13 January 2021 / by Boris Bek
Michael Christmas - Hiding album cover
Album reviews
Released: December 18, 2020
Label: Self-release
Cousin Stizz / Kevin Abstract / Tobi Lou

Hiding delightfully combines mellow instrumentation and classic boom bap beats to showcase Michael Christmas’ growing comfort in his own lane. The meeting of these forces make for a record that’s an easy listen but still offers a complex narrative of Christmas’ life through lyrics.

The album opener, ‘I Heard‘, is a doubtful take on his success so far in his career. Writing from the perspective of his critics, Christmas teases lines like “Last I heard he moved to a mansion think he rich” and “I heard he got a drinking problem, man [he] different” before launching in to the hook, simply crooning, “I heard, I heard, I heard, I heard, I heard, yea I heard”. All over a jazzy, 90’s sitcom-like instrumental, Christmas shows he is able to shrug off these negative perceptions of himself, whether they be from the outside or within.

The next track, ‘I Quit‘, is an assured take on his lifestyle. Christmas raps, “Ain’t no algorithm in these streets/ I finesse the game like an idiot savant.” The music is centred behind a moody electric piano progression and features an interesting snare roll pattern throughout that gives the song a lively feel.

Later, the 808’s come out. ‘Family Not Friends‘ is the first solid gut punch the album makes. With boisterous saxophones and doubled backing vocals on the chorus, the music becomes more intricate and harder hitting. It settles down for a moment with the Luke Bar$‘s featured song, ‘Rule The World‘ before absolutely blasting into the most energetic beat on the album, ‘Cinderblocks‘. This track with its cascading 808’s and snapping snares blends in a simple electronic synth melody to showcase a more serious side of Christmas’ life; when he was growing up under the weighty conditions of a violent neighbourhood.

The next few tracks are some of the weakest of the album, however. The loudly mixed and ill-fitting organ loop on ‘The Relation‘ makes it largely forgettable and ‘When I’m Gone‘ meanders with no discernible hook other than an unexciting lyrical break in the middle.

Despite this, the album closes strongly. ‘Don’t I Know‘ It contains a funky hook melody and splashes down an equally groovy high-synth line during the outro. Christmas sings “Where I’m coming from you don’t wanna know/ But don’t I know it though/ Life get better/ Like waiting for the weather.” Like the rest of the album, Christmas shows a sincere self-awareness of his own insecurities but vows with his courageous wit to overcome them and stay true to himself.

Throughout his career, Christmas has always found the right balance between playful cleverness and sincerity in his music. Hiding is another great example of how the rapper can confidently weave the two ideas together. Whether releasing his albums independently or with label backing, as he did for his previous full length record, Christmas remains unchanged in the unique vision he brings to his projects. On this album he is funny, honest, self-deprecating and artfully embraces his hardcore and underground 90’s hiphop influences.