Interview: Amerigo Gazaway on ‘Another Christmas Album,’ His Fun Hip-Hop Holiday Adventure

Another Christmas Album - Amerigo Gazaway
Another Christmas Album - Amerigo Gazaway
To celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” Atwood Magazine’s Mistletones features fresh holiday/wintertime tracks and exciting covers of beloved classics. December has a knack for bringing out some of the most poignant, tender, and celebratory music, and we want to highlight that excitement by showcasing new and alternative holiday greats! Spice up your holiday season with songs you can listen to now and cherish in the years to come.

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Producer, emcee, and DJ Amerigo Gazaway gets merry and bright in conversation with Atwood Magazine as we discuss his second lo-fi hip-hop holiday record, ‘Another Christmas Album,’ his relationship with the festive season, and more!
Stream: ‘Another Christmas Album’ – Amerigo Gazaway

It’s a fun, hip-hop holiday adventure filled with laughs, moments of joy, reflection, nostalgia and hopefully some golden nuggets of wisdom to be found along the way.

Get jolly wit’ it.

It’s the hip-hop holiday season, and there’s no way better to ring in this special time of year than with the smoldering beats, slick grooves, cinematic storytelling, and fiery flow of Amerigo Gazaway and his brand-new LP, Another Christmas Album.

Another Christmas Album - Amerigo Gazaway
Another Christmas Album – Amerigo Gazaway
It was the night before Christmas, just me and my spouse
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
We got our sweatpants on, we ain’t leavin’ the house
And you gon’ have to pay me homie, I’m not leavin’ this couch
Baby it’s cold outside, we just sittin’ by the fire
While the little duns is playing in the snow outside
Don’t wanna go outside, we just binging ‘Love is Blind’
And old ‘Star Trek’ reruns that we’ve watched a dozen times
I’m just trying to cozy up, not interested in staying up til
4AM drunk poppin’ bottles in the club
I might have an old-fashioned or an eggnog with some rum
I might even try to get a VR headset just for fun
But if you think I’m ’bout to leave the house you must be cray
I’m staying home for Christmas, I don’t care what they say
So feel free to drop by, if you wanna pay a visit
Heard some knockin’ at the door, paus the Netflix, yo who is it?
But when I got to the porch, there was nobody there
Just some presents from the elves that they left by the stairs
And yo I wish you were here, but it’s my Christmas Staycation
I’m not going anywhere so fire up the Playstation

Released December 8 via Soul Mates Records, Another Christmas Album is the suped-up “follow-up” to 2018’s instrumental beat tape A Christmas Album, Amerigo Gazaway’s first swing at a holiday record – and like its predecessor five years ago, this new LP already feels like a warm and cozy classic.

Beyond the fact that Gazaway samples a slew of songs from throughout the revered Christmas canon, Another Christmas Album sees the Nashville-born, Croatia-based producer, emcee, and DJ getting into the festive spirit with a seemingly endless slew of catchy, clever, and charming bars about the holiday season. Together with a few friends (including Atlanta-based Dillon, Brooklyn’s Napoleon Da Legend, and Virginia’s Awon), Gazaway delivers twelve Yuletide presents that are sure to make every household merry and bright this time of year.

Atwood Magazine spoke with Amerigo Gazaway about the process of making his second Christmas Album, his relationship with the holiday season, and more. Dive into Another Christmas Album – out now – and indulge in the lo-fi hip-hop holiday spirit!

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:: stream/purchase Another Christmas Album here ::
:: connect with Amerigo Gazaway here ::


Another Christmas Album - Amerigo Gazaway

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs? How does music impact your holiday experience?

Amerigo Gazaway: The holiday season has always been an important part of my household. My father and my stepmom are jazz musicians, so around the holidays they would always get invited to perform jazz Christmas standards for family gatherings at schools, churches and events in the community. That also meant that we were listening to a lot of jazz, funk, soul, blues, and traditional Christmas music on the turntable around that time of year. Some of the records I remember listening to include Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Charlie Brown Christmas,’ Jimmy Smith’s ‘Christmas Cookin,’ and the various Motown Christmas compilations.

Another big part of the holidays for me growing up was listening to Beatle Bob’s annual Christmas mixtapes that he would hand-curate, press up and send to people on his mailing list. My dad, Gary ‘El Búho’ Gazaway (who’s gigs Bob would often attend), was on that list – and every year I would look forward to going to visit him and getting to listen to the new Beatle Bob Xmas mix.

For those who don’t know, Beatle Bob (who unfortunately passed away earlier this year), was a well known figure in the music community and a frequent attendee of concerts of all genres. He was widely recognized for his wild dance moves, Beatles-inspired haircut, 1960’s style suits, and of course, his spectacular Christmas mixtapes. These compilations featured a wide variety of obscure and rare novelty holiday songs spanning multiple genres, from Rockabilly to Reggae. They were also interwoven with various skits and interludes from old radio shows, holiday movies, jingles and other sources, which I always found fascinating because to me it sounded like something a hip-hop producer would do.

With “A Christmas Album ‘ and its follow up, I wanted to put my own spin on some of these holiday classics and also pay tribute to Beatle Bob (R.I.P.) and his mixes by including various skits and interludes from old Christmas records, movies and radio broadcasts. I actually ended up sampling some of my favorite songs from Beatle Bob’s mixtapes, including Rufus Thomas’ “I’ll Be Your Santa” and Brent Dow’s “Christmas in Jamaica,” among others.

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Amerigo Gazaway: Music definitely plays a big role in our holiday experience. I have a little portable turntable and a handful of classic Christmas records (including some of my own) that I like to set up next to the tree. We usually play holiday records while we’re cooking, baking, reading, during ‘arts and crafts’ sessions or just hanging out.

In my early 20s, I used to work at a department store in the mall during the holiday seasons. So for a while there I really despised Christmas music. But as I got older and started digging deeper into sampling and vinyl, I discovered that there’s a whole world of unique holiday songs outside of the familiar classics that we tend to mostly hear on the radio.

Can you share more about one or two of your favorite songs off this album?

Amerigo Gazaway: Sure! Let’s start with “My Favorite Things,” a song which I like to think encapsulates the overall vibe of the album and the spirit of the season. It’s a light-hearted, upbeat track about the joys of Christmas time, covering topics from the excitement of being a kid on Christmas, to the nostalgia of being a grown-up with a child’s heart. I chose to make it the first song on the album, because I think it really helps set the stage for what’s to come.

Throughout the verses, I start by listing off some of ‘my favorite things’ and wishlist items while painting pictures of holiday scenes and referencing some of my favorite holiday movies/shows such as ‘Home Alone’, ‘A Christmas Story’, Christmas Vacation’ and even ‘Bob’s Burgers.’

This song also pokes fun at some common holiday tropes, like kids ‘sneaking a peek’ at their gift before Christmas, or neighbors competing for the most extravagant holiday decorations. It’s a fun, festive and celebratory track that captures the essence of seeing the world through the eyes of a child and reveling in the warmth of the holiday season.

Another track I’d like to talk about is “The Christmas Spirit(s).” In this modern, hip-hop inspired re-interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ I rap from the perspectives of three Christmas ‘spirits’ – AKA the ‘ghosts’ of Christmas past, present and future. As the song unfolds, we take the listener on a journey through time, showcasing a ‘glimpse of days forgotten’ and ‘a future yet to come’.

This track is very personal to me, because in a way I am speaking to myself at times (as is the case with many of my songs). It also puts a unique narrative twist on a timeless holiday classic, and it’s a poignant reminder of the importance of family, friendships, giving back and treating others with kindness.

How did “Christmas Staycation” come about?

Amerigo Gazaway: “Christmas Staycation” was inspired by reality in the sense that we actually are staying home for Christmas this year. My wife and I recently bought an apartment, and since we can’t afford to make a big trip overseas to visit family, we’re opting for a cozy holiday season at home instead. As much as we’d love to see everyone, we’ve also been secretly looking forward to some much-needed time to recharge and to celebrating our first Christmas at our new place while snuggled up on the couch.

This track is a humorous take on avoiding family events and celebrating the season in the comfort of your own home – trading holiday trips and busy shopping sprees for Netflix marathons, video games, and lounging in your sweatpants. Originally, working titles for the song included ‘Cozy Christmas’ and ‘Home For The Holidays,’ but I ended up calling it ‘Christmas Staycation’ instead – a fun little play on words and a nod to one of my favorite holiday movies, National Lampoon’s ‘Christmas Vacation.’

After recording my verses, I reached out to Dillon because I felt like the concept and subject matter would be a perfect match for his witty and comedic style of rhyming. For those who are unfamiliar, Dillon is a talented emcee, producer, chef, and founder of the FULL PLATE record label based out of ATL. We met back in 2013 when we were both supporting acts for Souls of Mischief, and we’ve been friends and mutual fans of each other’s work ever since.

We’ve recently started collaborating on a handful of various projects (STRANGERS: Back to The Lab, my Cavendish Archived Remixed, etc.), so when I started working on the follow up to ‘A Christmas Album’ I thought he would be a perfect addition. He’s also featured on ’Be Your Santa,’ a ‘naughty’ Santa type track which features cleverly spun tales about the pursuit of a romantic interests fit for ‘cuffing season.’ Make sure to only play this one after the kids have gone to bed! 😉

What inspired you to record your own holiday album – a second one, at that! –and how did you go about making it your own?

Amerigo Gazaway: The idea for A Christmas Album originally came about when I was watching the Organized Noize / Dungeon Family documentary. In the doc, they are being interviewed about how their careers started by having to do a ‘Christmas Album’ for LaFace Records (including the track “Player’s Ball,” which became one of Outkast’s first major hit songs). It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes at the history of one of the most unique and influential production crews in hip-hop.

Anyways, everyone being interviewed in the documentary kept on repeating ‘a Christmas album’ over and over again, and I thought it was so funny that I sampled it and started making a ‘supercut’ every time someone would mention the phrase. That’s how the ‘intro’ for the first project was born. You can hear bits and pieces of the doc chopped up the first track of A Christmas Album and throughout the second album as well.

Once I had the idea for the project, I began working on A Christmas Album itself. For inspiration, I would go on daily trips to the record store (Amoeba Berkeley, as I was still living in the Bay Area at the time) to dig for Christmas vinyl while listening to some of the old Beatle Bob mixtapes I had ripped from my Dad’s CD collection growing up. As I mentioned before, these compilations were very influential for me – as they not only contributed to my passion for Christmas music, but they also opened by eyes up to new ways of audio storytelling and compiling samples, soundbites, interludes, and songs to create a cohesive sonic experience. I think in a way, those Beatle Bob mixtapes helped plant the seeds for what would later become my Soul Mates project, as well as the Christmas Album series.

The concept for doing a sequel was born when my wife suggested that I do ‘another’ Christmas album (after the success of the first one). When asked what I should call it, she paused, thought for a moment and replied with a grin “why don’t you just call it Another Christmas Album? We both laughed and I was instantly sold. However, I wanted to do something different this time – I am always trying to explore, push the envelope and try something new with each project that I create, so I started asking myself, “How could I approach this album differently than the last one?

The first album was more of an instrumental journey, an attempt to combine traditional and contemporary Christmas music with modern hip-hop production in a way that was fun, laid-back, and listenable for the whole family (without feeling too cheesy or ‘over the top’). I like to think that I succeeded in doing just that, but with the new album I wanted to switch things up a bit. So that’s when I decided that instead of being an instrumental album, this would be a fully produced rap/hip-hop album with ‘vocals attached,’ as our de-facto narrator for the album Alex Rawls so eloquently puts it in “Another Christmas Intro.”

Sidenote: Alex Rawls, who was sampled on the intro/outro for Another Christmas Album (and throughout), hosts a fantastic podcast called ‘Twelve Songs of Christmas’ in which he interviews artists and musicians about Christmas music, covers, and remixes and the stories behind them. I was honored to be featured on the podcast awhile back (which is where his sound bites were pulled from) and would recommend the show for anyone interested in Christmas music or music history in general.

How does the album capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Amerigo Gazaway: The holiday season can encompass so many different emotions – it can be a time of joy, peace, togetherness, solitude, self-reflection and so much more. With Another Christmas Album, I wanted to encapsulate some of those feelings on wax while paying tribute to some of my favorite Christmas memories, records, books, films, soundtracks and stories.

The album fluctuates between songs that are light-hearted and festive like “My Favorite Things” or “It’s Christmas Time,” humorous or silly tracks like “Christmas Staycation” and “Blue Christmas,” and more introspective and message driven pieces like “The Christmas Spirit” and “New Year’s Resolution.” Overall, I think it covers a well-rounded spectrum of various holiday experiences that are both personal and relatable to others. It’s a fun, hip-hop holiday adventure filled with laughs, moments of joy, reflection, nostalgia and hopefully some golden nuggets of wisdom to be found along the way.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Amerigo Gazaway: I like to think that these songs bring something new to the table by putting a unique twist to some of our favorite holiday classics – whether it’s the unexpected sample flip on songs like ‘Wreck The Halls’, or the lyrical content found on tracks like “Three Kings (feat. Napoleon Da Legend & Awon)” – a hip-hop reimagining of the biblical tale of the ‘three wise men’. This track weaves together historical and biblical references into a modern context, offering a new perspective on an age-old story (similar to ‘The Christmas Spirit(s)’).

These projects have been an interesting challenge for me as an artist, because in a way I see them as a natural extension of what I’m already known for doing – mashing up and combining things that people are familiar with in interesting ways to create something new and original. I think the hardest thing about Christmas music in particular is figuring out how to do it in a way that doesn’t come off as inauthentic, corny, or derivative. It’s a very delicate and daunting process to remix, cover or re-interpret any well-loved or ‘classic ‘piece of music, but I think Christmas songs are an especially tricky task because they are so near and dear to people’s hearts (even more so than some of our favorite pop songs).

I think Another Christmas Album is a good example of how hip-hop and Christmas can be integrated in a way that’s fun, original and pleasant on the ears for rap/hip hop fans and lovers of Christmas music alike. My hope is that the album resonates with listeners of all ages/genres, and that it gets added to their yearly rotation of non-traditional Christmas music. I’ve had many fans reach out to me about the first Christmas record, saying that it has become a holiday staple in their household – so if that were to happen with this one as well then I would be eternally grateful.

Last but not least, another great example of a well-executed hip-hop Christmas record is Mega Ran’s ‘A Very Random Christmas’, which was definitely a big inspiration for me while working on this project. ‘A Very Random Christmas’ was also produced by the talented DJ DN³, with whom I recently collaborated with for my game-inspired rap album ‘Radical Dreamers’. Other inspirations and ‘holiday hip-hop’ projects to look out for include Cookin’ Soul’s Christmas mixtape series (featuring holiday-inspired remixes of MF DOOM, Notorious B.I.G. and more) as well as the outstanding ’Low Budget Christmas’ compilation.

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:: stream/purchase Another Christmas Album here ::
:: connect with Amerigo Gazaway here ::

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Another Christmas Album - Amerigo Gazaway

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Another Christmas Album

an album by Amerigo Gazaway

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