'Twas the Thursday before Christmas, a night like any other—the moon was sitting high, the owls were hooting, graveyard shift workers were beginning to grumble, and my eyes grew heavier by the second. Just before giving in to the whispering call of my bed, I saw on Twitter something that I wasn’t prepared for—a SoundCloud link posted by Chance The Rapper.
Without warning, without any prior announcements, our emcee of 2016 pulled another trick from his hat—a collaborative Christmas mixtape with Jeremih entitled Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama. “For Chicago,” is written in the SoundCloud description, this is a project dedicated to their hometown.
My eyes are now wide open.
For those who are asleep, I can only imagine how their faces will light up when greeted by this gift. Christmas has truly come early. Chance has successfully pulled off another surprise release; he hasn’t had an official release date since Acid Rap. Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama is strictly on SoundCloud, Chance and Jeremih weren’t outed by outside sources like J. Cole and Childish Gambino.
Chance’s independence and dedication to not selling music have allowed him to move in assassin-esque silence, able to create what he pleases, and release on any day and at any hour that he wishes. In the dead of night, two of Chicago’s most prominent modern artists have released a collaboration for the holidays—Saint Nicholas would be impressed.
When you press play on “Snowed In,” the second track, you are able to conclude that this Christmas project is focused on bringing Christmas themes into the current day with a touch of nostalgia—Chance and Jeremih are celebrating the holiday in 2016 while retaining the essence of Jesus' birthday. "Snowed In" has an infectious bounce while having the lightness of snow flurries; the easy-on-the-ear anthem is for all the couples who embrace being snowed in together.
Christmas songs aren’t known for alluding to bumping and grinding, but the man who brought us birthday sex isn’t taking Christmas off. Jeremih brought his horns to wear upon his halo. Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” classic is given a makeover on “Stranger At The Table”—the revamped version is filled with jingling bells, jubilant drums, and two singers who are dealing with Christmas without their former lovers. Anyone dealing with memories of ex-flames during the cold holiday season will appreciate this effort.
“Joy” is an early favorite. Jeremih's vocals are golden and pristine. The instruments orbit around his ballad like planets circling the sun. It’s executed with grace, the outcome is elegant and beautiful. Chance delivers a verse that gives us a glimpse of what he's facing this holiday season—arguments, talks of bail money, gossip of who is plotting to steal from him, and refusing to allow lawyers to destroy his family bond. Sounds like he’s living the life of someone rich and famous, but not forgetting what Christmas is about, who Christmas is about, and ends his verse acknowledging the love that surrounds him. The choir brings it home, adding the extra energy that truly makes the song reach the heavens. This is the song for Christmas morning, before and after church. The sound of “Joy” could have easily been included on both Surf or Coloring Book, another valiant offering from The Social Experiment.
Chance and Jeremih aren’t musical strangers, the two have quietly formed a collaborative kinship that dates back to The Social Experiment doing a vibrant rendition of “Planes.” The few times their paths have crossed it’s been magic and Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama solidifies the two as a single entity. There are only a few rare moments where it feels like the two step outside their roles, as the project does a good job highlighting their artistic strengths. Knowing your lane is imperative when it comes to collaborating with another artist under one studio for a full-length project. The two seem to catch the spirit on "Chi-Town Christmas," Jeremih gives singing a break and get the bars off; the flow Chance pulls off has to be used again for the culture, the kid skates. This may be a Chance and Jeremih project but the two aren’t alone—a few friends are sprinkled throughout the 9-track project.
Hannibal Buress, another Chicago native, appears at the very end of “All The Way” asking for his voice to be laced with the “Travis Scott” effects. If you ever wanted to hear Buress singing “Jesus” in Auto-Tune you are in for a treat. There’s a Zaytoven tag at the very beginning of, “I Shoulda Left You,” the acclaimed Atlanta producer giving Chance his first ever Christmas banger. The beat thumps like a stampede of reindeer, the melody is catchy, and with a hook that is guaranteed to become a Facebook status update, this is a potential social media hit. Chance's verse is guaranteed to be popular for shouting out David Bowie, Prince, and Craig Sager, paying homage to the heroes we lost this year. “The Tragedy,” by far the darkest, most captivating song on the short offering, features Noname and Chance back in poetic tag team formation—the two together form the best duo since Tommy and Kimberly—while Chicago fast-riser Lud Foe checks in on "I Shoudla Left You."
Overall, the project is fun, bringing a little holiday spirit to the masses. Based on the energy of the project, you can tell this is a lighthearted effort, carefree, a gift to fans and Chicago. Christmas music is such a niche market, I love how they maneuvered around the holiday cliches and made a project for those who are tired of the same jingles, and sick of Mariah Carey ruling over the month of December.
If you enjoy Chance, Jeremih, and Christmas this project will take you well into the new year. Ring in December 25th the right way—family, friends, eggnog, and Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama.
By Yoh, aka Merry Yohmas Lil’ Mama, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: SoundCloud