After Thanksgiving, department stores and coffee shops alike are flooded with Christmas jingles and cheery music. These holiday staples are nostalgic and traditional, but often dated. Enter Chance the Rapper and Jeremih, who just released a surprise mixtape on Soundcloud days before the holiday.
The pair, who first linked up on Chance’s latest project “Coloring Book” on the track “Summer Friends,” collaborated on this Christmas-themed mixtape titled “Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama,” a tape chalk-filled with contemporary Christmas anthems. This jolly and heart-warming collection of nine tracks serves to jazz up and modernize current Christmas music, and will be in the annual Christmas music rotation for years to come.
According to a Vox video, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the latest major holiday hit, amassing just under 45 million streams from November to December 2015 in the U.S., though it was written over 20 years ago. With such an old song topping the charts two decades since its release, it’s clear to see that it was due time for a revamp of holiday hits.
However, both Chance and Jeremih use popular Christmas songs for inspiration, either as references or as samples (“Chi Town Christmas” follows the same cadence as “Carol of the Bells”), bridging a gap between old and new.
This modernization is immediately heard in the first song, “All the Way,” as it boasts a blaring beat and rhythm typically found in today’s pop songs. Chance’s loud and proud rapping style fits perfectly with Jeremih’s seductive vocals, a theme that runs throughout the entire mixtape. This record concludes with a sweet, yet funny monologue from comedian Hannibal Buress.
Other notable tracks are “Snowed In,” “Stranger at the Table,” and “I Shoulda Left You.” “Snowed In” begins with an ethereal humming from Jeremih, followed by soothing and perfectly auto-tuned singing. When Chance enters, he brings about a certain comforting and relaxing rhythm, and the two singers go back and forth in a melodic and casual manner, sort of blending into one warm stream of music.
“Stranger at the Table” follows the same pattern as another classic song, Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” furthering the nostalgic theme present in the mixtape. Much like the aforementioned song, this record features rhythmic singing intermittently cut by Chance’s smooth rapping, and even his signature yelling voice (Igh, Igh, Igh!). Furthermore, the instrumentals, which include a church organ and finger snapping, not only compliment their voices but also contribute to the message of the song: longing for a lost lover.
The last of the three standout songs, “I Shoulda Left You,” takes a different direction than most songs on the album. Although it retains the same qualities found in the rest of the tape, it could be considered more of a turned-up holiday chant with a farewell to what many people consider a lackluster year. With assistance from producer Zaytoven, it is undoubtedly a big middle finger to 2016.
Chance laments the death of some musical greats this calendar year, saying, “Got too many body you a throw ‘way/Rest in peace to great David Bowie/Please can we get back Prince? … Please can we get back Craig Sager?”
For a project that literally had zero buildup, acknowledgement, or even announcement before its drop, “Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama” did a fantastic job creating new Christmas anthems for years to come. Along with holiday staples like milk and cookies, or stockings and the fireplace, people will have to add Chance the Rapper and Jeremih as another iconic Christmas duo.