Do you remember that kid in high school who sat by himself at lunch watching episodes of “Dragon Ball Z”? Michael Christmas was, and still very much is, that kid. At about 6′ tall and well over 200 pounds, Christmas, 19, dominates the room but for a dope rapper he’s pretty awkward. Under his snapback, and wild mop of hair, the Bostonian is funny, in a Judd Apatow character type of way, but it’s not forced. It’s just who he is.
We meet for coffee to talk about his first project, an album, Is This Art? coming out in February. As soon as the waitress comes to the table you can see him getting a little nervous. “Can I get you guys a coffee?” she asks. I told her I’d take a refill. When she looks at Christmas he looks at her dead in the eyes and says, “I’m good. He’ll take a refill though.” She looked down at her pad, up at him, and then back at me before walking away very confused. Christmas whispers, “I don’t think she got it.”
Mass Appeal: When did you start rapping?
Michael Christmas: Officially a year ago, but I started writing raps when I was 11. I love this shit, it’s so much fun.
MA: Did you record anything back then?
MC: I recorded some stuff. I was trying to be Soulja Boy at that time. I was the next Soulja Boy and I was going to be hot. If I can remember, the song was called “Next Man” and it was about being flyer than the next nigga. That was the whole thing, “I’m flyer than the next nigga.” I was just flexing all the shit I don’t own. It was hard though.
MA: Do you still have the audio?
MC: I don’t. I recorded it at this place where I was going to this after school program in Boston. I was in like 7th grade. If I can go back there and they still have those files I’ll remaster it.
MA: Maybe add some ad-libs?
MC: It had ad-libs. I knew how to do all of that shit back then. We didn’t know how to do the stacked tracks so my boy came in the booth while I was rapping and was like, “YUP!”
MA: What part of Boston are you from?
MC: I’m from Roxbury. I’ve essentially lived in the same building complex since I was born, just different apartments in the same building. I lived two doors down from Edo G’s kid. We used to play ball.
MA: What’s the hip hop scene like out there?
MC: It’s intense as shit. Nobody’s made it out, that’s what they say, “made it out.” I don’t believe in making it out, there’s no making it out. You just get bigger and work harder. But nobody’s gotten to that point yet. Everybody loves each other though. I love every rapper in Boston so it’s a real family feeling, but also competitive at the same time. It’s friendly competition.
MA: How did you come up with the title, Is This Art?
MC: The first question I asked myself, I was literally walking around and had just finished watching a bunch of new music videos and listening to a bunch of new music, and at one point I started to think, ‘Is this shit art or is everybody just doing all this extra shit?’ You feel me? But then I started to craft it toward making my own music. I’m questioning is this tape art? I want to know if other people think my shit’s art? So essentially when you listen to the tape I want everybody to ask that question all the time.
Not even just the tape, too. When you go out, what’s art to you? I say all the time, ‘Art is whatever you think it is.’ It isn’t decided by one person, it’s decided by you. It’s just a universal question that I use to title this amazing shit storm hip hop project. I really love it.
MA: I love the trailer for it. Who’s Christmas tree are you laying under there?
MC: It’s funny that you ask that. It’s my producer Goodwin’s family. We were staying out there just making beats and they were super open to it. They fucking killed it.
MA: What was your writing and recording process like?
MC: One time Goodwin and Tim [Michael's manager] jumped me on a rooftop because I sent them this really shitty song. No, I’m just kidding. Honestly, I’ll write a song babysitting my four-year-old sister watching “Rugrats Go Wild.” Sometimes I’ll sit in the studio and have nothing to record and be like, “Yo throw a beat on.” That’s how “Kunishi” came about. We just went to a session and made four shitty songs. So, I was thinking, ‘we wasted a lot of time. What the fuck are we doing here?’ I had them put that beat on and sat there writing the shit for like 20 minutes. It was tough as fuck. We put it out two weeks later and had a pretty good response.
Really, there’s no definitive process for me. We just made a ton of music and are still making a ton of music. Then we start to figure out what makes sense for the project. What really is Is This Art? worthy? Is this art to me?
MA: Who did you work with on the project? I know you had some production from Jasper Scheff.
MC: Yeah, Jasper Scheff is dope. I really fuck with him. Got some Goodwin on there, too. Tim and Goodwin have been working with me since I was young. Not really working with me back then though, just kind of telling me little directive shit. I was always coming to them with questions like, ‘Yo should I do this?’ and they were like, ‘Nah, that’s terrible, don’t do that.’ And it’s still like that. Goodwin is dope at making beats and he’s like the best videographer I’ve ever met. He’s done all my videos and will continue to do so because I don’t trust anyone else at this point, he just gets it.
Me and him are like Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy. We’re really coming for that tag team championship. Whoever wants it put some money up or something, I’ll choke slam you. We climb ladders and take titles.
MA: The videos are a big part of your appeal. That “Michael Cera” video took off.
MC: Yeah, I want to hang with him so bad.
MC: He seems so cool. He seems like we could hang out at his grandmothers house and play video games and eat Bagel Bites. But also, he’s a really famous actor so he’ll have bad bitches come through. This is all in my head. It would be fun as fuck.
MA: How would you classify your music?
MC: Think about a porn site you watch that you think none of your friends have heard of. Imagine you bring that up in front of all them and they’ve all heard of it. That’s kind of how I describe my music. I’ll say some shit that I do all the time that most people do but don’t talk about. Like when you pee and you don’t hit the middle of the bowl, you hit the side on purpose. People don’t talk about that but everybody does it. I can’t be the only person that does that, you feel me? It’s fun to talk about these things. And it’s fun to make bars. Being able to say the funniest shit you can think of.
MA: You keep everything pretty light.
MC: Yeah. I mean positivity is key in life. I went through a really negative phase for like three years, it was probably about a girl, and I felt it was real cool to be depressed. As a teenager you want to be unhappy. You want to be the nigga everyone’s looking at like, ‘This niggas so sad all the time’. But then at one point I want to be happy and positive. Eat chicken with your niggas bro, what are you stressing for?
MA: Where do you want rap to take you?
MC: I want to be able to do other shit. I want to write and be on television. I want to make a commercial for Nike or some dumb shit. I want to be creative at all times. Rap is cool but I can show creativity in so many other ways. I want rap to be an avenue to take me further as far as showing creativity and entertaining people.
Photo by Michael Thorpe