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Top 14 Hip-Hop Love Songs

Diddy
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

When you think love songs, you probably don’t think hip-hop, but au contraire! Hip-hop’s had some romantic times in its past 30 years. Some of the love songs are from the usual emo suspects (LL Cool J, Drake), but then you have some unlikely lovers. Who would’ve predicted we’d see a gentle side to Wu-Tang Clan‘s mosh pit pro Method Man? And 50 Cent went from dodging bullets to asking ’21 Questions.’ Check out the list to see the rest of our picks for the best hip-hop love songs.

14. ‘I Need a Girl,’ Diddy Featuring Usher, Loon

Break-ups are tough even when you’re a wealthy music mogul and playboy. After a two-year romance with Fly Girl-turned-triple threat Jennifer Lopez, the couple went their separate ways. J. Lo would go on to have many public romances, but it took Diddy a while to get over the diva. Exhibit A: 2002′s ‘I Need a Girl.’ Diddy didn’t shy away from his inspiration behind the track when he rhymed, “I had a girl that would’ve died for me/Didn’t ‘preciate her so I made her cry for me/Every night she had tears in her eyes for me/Caught a case, shorty took the whole ride for me.”

13. ‘Bonita Applebum,’ A Tribe Called Quest

Released in 1990, as the trio‘s first single off their debut album, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,’ ‘Bonita Applebum’ has been long-rumored to be about a girl from the high school Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammadattended. Tip connects with males everywhere when he spits sweet game to “Bonita” [See lyrics: "Being with you is a top priority/Ain't no need to question the authority"] while simultaneously admitting that sex is on the brain. Don’t fret, ladies: The rapper plays it safe and has “crazy prophylactics.” After all, what hip-hop honey wouldn’t like a song written in her honor.

12. ‘Best I Ever Had,’ Drake

After Drake had some success as a buzzing actor-turned-rapper, his ‘Best I Ever Had’ hit radio stations across the US, launching his now-thriving career. The track’s success was cemented when videos of the rapper performing it at clubs and college concerts hit the Net, showcasing girls (and guys) singing every word. Drake’s ode to the ladies touched girls on campus, as well as esteemed artists like Mary J. Blige. The singer told The BoomBox that it was the line “Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on/That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong” that sealed the deal for her.

11. ‘Freek’n You (Remix),’ Jodeci Featuring Ghostface Killah, Raekwon

K-Ci, Jojo, DeVante Swing and Mr. Dalvin, better known collectively as Jodeci, made a career of singing sex-tinged love songs in the ’90s with hits like ‘Forever My Lady‘ and ‘Feenin.’ But no one would’ve guessed that the foursome would reach out to the toughest dudes in the game for the ‘Freek’n You (Remix),’ off ’95′s ‘The Show, the After Party, the Hotel.’ Rae and Ghost’s verses weren’t exactly oozing romance with lyrics like “You’s a queen killer, so I’ma fill you like Exxon” and “You had me harder than a roll of quarters,” but it goes right along with K-Ci’s “Every time I close my eyes I wake up feeling so horny.”

10. ‘What’s on Your Mind?’ Eric B. & Rakim

Eric. B and Rakim are probably best known for taking hip-hop to another level both production-wise and lyrically during hip-hop’s golden age. But the duo softened it up a bit with the 1992 track ‘What’s on Your Mind.’ Sampling Midnight Star’s ‘Curious,’ Rakim spits ‘hood game over a mellow beat, rapping to a girl while riding in a subway car on his way to Brooklyn, “On the A-train, picking at her brain/I couldn’t get her number, I couldn’t get her name.” It isn’t an instant subway love connection, but we know how this story pans out, and in the end Rakim’s wordplay is enough to break anyone down.

9. ‘Your Love,’ Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj may have caught our attention as a boisterous femcee with a mean flow, making her rounds on the mixtape circuit, but like the female rappers of yesteryear, her sexuality is always brought to the forefront, thanks in part to those push-up bras. Dubbing herself Nicki Lewinsky, suggesting that she might be into both men and women and re-creating Lil’ Kim‘s ‘Hardcore’ poster while licking a giant lollipop, Minaj would play it sexy right up until her chart-topping single ‘Your Love.’ This time the ‘Pink Friday’ raptress opted to choose love over lust, leading us to believe the animated rhymer has a heart after all.

8. ‘Prototype,’ Andre 3000

In 2003, Andre 3000 and Big Boi would release the double album ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.’ The project gave them both an opportunity to branch out and go their separate ways style-wise while still staying together as a duo. Big Boi’s lyrics stayed in line with the Dungeon Family movement, but, as expected, Andre 3000 — who has a child with fellow eccentric Erykah Badu– explored extraterrestrial love with ‘Prototype.’ Paying his love interest a huge compliment, Dre sings about finding ‘The One:’ “I hope that you’re the one/If not, you are the prototype/We’ll tiptoe to the sun/And do thangs I know you like.”

7. ‘You Got Me,’ The Roots

Co-penned by fellow Philly native Jill Scott — who didn’t sing the hook as originally planned because MCA Records thought Erykah Badu was a better fit — The Roots‘ 1999 track ‘You Got Me,’ off their album ‘Things Fall Apart,’ tells a tale of a budding romance that strives off trust and loyalty. A then-unknown Philly rapper by the name of Eve of Destruction (eventually just Eve) plays the role of the female in the relationship who dates an always on the road musician. The rap star then chimes in on Black Thought‘s second verse to tell her side of the story. The track went on to win a Grammy. Score one for love.

6. ‘Smooth Operator,’ Big Daddy Kane

The original ladies’ man, Big Daddy Kaneboasts about his luck with the opposite sex on this 1989 track, featured on the ‘It’s a Big Daddy Thing’ LP. The record sampled the Mary Jane Girls’ sexy ‘All Night Long’ and Keni Burke’s ‘Risin’ to the Top’ to create just the right groove needed for the track. The song acts as a general platform for Kane to flatter himself, but the rapper dedicates the third verse to the ladies with lyrics like, “Now, girls step up to this/One simple kiss, and it’s over, Miss/Sold to nice dreamers high as the price seem/Girlfriend, you been scooped like ice cream.”

5. ‘One Love,’ Whodini

You were “lucky just to have just One Love” in 1986. My, have things changed. Nowadays, Lil Wayne and Young Money want to sleep with ‘Every Girl in the World,’ and HBO’s ‘Big Love’ is a hit TV show. According to Whodini’s famed track, they wouldn’t have been interested in today’s hip-hop polygamy. But despite the trio’s positive outlook on the four-letter word, things didn’t come out so rosy. Whodini’s Jalil lost his love and ends the song on a sour note. But don’t forget, kids: “The L is for the love which you give/The O is for the love who we live/And the V is for the vivrant letter/The E means may we last forever and ever.”

4. ’21 Questions,’ 50 Cent

The bulletproof-vest-wearing rapper proved that thugs need love, too, when he dropped 2003′s ’21 Questions,’ off his debut album, ‘Get Rich or Dir Tryin’.’ Fif goes the literal route and runs down a list of questions for the woman who’s grabbed his interest, but it was the line “I love you like a fat kid loves cake” that caught everyone’s attention. The G-Unit head honcho’s love life has taken some interesting turns since he exposed his softer side. The Queens, N.Y.-bred rapper has been romantically linked to actress Vivica Fox, singer Ciara and, most recently, comedienne Chelsea Handler.

3. ‘The Light,’ Common

Common has always been the “conscious” type, so we weren’t shocked when he released ‘The Light’ in 2000. Sampling Bobby Caldwell’s ‘Open Your Eyes,’ the track was reportedly inspired by Common’s relationship with Erykah Badu. ‘The Light’ separates itself from other hip-hop love songs when Common advocates abstinence as opposed to exulting his sexual prowess. Written like a letter to his love, ‘The Light’ is chock-full of meaningful lines from “If heaven had a height, you would be that tall” to “Granted we known each other for some time/It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine.”

2. ‘I Need Love,’ LL Cool J

From his advent, Ladies Love Cool James was all about making girls swoon. In 1987, the 19-year-old released his “rap ballad” ‘I Need Love,’ featured on his second album, ‘Bigger and Deffer,’ making it official that he was looking for “a girl who’s as sweet as a dove.” The song also boasts one of the most memorable opening lines: “When I’m alone in my room/Sometimes I stare at the wall/And in the back of my mind/I hear my conscience call.” LL’s ballad would also make him one of the first hip-hop sex symbols. Many have tried, but no one has released as many songs professing their love for the opposite sex. We’ve counted.

1. ‘I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By,’ Method Man Featuring Mary J. Blige

Method Man and Mary J. Blige created an insta-classic with this Grammy-winning duet. The track mixes the best of both worlds with a sample and running loop of Notorious B.I.G.‘s ‘Me & My Bitch‘ and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘You’re All I Need to Get By.’ However, production isn’t the only reason this song tops our list. Meth tackles the odd angles of relationships better than R&B’s finest. [See lyrics: "Shorty, I'm there for you anytime you need me/For real, girl, it's me in your world, believe me/Nuttin' make a man feel better than a woman/Queen with a crown that be down for whatever."]

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