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The end of December is a time for joy and reflection, and it’s no different for rappers. In hip-hop, a new year can mean a fresh start, a major break or the road to a funeral. It can be somber or ridiculous, a plea for peace or a promise of punishment. To sort through the range of artists and ideas, here are the top 10 New Year’s rap references, selected by our friends at Rap Genius.
10. Tyler, the Creator, “F*** Santa”
You can always expect Tyler, the frontman of the Odd Future crew, to make the happy insane and the normal obscene. Disappointed at not getting the right gift for Christmas, Tyler delivers a jeremiad against St. Nick, Jesus, Frosty and pretty much everything else relating to the holiday season: “New Year’s zoom like a motherf***ing Mazda / But at the end I wanna know what the f*** is Kwanzaa?” If you just want this week to be over already, here’s your jam.
9. Beenie Man, “Christmas Murder”
New Year’s Eve normally means cheer and celebration, but someone forgot to pass Beenie Man the message. Seeing the holidays as a time to sweep up and eliminate his enemies, the rapper fills his stockings with rifles and handguns. Promising a “funeral for the New Year,” Beenie Man’s only resolution is to deliver more death.
8. Gucci Mane, “Little Friend”
Part of Gucci‘s attraction is his pure madness. Since New Year’s Eve is also pure madness, that makes his “words like New Year’s.” Just remember, the police are out in force on such a rambunctious holiday: “See I fought the law and the f***in’ law won / Came back on appeal wanna new outcome.”
7. Juice Crew, “Cold Chillin’ Christmas”
The dream team of artists that made up the Juice Crew represented an era of good feeling that has yet to be repeated. Their anthem for the holiday season is full of positive vibes and good wishes, where men “give thanks for joys and all goodies and toys” instead of fighting. Sadly, this wish also spelled the crew’s end, as the East Coast/West Coast battles ushered in more aggressive, tactical rap. The group fractured after this 1988 entry, left to pursue solo projects and try to keep the positive influence alive long after its sudden demise.
6. Diggy Simmons, “Special Occasion”
Diggy comes from hip-hop royalty, and he acts like someone who belongs on the throne. On “Special Occasion,” a rapper in his prime celebrates living to the fullest: “We’re livin’ life like a special occasion / Like every day is New Year’s night.”
5. 50 Cent, “Happy New Year”
In late January 2011, 50 Cent put this New Year’s celebration idea onto paper. Sure, a few weeks had passed since December 31st, but this OG just kept the party going. Unfortunately, 50 more or less retired afterward, but he can still afford to party like the ’90s every day, even without rapping.
4. Danny Brown, “Re-Up”
In this song, Danny Brown sees the financial benefits of assigning yourself a few extra children as tax season closes. The rest of the country might search for less extreme exemptions and loopholes, but Brown’s accountant seemingly advised him: “When New Year’s come, claim a baby on your taxes.”
3. GZA, “Cold World”
Playing off “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” GZA laments that his hood is filled with violence: “It was the night before New Year’s, and all through the f***ing projects / Not a handgun was silent, not even a TEC.” You probably won’t see that one performed at a community theater.
2. Will Smith, “Will 2k”
The millennium (“Willennium”?) meant not only the start of the 21st century, but the end of Will Smith‘s rap career. The extremely talented actor, writer and philanthropist had a string of successful hits–but by 1999, the cultural shift to more expressive, lyrical and sometimes violent rap spelled a slow end to Smith’s no-swearing style (as Eminem so delicately showed). Still, for a retro New Year’s Eve, nothing beats Big Willie’s happy Y2K jam.
1. Ghostface Killah, “Ghost is Back”
Taking the “life is a celebration” pitch to a level reserved only for Wu-Tang members, Ghostface (or as we know and love him, Pretty Toney) partners with Tracy Morgan of all people to celebrate a gangsta’s version of the high life. They wish for a year ahead filled with killing, macking and generally running the street. In typical fashion, the mayhem is mixed with nonsense about peanut butter toes and yeast infections. But there’s a positive message buried in there: “I wanna wish ya’ll muthaf***as a happy New Year.” Now that’s the spirit of the season.