The year 1987
The group Run DMC
The rap Christmas in Hollis
What’s Christmas without wrapping? The feeling of anticipation you get right before opening a present is often more powerful than the present itself. As it is with presents, so it is with this song.
Day 6 of my Christmas Jukebox series brings us neatly to Run DMC’s ‘Christmas in Hollis’. The beat is incredible. It came at the time where Jam Master Jay was experimenting with some different techniques, more record scratches, which would go on to be important in ‘Walk This Way’ and would define the structure of rap beats for years to come. There are two stories in the song, Rev. Run raps Santa and DMC pays tribute to his mom’s Christmas meals.
It’s a good structure, both the fantastic and the real. Most Christmas songs are one or the other, Run DMC blend both elements brilliantly.
It’s also different in that they celebrate the people who make Christmas happen. The only other Christmas song I can think of with any reference to mothers is Jackson 5’s one about mommy kissing Santa Claus. Not really a celebration of the work parents put in.
Moving swiftly on, today you get two!
The year 1981
The band The Waitresses
The song Christmas Wrapping
So the first one was a bit of a verbal pun (‘rap’, ‘wrapping’, geddit?), and it turns out record producers are streets ahead of me in this department. Hip Hop was coming into fashion, so this pop punk band made a kind of semi-rapping attempt at delivering the lines. To me it sounds more punk than rap, but whatever, it works pretty well.
Anyway, here’s a story from my life. Once upon a time, I went to work in a department store. I was in the department that wrapped gifts, but I had a major problem: I couldn’t wrap for toffee. Smaller items were no problem because they’re really simple, children can and do wrap small boxes with no problem. My issue was that slightly bigger or weirder shaped objects triggered some kind of primal fear in me. I “delegated” (read: got someone else to do it, with all the authority of a shop assistant) whenever possible.
Kettles were a particular problem.
One day a lady comes to me with a kettle and I look around in panic. Everyone else is with a customer. This one was on me.
The end result was not especially good. The customer gave me some pretty intense daggers and went home to redo it herself.
A colleague came up to me, presumably with something nice to say, I thought:
“You sure fucked that one up.”
“Did you charge her for that?”
“It was a kettle.”
“So what? Do it right or do it again or don’t charge, don’t rip people off.”*
This must’ve been late October or so. I had to drastically improve for Christmas. There is only one way to improve. Practise x 3.
So I did all the gift wrapping I could, some of it empty boxes filled with tissues or staplers for ballast, in order to be ready.
Some of my colleagues got a bit confused about missing staplers, but what’s a 2 second annoyance compared to wrapping greatness?
In the end, I maybe reached 6th place out of a department of 7. At least I’m now a banging wrapper. People have paid me to do it so I’m basically a pro.
You’d think that this would be an immeasurable skill, but it seldom comes up.
The main point is that, like a lot of things, you can get good at wrapping with practice so there’s no excuse not to improve. Even if it’s a kettle.
*conversation may have been more professional on her end than I recall, but I was relatively young and it sounded to me like RuPaul sayin “don’t fuck it up”.
The writer of this story is definitely way ahead on his Christmas shopping.