Rev Run: The Story Behind “Christmas In Hollis”


Although Hip-Hop Christmas records do not get as much airtime, the genre has produced a number of notable holiday records.

There‘s “Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow, “Santa’s Rap” by The Treacherous Three and Doug E. Fresh and one of the most creative, “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” by De La Soul.

But by far, Hip-Hop’s most popular Christmas record is “Christmas in Hollis” a 1987 hit for world famous rap group Run-DMC.

The group, now members of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is known as The Beatles of Hip-Hop because of their worldwide success and their list of achievements in making rap music the global phenomenon it has become.

They were the first Hip-Hop group to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, the first to have gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums, the first with an endorsement deal (“My Adidas”) and the first to gain regular airplay on MTV.

Rev Run. is even the first person in Twitter’s history to reach over 1 million re-tweets, due to his popular “Words of Wisdom” messages that are sent out daily to his hundreds of thousands of followers.

“Christmas In Hollis” was originally featured on the Special Olympics charity album, A Very Special Christmas, which boasted cameo appearances from artists like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Sting, Whitney Houston and numerous pop star of the day.

The record was crafted by music genius Rick Rubin, producer of legendary artists like The Beastie Boys, Metallic, Danzig Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and many others.

Reverend Run was kind enough to reveal to, for the first time, the story behind “Christmas in Hollis.”

Reverend Run: As told to

I was sitting there eating breakfast one morning and I got a call from my [legendary Def Jam ] publicist, Bill Adler. He said “Joe you have to make a Christmas record for the Special Olympics. You have to make a Christmas record. I was like OK. Just being my crazy self, eating breakfast, maybe smoking, being run.

I sat there with the eggs, bacon, toast with Jelly, a piece of paper close by. When he hung up, I was eating breakfast, I wrote it in that same seat and within 20 seconds the song was written. It was a moral thought. I almost felt like I was a preacher back then somewhere in my heart. All I could think of was, suppose I saw Santa on Hollis .

And I didn’t know it was Santa. Supposed I thought the dog was really a reindeer. Suppose Santa dropped his wallet. Man, I would never steal Santa’s wallet. I’d love to deliver it back to him. I bet you God is so good, that he will make Santa lose his wallet and if you give it back, God would say it was meant for you. But if you keep that wallet, then you are a loser, a sucker. So that’s where my mind was as the song was flowing out of me. [breaks into verse]:

It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark/When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park/I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear/Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer/But then I was illin because the man had a beard

I see this right now and imagine myself in the park on 192 park on 25th Street, all of this happening and I am getting chills now as I recite this verse:

And a bag full of goodies, 12 o’clock had neared/So I turned my head a second and the man had gone/But he left his driver’s wallet smack dead on the lawn/I picked the wallet up then I took a pause/Took out the license and it cold said “Santa Claus”/A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G’s/Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease/ But I’d never steal from Santa, cause that ain’t right/So I’m going home to mail it back to him that night/But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree/Was a letter from Santa and all the dough was for me

And that’s how I imagine life, I imagined God to be in that rhyme, I wrote it in 20 seconds and I think it’s truthfully the best rhyme I’ve ever written as far as the poetic aspect of it, the spirit of it.

I have written some dope rhymes, but that one has every element of a “Dr. Seuss.” Now a lot of other stuff I have written over the years and I’ve never said this before, but that might be the most poetic, Hip-Hop, B-Boy Dr. Seuss verse ever. I mean Dr. Seuss would never say “ an ill Reindeer,” so I imagined myself to be the new modern Dr. Seuss for that verse.

When I finished and we gave the record into the Special Olympics and these big artists like Cyndi Lauper had submitted a traditional songs like “Jingle Bells.”

I did’n’t know any better to do that. I would have never done that. I did’n’t think to not write a new song. We aren’t singers anyway, so there was no way I was singing anything, it would have been wack. I was blessed as a poet at that moment and god blessed me.