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Tyler Clark presents: Local Mythologies writesTop 25 Christmas Songs of the Last 25 Years: #13 - Nate Dogg, “Be Thankful”

It's the holiday season, which means Christmas music. Lots and lots or Christmas music, most of which was written before the people listening to it were even alive. While "Jingle Bells" and "We Three Kings" are great, and resilient, we're devoting this year to finding the best Christmas song written since 1989. We continue today with #13, and the soulful (and seasonal) sounds of Nate Dogg.

#13: Nate Dogg - "Be Thankful" (1996)

At the beginning of 1996, Death Row Records still looked unstoppable. The February release of All Eyez on Me cemented Tupac Shakur's status as West Coast hip-hop's preeminent voice, and a forthcoming album from Snoop Doggy Dogg promised to build on the massive popularity of his still-spun 1993 debut. Ten months later, the label as a tastemaking force was essentially over, with Tupac slain, Snoop on his way to sign with Master P's No Limit Records, and label cofounder Suge Knight sent up on parole violations and rackateering charges. It's odd, then, that Death Row picked December 1996 for the release of its first (and only) Christmas compilation. Christmas on Death Row came out at the exact moment when the once-triumphant label had the least to celebrate.

Meant to drum up some positive PR (all proceeds went to charity), the album faltered, selling only 200,000 copies and failing to distract from the label's mounting problems. It also failed from an artistic standpoint, delivering mostly safe R&B numbers and by-the-book covers instead of the bombast that fans had come to expect. Still, it has its merits, the biggest coming from the late Nate Dogg, who'd already earned a reputation as the most soulful voice of '90s hip-hop. On "Be Thankful," Nate Dogg shoulders the full weight of the label's painful year (including the delay of his own G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2.) with a mixture of resignation, reflection, and perseverance. It's a message the resonates with lots of people this time of year, even if they're not dealing with a crumbling hip-hop empire and the threat of federal prison time.

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Categorized: Christmas Top 25

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