Michael Christmas Just Wants to be Relatable
For rapper Michael Christmas, to stop working is to become irrelevant—a mantra that might come off as a bit uncharacteristic for a guy who claims he draws inspiration for his music from eating Hot Pockets and sitting on the couch watching endless hours of television and movies.
But his means of lyrical inspiration and his actual artistic drive are in two separate contending categories, something that’s obvious when you ask the 19-year-old emcee about his dedicated work ethic.
Just one day after Christmas, a Roxbury native, dropped his first official mixtape, Is This Art?, at no cost to his ever-expanding fan base, he was already on the road in Boston with his musical engineer, getting ready to produce even more new tracks. “I don’t want to wait too long to put stuff out, you know? We never really stop making music. People make music, get lazy, and take a year off and say ‘I’ma chill for a second.’ I don’t want to do that. I’m not ready to go back to square one,” he said.
If you were to do a basic Internet query, or even poke around on YouTube, it would seem as though Christmas’ “square one” wasn’t too long ago, although he has been rhyming in some form since the age of 11. It’s been just over a year since his videos and downloads have really started to seep into people’s iPods, and creep their way into big-name rap blogs and music sites.
In that seemingly short stretch of time, however, is when Christmas managed to prove himself as a formidable lyrical opponent, and go from a high school kid scribbling on a notepad at his mom’s house in Boston (something he still admittedly does despite the increasingly glaring spotlight) to a full-fledged voice in the hip-hop arena that’s poised to put the genre in a chokehold.
“It wasn’t really one major step [that got my name out], it was a bunch of little things that happened,” he said, modestly. “My video ‘Daily’ got a way bigger response than I expected. And my second video, ‘Michael Cera,’ got an even bigger response than ‘Daily’ did.”
Christmas’ appeal, from an outside perspective, can be tabulated on several different fronts. His unkempt hair that protrudes from his roundish, often smiling face is a refreshingly inviting feature that makes watching his videos feel as though you’re in the company of a good friend. Stack on top of that the fact that his rhyme patterns are threaded with recognizable, everyday occurrences—just tap into “Daily” to understand the full extent of his relatability—and it’s not hard to understand why Christmas is now headlining shows like the one this Thursday at the Middle East in Cambridge, and being sought after for appearances at high-traffic gatherings like SXSW.
Much like trying to get him to admit that he’s becoming a visibly growing icon in Boston and beyond, Christmas is quick to dismiss his practice as anything but a basic application of a passion he has harbored his entire life. “My thing is, I try and make everyday activity seem like fun things, or way more interesting than they actually are. I don’t go out and do big, extravagant, fun stuff. The little things are what make me happy,” he said. “I think about my music like [comedian] Louie C.K.’s show—it’s based on real stuff. There is sadness behind the jokes, but they are really funny jokes. It’s all really relatable. Hip-hop is one thing where everyone is afraid of being themselves. I’m hoping to make it cool to be you. I want everybody in my crew to have a Prius. I know there is a kid out there that gets all of that.”
For Christmas, it’s no flash, no “bling,” no showboating—just Michael on a visceral level that’s easy enough to digest that he’s not afraid to invite his own mother to his upcoming show. “I wanted her to come out at first. Now I’m like, ‘damn, she actually agreed.’ But she is definitely coming,” he said.
While he doesn’t know what’s in store moving forward, besides plans to continue producing new music and touring, the rapper said recent events have come full circle for him, and he feels like he’s in a good spot. “It’s pretty exciting. This is the most exciting show because it’s my first headliner, it’s my hometown, and we just put the tape out. My mom’s coming to the show, and she has never seen me perform before,” said Christmas. “I guess my whole thing is, once I’m in a music mindset, I feel like I have something to prove. So whether I’m in a room with people, or on stage, I need to let people know that I’m here. I like to assert myself that way.”
It’s obviously working.