Thomas Conway – Indy Writer
The last two Indy Artist Profiles focused on rock-oriented artists. Whether it was the stripped down, quirky style of Frankie Cosmos or the more polished, lush indie pop of Travis Bretzer, both selections seemed to set this segment down a very specific path, genre-wise. The point of this segment, however, is to cover a wider spectrum of music than just indie rock. With that in mind, I chose 21 year old Boston rapper Michael Christmas for this edition. His use of humor and his relaxed, confident delivery make him a one-of-a-kind rapper in a very crowded scene.
Michael Christmas never graduated high school. He began honing his craft in after school programs and his passion for writing raps outlived his capacity to write essays. To Christmas, graduation wasn’t part of the plan in the first place. In interviews he mentions that he didn’t feel like school was right for him. His first real friends entered his life through his rap connections and through the internet, rather than through his classes. Luckily, his skills on the mic can pay the bills.
His first album, Is This Art? (2014), addresses his status as a high school dropout head on. Amongst the songs, Christmas splices in sound bytes of his Dad asking him why he chose to become a rapper and urging him to start making money as an artist. To balance out the uncertainty that comes with trying to make a living as a rapper, Christmas employs heavy doses of humor and confidence. The interplay between these two themes is most prevalent on “Daily,” which sounds like EARL-era Earl Sweatshirt without the gross violent lyrics. Instead he raps about microwaving Hot Pockets and creeping on girls’ Instagrams. Other lines address how rapping is Christmas’ sole passion and if he ever stopped doing it his life would be meaningless. Tracks like “Michael Cera” and “Overweight Drake” are heavier on the humor. Overall, the whole album strikes an excellent balance of humor and realism.
Christmas’ follow up, What A Weird Day (2015), is a commentary on the success of Is This Art?. The album is generally more upbeat. to mimic his rising status as a rapper. His confidence in his delivery is at an all time high and his selection of beats is righteous. With features like Mac Miller (“Grab Her Hand”) and D.R.A.M. (“Don’t Talk About It”), it’s clear that Christmas is on his way up based on the artists he associates with. Even the album title is a response to his success. At age 21, Christmas reflected on his first album an realized that his whole life had changed over the course of one year. On twitter, to accompany the release of What A Weird Day, Christmas told his followers that the title refers to how bizarre it is that he travels the world doing rap shows and radio interviews but he always ends up hanging out with the same guys in Boston telling them about how weird of a day he had.
Watching those interviews, it becomes clear why Michael Christmas is succeeding. He is a genuinely funny, personable guy. He seems to take nothing seriously and his warm presence in the room suggests he’s best friends with the interviewer even if they just met that day. You end up trusting him as an artist because of how cool he seems as a person. That’s not to downplay his impeccable taste in old school (“What’s Happenin’”) and new school (“Hate”) beats and his effortless flow on the mic. Really, Michael Christmas is the complete package: a rapper whose musical taste, technical skill, world view, and personality all come together to form a unique rap identity.
(Featured image retrieved from: The Fader)