Over the last couple of years, a young emcee from the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston has been slowly putting his unique stamp on the rap game and forcing the world to take a deeper look at what might be coming out of a city that is so often overlooked when it comes to hip hop. On first listen, 22-year-old, Michael Christmas already sounds like a veteran. His voice, cadence, verses… everything, suggests that he may not only be one of the most promising up-and-coming lyricists out there, but simply one of the best out there doing it, right now, period.
Christmas wants to change the public perception of his city, at least in regards to how it’s viewed in the hip hop world, and put it on the map as much more than a place for corny frat rappers — a mission that, with his undeniable talents, he’s already beginning to accomplish. That being said, his main goals are to get to the point where he can buy his mom a pink house in Atlanta, to put his younger siblings through college, and, if it all works out, open a mom and pop style pizza joint that he can pass down through generations.
This kid is confident in his abilities, and that confidence comes through when he spits. He knows that what he’s putting out is 100% real and true to himself and, in turn, there’s nothing that’s ever going to convince him that it isn’t absolute quality. To hear him speak about the work, he never expresses any doubt, but as for Michael as an individual, he’s incredibly humble. After attending 3 different high schools, he dropped out in his junior year. As he tells it, he didn’t really have any friends until he was about 17 and, when he was enrolled, would simply put on his headphones, blast loud beats, and walk around with his hands in his pockets and his head down. Not unlike an endless number of people from his generation who grew up on the internet, he’s a fan of such things as videogames, Dragonball Z, and professional wrestling. He’s not particularly comfortable around people that he doesn’t know, yet he’s persistent and outgoing when it comes to promoting his work and getting shit done. He’s friendly. He likes to hug people. Among his song titles are tracks like “Michael Cera” and “Taco Truck.” But, most of all, he’s a fucking beast on the mic.
Maybe you already know about Michael Christmas. I’ve been sleeping on him and didn’t. What woke my ass up is the news that this guy is now recording with Guillermo Scott Herren (Prefuse 73), who, in my mind, is one of the greatest producers in any genre. That’s a pretty major endorsement. And he’s not just working with him on one or two tracks, they’re putting out an entire LP together. The duo is going under the name of FUDGE and their debut album, Lady Parts, is slated for a September 9th release via Lex Records.
So, how does one lock down someone as prolific and well respected as Herren, who already has an endless number of aliases and projects of his own that could be keeping him busy — Piano Overlord; Savath Y Savalas; the, most likely, defunct, Diamond Watch Wrists (with Zach Hill), etc. — to invest themselves in producing an entire album for them; especially when they have such a limited track record in this industry? I’m guessing that the answer has to do with the same reason that Michael Christmas was personally offered the opportunity to do a string of 40 dates opening for Logic, when he’d never even done any level of tour prior to that. What he’s been putting out is quality. People have ears, and the pair that Herren has attached to his skull are up there with the best of them.
This time around it wasn’t Prefuse that reached out for the collaboration, however; it was Tom Brown from Lex Records that posed the idea and, as Herren states in a new interview with Mass Appeal, he just “trust[ed] the curation and went with it.” Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time that the UK label has released records that consisted of pairing younger artists with more established ones, to great success. Both NehruvianDOOM, which saw teenage rapper, Bishop Nehru, spitting over MF Doom production; and Sour Soul, the project involving Ghostface Killah fronting Canadian jazz trio, BadBadNotGood; not only yielded solid material and critical acclaim, but instant credibility and plenty of new eyes on these newer artists that may not have been pointed at them, otherwise. And regardless of the fact that his collaboration with Michael Christmas wasn’t his idea, initially, Herren has referred to the Boston rapper as “so talented,” even going so far as to state, “Christmas is a genius and people just have to accept it.”
The FUDGE page on the Lex records site explains the recording process as follows:
“The record came together during several sessions in the summer and fall of 2015 at Nick Hook’s Green Point studio. Prefuse 73 brought along a hard drive full of beats. Christmas wrote to the instrumentals in the studio, and recorded the vocals the same day.“
In the Mass Appeal interview, Herren explains that they did “over 20 songs in 3 separate weekend sessions.” and that he “ran out of beats with this dude.”
Those who are aware of the work of Guillermos Scott Herren would agree that the multi-instrumentalist has an uncanny understanding of sound, and how it operates from every angle. As versatile as they come, he has delved into everything from ambient, jazz, and hip hop to electronica and drone. Just based on this first single “Popstar Shit” [posted below], it’s clear that he’s pulling out all of the typical stops that he’s known for, and for Christmas to be able to flow over production at this level not only showcases his own skills in a way that we’ve yet to see from him, but it can only make him a better rapper and artist, over all. “Popstar Shit” doesn’t just start with the push of a button, it sounds as if a valve has been turned on to release it. The beat is never static, evolving consistently while Michael Christmas weathers the changes, effortlessly gliding across it. Shimmering blips ascend over industrial sounds, summoning images of a factory floor assembling androids, and bringing them to life by inserting radioactive nuclear cores that glow like the film Cocoon, while those tiny little UFO bots from Batteries Not Included buzz around, delivering nuts and bolts to the production crew. [That’s right kids, I have pop culture references of my own from my own generation and they both involve elderly Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy].