Holiday Wishes: ‘Christmas Dinner’ track is all about familyWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For Reed Russell — better known as renowned Toledo Hip-Hop producer ReediusMaximus — the holidays are about family.
For better or worse.
“You don’t know what you’re gonna get when you go over to your relatives’ house. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But that’s what it is,” Russell said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “Families are all different, no matter what.”
So when Russell was asked to participate in the Make-A-Wish Foundation “Holiday Wishes” CD, he decided to craft something wholly original — something that would sum up the myriad feelings one gets from visiting relatives in the midst of the season.
“I didn’t wanna go the ‘Jingle Bells’ deal and all that. So I kinda approached it more how it is for me on Christmas, and the feel that I get around that time of the year. So I just try to convey that,” Russell said.
The result is “Christmas Dinner” — a combination of music, verse and dialogue which captures the chaos and joy of a holiday meal.
“Russell is a founding member of the legendary United Soul Brothers (The U.S.B.s) a collective of talented men who started in the early 1980s with DJs, producers, MCs and dancers,” said DJ and Toledo Free Press Star columnist Martini Rox. “Toledo’s Hip-Hop is the house they built, with more than 50 members musically serving the community today.”
It was Rox who first approached Russell with the idea of contributing.
“She called and just suggested that I would be a part of it — just that I would be a good fit for it, based on the things that I have done previously here in the city,” Russell said. “It was wide open. I could do whatever I wanted, as far as the theme of it and whatnot. So, that’s kind of how I approached it.”
The track follows its lead character as he walks through his family’s Christmas gathering, putting a rhythm and beat to the kind of dialogue we all have as we meet and greet relatives we may only see on holidays.
“It’s how I am, I guess,” Russell said. “I approach everything like that. Everything is off the cuff. I almost look at music more like I’m directing a movie. You give me a title, and I’ll roll with that. That kinda shapes the music, or the theme that I’m doing. I never approach it the standard way, I guess. It’s more of a feeling for me.
“The things that you hear were all pieced together. The guy that’s talking first, he came in and I just basically at the eleventh hour told him what I wanted — and he’s part of a band that I’m with as well. So he just didn’t write anything down, he just did it off the cuff. And my son is actually in there, he plays the little kid that he’s talking to. Again, off the cuff,” Russell said.
Russell can be heard several times, as can Rox, playing the lead character’s grandmother. All the track’s different elements were recorded separately over the course of one furious day of creation, then mixed together by Russell into a symphony of words.
“It just felt right when it was done,” Russell said.
On an album which features performances of many holiday standards, written and musical, Russell’s hybrid track stands out as something unique — a position he’s accustomed to.
“I know it was kind of different, I knew it would be. I always try to do things a little different, as far as the music that I make here in the city. I always try to take a different approach,” Russell said.
He noted that constructing the track ended up being an emotional experience — one which he hopes his audience will share.
“I hope that whoever hears it, it makes them feel like I feel. It makes them feel like they’re going over to their family’s house on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. That’s that family feeling, however it is, I hope that song makes them feel the same way I felt when it was done.
“It made me feel exactly the same way I do when I go over to my family’s houses that day. It makes me feel happy, sometimes sad — all the real feelings, rolled up into one,” he said.