Germans have cornered the market on Christmas villains. From Krampus to Die Hard’s Hans Gruber the supernatural and super vicious keep finding ways to kick Old St. Nick in his jingle bells. But neither could hold a candle to their sour and dour American-born cousin, The Grinch. The antagonist of Dr. Seuss’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” book was a grumpy, green scallawag who planned to steal Christmas from the demure citizens of Whoville. The book was published by Random House in 1957 and spawned a TV series in 1966 directed by Chuck Jones, the legend behind Warner Brothers stars like Wile E. Coyote, Marvin The Martian, Road Runner and many others. The show was narrated by Boris Karloff (who was also the voice of the Grinch) and the soundtrack spawned the cult hit, “You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch,” sung by Thurl Ravenscoft (who also voiced Tony The Tiger).
“How The Grinch stole Christmas” was a smart and subtle condemnation of the commercialization of Christmas that also inspired a live action film starring Jim Carrey, a broadway musical…
And one rap video…
On Dec 12, 2012 Duckdown Records released the video to “How Sean Price Stole Christmas,” a genius re-imagining of the classic story starring the bearded bar-barian from Brownsville, Sean P. Dressed in Chuck Taylors and a fitted baseball cap, this Grinch didn’t reside on Mount Crumpet, but on the corner of Mother Gaston Blvd and Blake Ave. in Brooklyn.
“Was the night before Christmas, and all through the P’s/Was a motherfucking thief and his name was P/He still sell drugs and occasionally shoot shit/Don’t ho ho ho’s, but he stay in some new kicks...”
Several years ago Duckdown’s CEO Drew “Dru Ha” Friedman was in the back of a New York cab when a commercial for the “Grinch” on Broadway blared into his backseat and inspired him to record a virtual Christmas card starring his curmudgeonly flagship artist, Sean Price. However, in true Grinch fashion Price was not with the program at first, stalling the project for several seasons. In an act of desperation Dru went to producer Khrysis, shared his vision and asked him to make the beat while he worked on convincing Ruck.
“I came back to Sean with the beat and two Christmases went by,” says Dru. “Then I think I told him some embellishment that a site was willing to pay some money for it, and that technically was us. Normally we wouldn’t pay our artist for a promotional content piece. We weren’t selling it so there wasn’t a sale there. Finally, he screamed on me in his typical Sean fashion and then he was like fine I’ll do it. He says in the rap ‘I hate doing this shit’ and I know he was talking to me!”
Leading with bars like “Fuck Christmas/Fuck this shit/ Stick my dick in the box/ fuck this gift…” Sean nailed the character by saying exactly how he felt. It was probably therapeutic for him and anyone who’s braved a Black Friday horde to secure a present on the cheap. Carrying a sack filled with the fucks he didn’t give, Sean barreled through the beat—a deft blend of aggression and whimsy— like a titan scattering people in the Shiganshina district.
“I just went with my instincts on the beat. It’s a Sean Price record, make some Sean Price shit,” says producer Khrysis, who recorded aural bricks to the face like like “Onion Head” “King Kong” and “Hush” with Price. “There was a point in time where our chemistry was off the chain and whatever we did together…I already know what he wanted. Who else could do a Grinch record but Sean Price? He’s perfect for that.”
“The inspiration was easy, he was the fuckin Grinch,” Dru confirms with a laugh. “I called him an ogre and we loved the cartoon as a kid. I told him be miserable, steal Christmas. Be YOU.”
With the song burning a hole in Dru’s iPod there was still a piece missing: an accompanying visual. Fate brought Dru to animator and director Kimson Albert, who had been working on “Venture Brothers” for Adult Swim. Albert had been a longtime fan of Boot Camp and made working with Sean Price a priority after hearing his personal story on an episode of The Combat Jack Show.
“One night when I was leaving late from work I was at the 23rd street F train stop. I go downstairs and see Dru Ha,” Albert recalls. “Literally the stars aligned. What are the odds that I wanted to work with Sean and I run into Dru? I rolled up on him like ‘Yo, I’m an animation director and I NEED to work with Sean Price.’ I never do that kind of shit but it was something inside me. So I sent him my reel and pitched an animated Sean Price sitcom. He comes back to me with the idea, an animated Christmas card. At first I was like what is that about? Then I heard the track and was like fuck yeah because that track is ridiculous.”
Kimson charged them a fraction of what it would normally cost to produce, but was committed to giving Price the A-1 treatment, digging up the original Dr. Seuss fonts, watching old clips and getting his Grinch as close to the original as possible while incorporating distinct b-boy flourishes. For example, the moment where Sean’s Grinch goes into a pop locking and backspin exhibition was inspired by the breakdancing King Kong from Cherrelle’s 1984 clip, “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.” The rest of it pretty much wrote itself.
“He already had the gags built in the lyrics so I said let me go straight ahead with this, being a conduit for their vision.” The result was a spot-on tribute to the subtle yet undeniable humor of Sean Price, complete with coked out reindeer and burning trees of the yuletide variety. The Gray Hulk was perfect in green.
“Sean loved it. We laughed about it when it was done,” says Dru. “He showed it to everyone. He never was a big ‘Thank You’ person but I called the house and he was showing it to [his wife] Bernadette like ‘Check this out, B.’ Then I knew he loved it.”
“The video was everything I tried to make people see with their ears,” Khrysis says in agreement. “That was just pure magic right there, the way things fell in line. Shout out to Dru Ha for that.”
The clip would take on unforeseen significance when Sean Price passed away suddenly on August 8th of this year. While there is no consolation for not having one of hip-hop’s most celebrated MCs with us any longer, fans will always have this one-of-a-kind performance that came together thanks to some actual Christmas magic.
“RIP Sean Price. Just recently I was in Philly and this dude was like I didn’t now you directed that clip,” says Kimson. “It’s tragic because I don’t know how many rappers have good Christmas songs. That was the aspect of Sean I wanted to see more of, like the satire Sean Price. He was a comedic genius and I knew he knew. But maybe he didn’t want to give it up full body to the industry. It’s just amazing to me how it came about.”
“He still manages to make it fun for Christmas. That’s the key,” Dru concludes. “He really didn’t want to do it. But I said it’s a good idea. There was no one like him and now we’ve gotta classic in the underground hip-hop world.”