Jheri Curl Fridays 27: “Christmas In Hollis”

Written by Jheri Curl Fridays, Music, Popdose

Merry Christmas from Jheri Curl Fridays! This week, Run-DMC leads us on a holiday jaunt through Hollis, Queens. Bring on the chicken and collard greens!

It seems as though it would be appropriate to feature a holiday-themed post in this week’s installment, right?

Well, here’s the problem: the only Christmas video I can think of from the era this column covers that has a video accompaniment is Run-DMC’s “Christmas In Hollis.” And it’s almost gotten to the point where “Hollis” is the “I grew up in the ‘80s” equivalent of Mariah’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” I’m talking ubiquity, not quality here.

Aw fuck it, let’s talk about “Christmas In Hollis” anyway. Ho ho ho.

When this song surfaced on the excellent A Very Special Christmas compilation back in the fall of 1987, Run-DMC were one of the torch-bearers for hip-hop to the genre’s national audience, alongside LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys. To hip-hop’s core audience, however, they were already becoming passé. It’s interesting to look at how quickly “new” becomes “old” in genres still in their infancy. Within a year, their star would be on the wane, thanks to a label rift that delayed the release of Tougher Than Leather, the follow-up to their groundbreaking Raising Hell album, as well as the companion movie, which I’ve never seen, but something tells me it’s not exactly a work of celluloid gold. Eric B & Rakim, BDP and Public Enemy were the new flavors of the day, and Run, D and Jay were officially old-school.

That said, this song and video might rank as the trio’s most essential work outside of Raising Hell. The video itself is hilarious. A Santa who looks like he was brought in from the Jimmie Walker Wannabe Comedy Club (with a lone pitbull substituting for a gaggle of reindeer-I guess Profile Record’s budget was pretty tight in those days), a mischievous elf whose vocabulary only consists of the words “naughty” and “nice”, and amazingly wooden acting from “mom” (who actually might be the mom of one of the band members, I’m not sure,) the clip just might be one of the most memorable in it’s subgenre (holiday songs, not hip-hop) that’s ever been recorded. Festive without being corny, and (oddly) one of the least dated sounding Run-DMC recordings, over the past quarter-century “Christmas In Hollis” has become a standard of sorts. Strangely, it’s also never been covered—at least not to my knowledge. Let’s hope, out of respect for Run, D, and Jay’s memory, that it stays that way.

Although I have one burning question: why would Run stick a wallet full of money into a mailbox without putting the wallet in an envelope first? That doesn’t seem smart at all.