Entry the third: Christmas in Hollis As I write this, the third installment Nunc Scio's exploration of weird holiday songs, I'm sitting in a hotel room in the fine city of Lansing. As well as being the state capital of Michigan and the home of the fantastic Lansing Lugnuts (most popular team in the minors, fools!), the city is also the birthplace of Malcolm X. Whatever you think of his legacy, the man was a watershed in African American politics. So, for the third installment of WHS, I thought I'd take a look at the Christmas contribution of another cultural touchstone of the black community.
This is undeniably a weird holiday song. But it also has the distinction of being the only weird holdiay song that I actually like. Sure, it's a bit different. But it's so darn cool. Check out these lyrics:
It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer But then I was illin’ because the man had a beard And a bag full of goodies, 12 o'clock had neared So I turned my head a second and the man had gone But he left his driver's wallet smack dead on the lawn I picket the wallet up then I took a pause Took out the license and it cold said "Santa Claus" A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G's Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease But I'd never steal from Santa, cause that ain't right So I'm going home to mail it back to him that night But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree Was a letter from Santa and all the dough was for me
It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees Decorate the house with lights at night Snow's on the ground, snow white so bright In the fireplace is the yule log Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's But each and every year we bust Chrsitmas carols (Christmas melodies)
Rhymes so loud and prod you hear it It's Christmas time and we got the spirit Jack Frost chillin’, the orchids out? And that's what Christmas is all about The time is now, the place is here And the whole wide world is filled with cheer
My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand And I'm chillin' and coolin' just like a snowman So open your eyes, lend us an ear We want to say:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Now here is a weird song you can get behind. First of all, it harkens back to a time when people could use the words 'illin'' and 'bugged' without irony. Simpler times, when hip hop still had heart. But you've also got to dig the scene Run DMC is laying out before your startled imagination. Santa is kicking it in the park, inadvertently frightening young black men. But then, without warning, he takes off, leaving his wallet behind. And Santa is pimp. Or has a ginormous wallet anyway, apparently large enough to hold a million dollars in cash. But here lies the subtle morality play at the heart of the tune. Run could keep the money for himself, but hell, it ain't right to steal from Santa. As with all good Christmas stories, virtue never goes unrewarded. When Run gets home, he discovers a letter informing him that he gets to keep all the cash. Straight up, no trippin'. A merry Christmas in Hollis, indeed. Although I should point out that I have never, ever received any cash from Santa greater than $50. Then again, I haven't recorded any multi-platinum albums either.
The song is heartwarming, to be sure. Especially for all those folks out there dreaming of a matching car/boat set on Christmas morning- you too may find a wallet stuffed with Santa cash. If I had one complaint, it would be that the "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" at the end seems a little smug. Run DMC will be out racing their matching cars and boats, so of course they'll have a great time. The rest of us, forced to muddle along with unmatched and possible clashing cars and boats will be silently cursing the cruel vagaries of the holiday season.
So, Christmas in Hollis makes Nunc Scio's list because of it's astonishing originality. It's like no holiday you've ever had, and for that, it is a weird (if wonderful) holiday song.