Why is Michael Christmas a DJBooth Top Prospect? We couldn't tell you, preciely, and that's the point. In the age of the internet it's easier than ever to turn music into a statistical equation. If you're looking for the next big thing, simply take their total mixtape downloads, multiply by their Twitter followers, add 37.79% of their Spotify streams, subtract the root of their YouTube video thumbs downs, dump it all into an Excel file and boom, you've got the future of music.
Except music doesn't work that way. At all. As much as music has changed, the absolute core of what still makes music the most powerful force on the planet hasn't - it makes us feel something. Angry, happy, sad, inspired, or maybe you can't even precisely name what the feeling is, but whatever it is, the music describes it perfectly. And that's why Michael Christmas is a Top Prospect.
I couldn't tell you exactly why I've been watching Christmas' "Y'all Trippin" video, other than it just generally makes me happy to be alive with a functioning brain, but I'm rounding my eleventh viewing. I couldn't tell you exactly why I turn "Dr. Christmas, MD", off Christmas' "Is This Art?" mixtape, up to dangerous levels when I'm in the car alone, except it feels freeing to yell "Hands shaking like EEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!" at the top of my lungs.
When I first spoke to Christmas, back in January, he was still a couple months away from dropping "Is This Art?," and it was because I had stumbled across "Jackie Brown" and found myself playing it over and over again during the...wait for it...it must have been a sign from the cosmos...Christmas break.
The music was undeniably good, but more than that, I just really wanted to kick it with Bob Hanukkah because he felt like a young emcee with no complex plans for world domination, no connections with major label A&Rs, none of the usual baggage that so often weighs down a young artist's career before it can even take off. His music felt like it was being made by a dude who just really loved making music and laughing and dropping ill "Arrested Development" punchlines and that's a dude I want listen to.
So now that "Is This Art?" has dropped and Christmas is beginning to get recognized in his native Boston, what's changed? Well...nothing, really. As he told me when we spoke again last week, and I asked him where's he at, both as an artist and as someone whose music was becoming a business:
"I think this is the favorite stage of hip-hop, for any artist. I'm at the point now when I've dropped a tape and some people know who I am, so it's clutch time, it's time to show people what I can do. So that's the plan. Just make hella videos and make people love me and just keep rapping and get doper at it. As far as other shit....I don't know."
What better plan could there possibly be?
I want to be clear, Michael Christmas can fucking rap. Like Action Bronson, he's an emcee who can spit some thoroughly ridiculously lines - "The labia majora look like a floral arrangement from Florida" - but delivers that hilarity with such raw skill that his raps never become a joke. Christmas' true appeal though, and the reason we believe he'll continue to convince more of those aforementioned people to love him, lies beyond solely what comes through your headphones. Now, more than ever, artists succeed because fans invest in them as entire people, not just people who make songs, which is why Christmas' seemingly innate ability to kill a video as hard as he kills the mic is so crucial.
"Nobody's just vocally a superstar right now. That doesn't even sound right. I think videos, and 'Y'all Tripping' proved it, are probably the most important part of my thing. The tape got so much renewed attention off the video. I love just seeing how people react to the crazy shit I do on camera. Some of my dance moves are pretty tight too."
The man's proven he can make a cohesively dope project, he's proven he can make rewind worthy videos, and trust me, in real life (aka not solely on the internet) he's proven he's a pretty good human being. When I mention how the line between fantasy and reality is completely blurred for children in a way adults completely lose, he pauses, thinks for a moments, and says, "I used to think the floor was really lava though."
There may be other rappers who would bring up floor lava in interviews - and come on, who didn't play floor lava as a kid? - but there aren't many, and there's certainly only one Michael Christmas, and ultimately, that's precisely why he's a Top Prospect. The one thing the formulas and stats can't account for is originality, originality always wins.
Keep winning Michael Christmas, keep winning.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]