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The Muse: My Favorite Christmas Song

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Wikimedia via Creative Commons License

The Muse is a creative publication that aims to share the interests, talents, and research of students on campus. The following represents the opinion of the student writer and does not represent the views of Loyola University Maryland, the Greyhound, or Loyola University’s Department of Communication.

It’s the 8th of December, Thanksgiving is out of sight, out of mind.  The turkey has been carved up, the stuffing has been devoured (both inside and outside), the pie has been put away, I’m talking pumpkin and apple, gone, g-o-n-e.  Your mind, along with every red-blooded, freedom-loving, Mariah Carey-singing, vaguely Christian, Snoopy fanboy resident of the US of A is firmly focused on one thing: Christmas, the Big Man’s son’s birthday.  To paraphrase The Grinch, there are only 17 days until Christmas, it’s practically here!  That’s where I come in. In honor of this festive time of year, I’d like to tell you all a wonderful little Christmas story: the story of my favorite dynamic duo, Atlanta’s very own ‘Twan and Dre,’ or as you might know them, Big Boi and Andre 3000 – Outkast.

Outkast reached the very heights of fame in the mid to late 90s after the release of their debut album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” in 1994, their unapologetically southern drawls standing out in a genre dominated by the ongoing back and forth between New York and LA.  But make no mistake, Outkast weren’t just different because they had funny accents. In the genre’s most lyrically charged decade, Antwan and André stood above the competition.  The duo boasted distinct and energetic flows, turbo catchy hooks, and the ability to seamlessly switch between serious, introspective tracks to party jams to mellow, laid-back drive-along songs without breaking a sweat. 

But our story begins before the whole world becomes familiar with the Batman and Superman superhero team-up comic that is Outkast.  When the duo was still in high school, they had already begun flashing that talent to those on the lookout for up-and-coming artists, signing with LaFace Records under LA Reid in 1992.  After a year or so honing their craft but still without any money coming in, the duo resorted to drug dealing in order to be able to afford studio time.  André and Antwan knew that they could make it in the music business, but they needed a spark to light the fire.  So, when LA Reid approached the duo in the fall of 1993 and told them to make a Christmas song for the record label’s Christmas album, the duo did not take to it too well.  These were two guys who wanted to be taken seriously as artists, who knew that they had the talent to become superstars, and here their label was trying to sabotage their careers before they even started.  Nobody had ever gotten famous for a novelty Christmas song and then went on to have a real career, let alone in the hyper-serious gangster rap era of the early 90’s. They would have been laughed out of the room!

Regardless, this didn’t change the fact that Outkast had to come up with a Christmas song to hand into their label. These guys had no power in the situation; they had only just graduated high school, still relative nobodies.  So, the ATLiens decided if they were going to make a Christmas song, they were going to forget the corny Christmas fixings and do it their way.  André and Antwan got in the booth and told the story of what Christmas was really like for people growing up in poverty in America.  They detailed what Christmas was like for them now, just another day, and that was how “Players Ball” was born–a song that breaks down the ritzy, popular ideal of Christmas as an entire month of expensive gifts and long holidays. It appealed to a very large group of Americans who were tired of a month of wealthy people shoving their wealth in everyone’s faces. “Players Ball” was a song for the people.

André’s distinct southern drawl is the first voice that we hear and that, coupled with his rhymes, proved to be a wake-up call to the hip-hop world that things would never be the same.  André starts the verse off by immediately subverting the audience’s expectations for a Christmas song saying, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…,” then interjecting with a “what,” then using the rest of the verse to detail what the Christmas season really looks like for many people like him in his neighborhood with lines like “Gots no snowy weather, gots to find somethin’ to do better, bet.”  What’s all this snow talk? It doesn’t snow in Atlanta.  When talking about the life he leads year-round he says, “I’m like no matter what the season, forever chill with Smith, I sip my fifth, I chill with Wesson, got my reasons.”  People living in violent environments like him have to carry a weapon year-round; people don’t get less violent just because some rich person said December is the season of giving.  He ends with my favorite line of the verse, “I made it through another year, can’t ask for nothin’ much more.”  To three stacks and people in his situation, just living to see a new year is the greatest gift because it’s never guaranteed.  He closes the verse by announcing the arrival of Outkast to the music scene -there’s no going back, they’re here to stay.

 The chorus from “Sleepy Brown” paints a picture of the annual Player’s Ball, a get-together of all the movers from across the USA to celebrate what they have and what they’ve accomplished.  Forget Christmas – to guys like ‘Twan and Dre, the Player’s Ball is where they’ve got to be.  Speaking of ‘Twan, he starts his verse off with a Christmas song reference only to subvert it, saying “Halle-lu-jah, Halle-lu-jah, y’know, I do some things more different than I used to.”  He goes on to detail how life in his line of work doesn’t stop because Santa says so; December 25th might as well be October 25th. When you don’t have the luxury for Christmas, “It’s just another day of work to me the spirit just ain’t in me, grab my pistol and my ounce see what them junkies gotta give me.”  After a break for the chorus, Big Boi is back with the defining line of the song in my opinion: “Ain’t no chimneys in the ghetto so I won’t be hangin’ my socks on no chimney.”  Once again, it outlines how Christmas and its strong capitalist overtones greatly accentuate the haves and have-nots in this country.  Not everyone is lucky enough to wake up to see a Hallmark Christmas morning. 

What could have been just another forgettable corny 90’s novelty song turned into such a hit that it was rereleased as the group’s first single for their debut album.  ‘Twan and Dre proved to the world that this Christmas experiment wouldn’t ruin their careers; if anything it was going to kickstart it.  The duo would go on to win Best New Artist at the Source Awards in 1995 for their efforts on “Southernplayalistic”, beating out acts from LA and NY and officially putting the South on the map.  In response to winning the award, silencing the chorus of “booo’s” raining down on the duo from the bitter NY and LA fans and artists, Andre would drop what is, in my opinion, the greatest line in rap history, “The South got something to say, that’s all I gotta say.”  Outkast at the forefront, alongside other Southern acts like UGK and Three Six Mafia, ushered in the Southern reign of dominance over rap music that we see up until this very day, where artists like Travis Scott, J Cole & The Migos are omnipresent. Outkast is my favorite rap group ever, and I can say without a doubt that “Players Ball” and the subsequent rise to fame that it brought André Benjamin and Antwan Patton is a Christmas miracle.

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