When you mention hip-hop - love never comes up unless it's the love for the genre but rap music has penned some great love james that a hustler might bang in his ride and not seem soft.
Since LL Cool J hit pop radio with "I Need Love" 23 years ago, a steady stream of MCs have tried their hand at the ellusive "love song." And from thug-love anthems to sensitive bohemian odes, a handful have actually done it well. Thanks to Complex for bring this to our attention and countdown of our favorite love-themed raps.
#25: Fabolous f/ Ne-Yo "Make Me Better"
Verse: "You plus me, it equal better math/Your boy a good look, but she my better half/I'm already bossin, already flossin/But why have the cake if it ain't got that sweet frosting?"
Comment: Loso's had a string of decent R&B-fused love songs, but his 2007 duet stands out as a favorite with both genders. Fab gives credit to his better half over a moody Raekwon sample while Ne-Yo almost makes us think he's not corny. Almost.
#24: LL Cool J f/Boyz II Men "Hey Lover"
Verse: "I wonder one day could it be, simple dreams turnin into reality/Our love would come down so naturally/we would walk down the isle of destiny"
Comment: Nothing like listening to this jam when you want a girl of your dreams and she's with a dude you don't even like.
#23: Ma$e f/ Total "What You Want"
Verse: "In a year or two, girl, I could see you with my kids/Girl, you make a thug want to get a legal gig/It's only right we spend our lonely nights/Gettin' crazy biz till we awake the kids."
Comment: Released as the second single from his debut Harlem World, this is the Good Pastor's ode to the that special lady he's taking out the hood. Whatever you need girlfriend, he's got the whole enchilada!
#22: Black Star "Brown Skin Lady"
Verse: "Your skin's the inspiration for cocoa butter/You provoke a brother, we should get to know one another." -Talib Kweli
Comment: Oooh! Mos and Talib combined forces to form Black Star and create this easy-going tribute to women coming from the continent. As everyone knows, the ladies can't resist Mos Def's faux-tois.
#21: De La Soul "Eye Know"
Verse: "It's I again and the song that I send/Is taking steps to reach your heart/Any moment you feel alone/I can fill up your empty part"
Comment: The trio from LI dealt with flower power, getting high, and even the joy of love on their 3 Feet High and Rising debut.
#20: Slick Rick "Teenage Love"
Verse: "Ya mighty proud while your holdin their hand/Boys, yea that's my woman, and girls, yeah that's my man"
Comment: Slick Rick's classic warns the young guns about the dangers of your first love and drops knowledge about protecting your heart. Best part of this record? Seeing the Ruler perform this live and hearing the wayyyyy past teenage crowd reminisce.
#19: Drake "Best I Ever Had"
Verse: "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on/That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong."
Comment: This single off So Far Gone helped Drizzy Drake smash the airwaves and assured he'd have no problem "smashin' em allllll" if he wanted.
18: Pete Rock & CL Smooth f/ Vinia Mojica "Searching"
Verse: "You're everything that I dream about, talk about/Walk around and brag about, cause I don't give a damn about/What they say, what he say, or she say/I'm addicted like drugs to your loving, but hey/You got me strung like I'm young and it's crazy"
Comment: How could a girl record from a dude with the last name Smooth not be on point? CL spits about admiring a woman from afar then begins to spit game at her over an Roy Ayers sample and some trademark Pete Rock breaks. The duo released a number of love songs—including the singles "Lots of Lovin'" and "I Got A Love"—but this lesser-known track stands the test of time best.
#17: DMX "How's It's Goin' Down"
Verse: "Kill for me, you still with me/'Cuz we get down like what/Told you from the start, it ain't all about a nutt/I'm gon' be fair, try to be there."
Comment: Earl gets sentimental on this track off It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, showcasing a more sensitive side that surely gave Def Jam executives a boner. He didn't get all Ralph Tresvant "Sensitivity" on us—he does mention sending her up the block with his work and murking homegirl's baby's father. But hey, it's the Dark Man—this is as close as he's gonna get.
#16: Goodie Mob "Beautiful Skin"
Verse: "You sparks my interest/No m'aam I don't know you/Just offerin the common respect I feel I owe you/Also, some conversation, companionship/Common ground and common sense"
Comment: When not talking about conspiracy theories and receiving cell therapy the Goodie Mob boys were into some good ol' fashioned TLC like the rest of us. This heartfelt tribute to their "sister, lover, and friend" was definitely a highlight of their second album Still Standing.
#15: Ja Rule f/ Vita "Put It On Me"
Verse: "Since we met it's been you and I/A tear for a tear, baby eye for an eye/And you know that my heart goin cry/If you leave me lonely/Cause you're not just my love, you're my homie."
Comment: It's easy to hate on Ja, but if there's one thing he does well, it's writing a fuckin' love song. His thug love formula produced a string of huge hits, but none were better than this quintessential early '00s banger. Every thug needs a ladaaaaaaaay!
#14: Boogiemonsters "Honey Dips in Gotham"
Verse: "Ebony rose from the Earth getting darker in the sun/Cocoa-mocha complexion brown sugar with the smile"
Comment: Over a sunny-day Isley Brothers sample, this forgotten mid-'90s rap group dropped this memorable song dedicated to all the Asiatic dragon-flies swarming around NYC. This is the ultimate summer-love-in-the-city anthem.
#13: Talib Kweli f/Les Nubians "Love Language"
Verse: "If you with me then you love how I do it/If my heart you're livin' in your ocean I'm swimmin' in/Never drowning got me floatin' watching you in slow motion/Love potion overdosin approachin/The explosion of my senses everyday without your heart/is like a sentence in jail/Trust I'll always be mentally free"
Comment: Talib at his prime with his first solo album riding with DJ Hi-Tek - need I say more.
#12: Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell "Beautiful"
Verse: "Keep groovin', that's what we doin'/And we gon' be together until your moms move in... "
Comment: This 2003 hit proved even the big boss dogg can go soft from time-to-time. Of course, the video featuring Brazilian beauties had everyone hard. A classic Neptunes beat, Pharrell and Charlie Wilson made this something "really speciallllll."
#11: Eric B. & Rakim "Mahogany"
Verse: "You got the look, I wanna get to know ya better/I had to let her know, but yo, I didn't sweat her"
Comment: The God gets romantic on this surprisingly smoothed-out song from Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em that tells the story of courting a special chick who "almost looked Korean...but European?"
#10: Common "The Light"
Verse: "It's important, we communicate/and tune the fate of this union, to the right pitch/I never call you my bitch or even my boo/There's so much in a name and so much more in you"
Comment: Of course he loves H.E.R., but Common has made his fair share of notable love songs since he's been in the game. From the warm-but-chilled-out J Dilla production to lines about communication, "The Light" is what every lady wants to hear. He must be doing something right if he bagged Serena.
#9: Lil Wayne "Receipt"
Verse: "I'm at home or in the coupe or in the office/Or the streets or in the booth, thinkin bout you/And, most of the girls that come by are cute/And they try to holla but they all on mute"
Comment: Weezy let go off his M.O.B. mantra and got sentimental on this standout from Tha Carter II. Clever lines and a Isley Brothers sample wailing "I've got to hold on to my receipt" made this tribute to then-girlfriend Trina an unexpectedly honest moment for the Martian MC.
#8: 50 Cent f/ Nate Dogg "21 Questions"
Verse: "I love you like a fat kid loves cake"
Comment: This is an instant classic off the quotable alone. 50 wonders if his girl would be down if he went from classy back to ashy. Oh, and he takes the time to bang Meagan Good when she comes to visit him in prison in the video. That's real class right there.
#7: The Notorious B.I.G "Me & My Bitch"
Verse: "And then we lie together, cry together/I swear to God I hope we fuckin die together"
Comment: Classic sentimental storytelling from the best of the best...as long as you can overlook the pause-worthy hyperbole "You look so good/ I suck on your daddy's dick". No chick is that bad!
#6: The Roots f/ Jill Scott "You Got Me"
Verse: "Startin buildin' with her constantly round the clock/Now she in my world like hip-hop."
Comment: The Legendary Roots crew linked with Jill Scott for this track, but got cut for Erykah Badu for the video version. If you're ever at a party/show/function and don't bag the neo-soul style chick in the room while this is playing—consider yourself a lame.
#5: LL Cool J "I Need Love"
Verse: "You can scratch my back, we'll get cozy and huddle/I'll lay down my jacket so you can walk over a puddle/I'll give you a rose, pull out your chair before we eat/kiss you on the cheek and say ooh girl you're so sweet"
Comment: A young LL showed us where he got his name from, creating what's considered the OG of all rap ballads. After keeping it true school with his first album Radio, this single of his second LP explored a more sensual sound which helped him throw more platinum plaques on walls, posters on girls' walls, and probably get in between some more walls too. Cheesy? Yes. But this wildly-influential track forever altered the direction of rap.
#4: Lost Boyz "Renee"
Verse: "And now we been together for weeks/Candlelight dinner with my shorty, crack a 40 with my naughty freaks/Ah man, I never been in love/But everytime I'm burstin' in and outta state, it's shorty that I'm thinking of"
Comment: Ghetto love is the law that Mr. Cheeks lives by in this tragic story of love lost. Follow Cheeks through his brief (but intense) relationship with a weed-smoking dime who wants to be a lawyer (in other words, shorty studies law).
#3: A Tribe Called Quest "Bonita Applebum"
Verse: "I like to tell you things some brothas don't/If only you can see through your elaborate eyes/Only you and me hon, the love never dies"
Comment: This influential cut coming from ATCQ's debut People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is the perfect marriage between beats, rhymes, and lazy Q-Tip flows. Not bad for your first time.
#2: The Pharcyde "Passin' Me By"
Verse: "And if I was your man then I would be true/The only lying I would do is in the bed with you"
Comment: This track from Cali's free-spirts reinforced everything we already know—The Pharcyde make classic records, indie rappers don't get girls, and students in CA have the hots for their teachers. The boys might not have gotten any play from the ladies, but they did from the radio, scoring them their biggest hit and providing the ultimate soundtrack to unrequited love.
#1: Method Man f/ Mary J. Blige "All I Need/I'll Be There For You"
Verse: "Back when I was nothin/You made a brother feel like he was somethin/That's why I'm with you to this day boo no frontin"
Comment: The hit remix to the single from Meth's debut Tical is arguably one the best rap/sung tandem ever created, finding the perfect sweet spot between romantic sentiments and hardcore attitude.