gifts, Santa Clause, and snow. But as you could imagine, in an anti-Hallmark recollection of the holiday, those sentiments relate to serving packs to the hood. “On the first day of Christmas, my plug gave to me/A whole sledge of snow so the whole hood can eat,” Yo Gotti raps. Fab keeps that same energy in his verse, spitting, “If you tryna light up tree I know the block with the piff/Rudolf want a red nose I know the block with the sniff.” DJ Khaled makes things cinematic, as usual. But even without his voice, the storytelling in this song adds a heavy emphasis on how Christmas looks through the lens of the block. —Kemet High

Album: Jeremih & Chance the Rapper, Merry Christmas Lil Mama: Rewrapped (Disc One) (2017)

Over electric piano chords that are warm as a roaring fire, Chance and Jeremih pay homage to their Chicago roots with a subtly juke-influenced Christmas track featuring contributions from King Louie and TekLife’s DJ Spinn and Gant-Man on the boards. Ever a master of restraint, Jeremih’s verse is romantic but understated, while King Louie’s is lustful by comparison. And for those who prefer their Christmas music a little more rooted in the church, Chance shows up on the hook to remind us that the holiday is also widely believed to be Jesus’ birthday. “Merry Christmas Lil Mama” functions as a touching ode to Chicago legend DJ Rashad, who passed in 2014, chopping up a subtle “R.I.P. Rashad” into the skittering footwork beat. It’s the rare Christmas track that captures the warmth and romance of Christmas as well as the sobering thoughts of those who are no longer around to celebrate it. —Grant Rindner

Rae Sremmurd, “Nothing for Christmas” (2018)

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Album: N/A

One could only dream of sitting in on a Rae Sremmurd studio session, because a mind-boggling hit is all but guaranteed to come out of it. A few years back, the Ear Drummers blessed fans with a two-song party pack that both mellows out and adds some needed energy to the holiday season and its surrounding festivities. As a contrast to Swae Lee’s toned down ballad, “Christmas At Swae’s,” Slim Jxmmi ups the ante on “Nothing for Christmas.” As a Mississippian version of The Grinch, he explodes on the song, explaining that his version of Christmas isn’t sweet. Right out of the gate he raps, “Your bad ass ain't gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas,” with the ad-libs, “freaky girl,” coasting in the background. This song is no different than any other of Rae Sremmurd’s bangers: Even with the jingle bells vibrating in the background, it will thrust you from your seat. —Kemet High

Tyler, the Creator "Big Bag" (2018)

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Album: Tyler, the Creator, Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ 'The Grinch' (2018)

The manic color of Tyler, the Creator's music doesn't gain a speck of dust even through a story as old as The Grinch's. In fact, it gives him another level of focus. The Grinch's heart doesn't grow three sizes larger on Tyler's interpretation of his perspective. Through his giddy internal rhymes and cymbal heavy percussion, Grinch downright sounds like the anti-hero. No, the Grinch probably doesn't listen to "Hot in Herre," but imagining him doing so is a charm within Tyler's continued creativity. —Brian Josephs

Gucci Mane, "Jingle Bales" (2019)

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Album: East Atlanta Santa 3

How could we put together a respectable Best Christmas Rap Songs list without including the East Atlanta Santa himself? A day before releasing "Jingle Bales," Gucci shared a video of himself, shirtless, dancing along to the song, and declared it the "hardest Christmas song ever." Honestly? He wasn't exaggerating by much. Over a hard-hitting beat from J. White Did It, Gucci gets in the Christmas spirit with one-liners like, "Coke like Christmas and pints like Easter." What really takes this one over the top, though, is the music video, which shows Gucci crashing SantaCon in New York City. A Christmas legend! —Eric Skelton

Lil Nas X, "Holiday" (2020)

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Album: Lil Nas X, “Holiday” Single (2020)

Deployed as a clever bridge between his breakout project 7 (featuring the ubiquitous “Old Town Road” and a collab with Travis Barker) and the following year’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” the aptly named “Holiday” boasts production from Tay Keith and Take a Daytrip. Fittingly, X himself takes on Santa Claus duties in the track’s official video, co-directed by Gibson Hazard. Notably, the “Holiday” rollout also boasted an assist from none other than Michael J. Fox. — Trace William Cowen

Gucci Mane, "St. Brick Intro" (2016)

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Album: Gucci Mane, The Return of East Atlanta Santa (2016)

Does Gucci Mane appear more than once on this list? He most definitely does, and for good reason. Taken from 2016’s The Return of East Atlanta Santa, this album opener arrived during a particularly prolific era for Guwop, with that year alone also having seen the releases of Everybody Looking and Woptober. As Gucci himself explains in the verses, this Zaytoven-produced cut is intended as a celebration of his status as “a neighborhood philanthropist,” which is certainly a holidays-appropriate sentiment. — Trace William Cowen

TLC, "Sleigh Ride" (1992)

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Album: Various Artists, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Soundtrack (1992)

Technically, TLC’s take on this holiday classic ultimately landed on two different projects released in two separate years. First, “Sleigh Ride” landed among the selected cuts soundtracking the Home Alone sequel, joining songs by The Capitols and Bobby Helms. The following year, the track was featured on a LaFace comp. However you first discovered it, it’s fairly inarguable at this point that TLC’s “Sleigh Ride” is a seasonal staple. — Trace William Cowen

Outkast, "Player's Ball" (1993)

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Album: Various Artists, A LaFace Family Christmas (1993)

Like another entry on this list (TLC’s “Sleigh Ride”), Outkast’s “Player’s Ball” has a two-part trajectory. While it’s most known for its inclusion on the revered duo’s 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the original version (now referred to as the “Christmas mix” version) first appeared on a season LaFace compilation in 1993. As fans will note, the track still stands as a pivotal one in the larger story of Outkast’s success, the influence of which is still present to nearly 20 years later. — Trace William Cowen

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