Life is still funny for the charismatic Boston rapper
Like “Seinfeld,” often referred to as “a show about nothing,” Boston rapper Michael Christmas has a way of uncovering the absurd in seemingly ordinary, day-to-day events. Witness “Daily,” off his 2014 debut Is This Art?, on which the rapper microwaves a Hot Pocket (and subsequently burns his mouth, of course), scrolls Instagram and eats chicken wings with his friends — all while trying to avoid having to make his way to rehearsal. “I'm just tryna sit in front the AC,” he raps before relenting. “My TV HD/But it don't pay me.”
Christmas maintains this humor even amid higher stakes on his most recent full-length, Role Model, released last year, setting the tone with “These Days,” where, alongside lines detailing family illness and gun violence, he raps, “Who would I be if I didn't make a junk joke?”
“It's no longer about being broke and trying to find the next party. … Life got more serious and so did I, but everything is still hilarious to me,” said Christmas, who will perform at Ace of Cups as part of Flyover Fest on Thursday, May 9. “I feel like something crazy or weird happens in front of me or to me every day, and I think these small things in life don't get talked about enough for how cool or beautiful they are. … It's how standup comedians can talk about a lot of depressing things, but they make it funny and relatable so that it doesn't make you sad.”
Even the 18 months Christmas' father spent in prison — an event that coincided with the rapper dropping out of high school, and also fueled the dark, frustrated Fuck a Mixtape — have gradually become comedic fodder for both father and son.
“We joke about my dad being in jail so much now,” Christmas said, and laughed. “When he got out of prison, he was doing pushups every day and eating oatmeal with peanut butter, making noodles in the microwave. I was like, ‘Pops, you don't have to live like this anymore. We have food.' But it did go away, and he stopped doing pushups, and it was funny as hell when he became the normal ‘him' again.”
Life in the spotlight has been an adjustment for Christmas, who said he existed so far under the radar in high school that even the bullies ignored him. He went on to describe his teenage self as quiet and friendless — traits he traces in part to frequent moves early in life, which prevented him from learning how to build proper friendships.
“It's not like I'm a socially awkward person to the point where I can't speak or anything,” he said. “I watch a ton of standup comedy, so I have all these different personalities I picked up from movies and TV and my dad and my family, so I could go places and be social, I just didn't like it.”
It's an aspect of his personality the MC never shies from in his own music. On “Girlfriend,” Christmas stutters his way through a would-be romance, rapping, “Now when I pull up I don't talk much/Cause I be too nervous, say awkward stuff,” while elsewhere he pines for solitude. “I'm not the only one, though/Who would rather sleep than have fun, though,” he offers in one typical aside.
Even now, the rapper said he's more of a homebody, adding that on those occasions he does leave the apartment, it's usually to visit familiar neighborhood haunts — the bodega, clothing boutique '47, restaurant Cafeteria, his grandmother's house — returning to each at regular intervals, “like how I imagine real estate agents and drug dealers would,” Christmas said.
Christmas wrote his first song in seventh grade “about being flyer than the person next to you,” noting that it was his attempt at mimicking Soulja Boy, who was his favorite rapper at the time. “It's something Schoolboy Q said before, that rap is really a circle of life, in that you rap like all of your favorite people until you start to sound like yourself,” he said.
For Christmas, this moment arrived with his 2014 breakout “Michael Cera,” on which he rhymed about (you guessed it) the similarly awkward “Arrested Development” actor, and has continued to deepen with each subsequent release, steadily revealing the pathos and vulnerabilities that exist beneath the punchlines.
“We're at the point now where we're trying to set up the rest of our lives, so I talk more about how hard that is to do, and how things can feel really lonely when you become a ‘real' adult,” Christmas said. “You get more paranoid and you get more scared of the world. It actually pains me to see how much more I look at the world as a crazy and dangerous place now than when I was a teen.
“All of my friends hate adulting. I hate adulting. Adulting is the most garbage shit in the world, and I would not do it if I possibly could. At the same time, I'm blessed to actually be able to do what I love, and with that I feel more responsibility to make people feel comforted, as well. Life is still funny. It's just that now it's a different kind of funny.”