Ten Best Hip Hop Love Songs

This Valentine's Day, check out which songs Demone Carter writes are the best hip hop love songs of all time, based on a criteria of 1) not being overtly misogynistic, 2) dealing with love and not break ups, and 3) not overly sappy. And tell us if he missed any and why!

Story Title within a blue heart of light
Hip hop love songs are like Valentine's Day gifts. The love song in hip hop is often a corny, contrived, and patronizing gesture to women fans of this male dominated genre. Historically, the hip hop love song has been a thinly veiled once-an-album attempt to engage women listeners and radio programmers.

Many times what passes for a love song in rap is nothing more than misogynistic screeds reinforcing the ugliest parts of hip hop’s patriarchy. Notorious B.I.G’s “Me and my Bitch” and Apache’s “Gangsta Bitch” – and almost any song with the word 'bitch' in the title – are perfect examples of how even when trying to appeal to the lover in you, rappers are too hardcore for their own good.

With all that said, there are actual gems in the history of hip hop that express love and affection without compromising rap music’s integrity or being totally demeaning to womankind. So in honor of Valentine’s Day, Cupid and I have put together a list of the 10 best hip hop love songs.

In sorting out the best hip hop love songs, preference was given to songs that:

1. Were not overtly misogynistic.

2. Dealt with expressions of love or longing as opposed to break up songs (like         Main Sources classic “Looking Out The Front Door”).

3. Were not overly sappy or patronizing (Yes, I’m looking at you, Common).

Also as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find many hip hop love songs from female rappers that were worthy of this list. It is entirely possible I’m totally missing something too. Please feel free to comment and show me the error of my ways.
 

Ten Best Hip Hop Love Songs

 

10. LL Cool J, “I Need Love”

Hip hop’s first legitimate take on a love ballad. On this simple and bass heavy track, LL, who was staking his claim as the rawest rapper alive at the time, took a moment on his 1987 Bigger and Deffer LP to show his sensitive side.

 

9. Eric B and Rakim, “What’s on Your Mind?”

Rap God Rakim tells a tale of courtship without compromising one bit of his signature stoicism. The sampling of Midnight Star’s “Curious” provided the perfect sonic landscape for this archetypal New York love story.

 

8. Slum Village, “2U4U”

I’ve often said Slum Village's Fantastic Vol. 2 is the best R&B album rap ever made, and this song is case in point. Sexy and seductive with lyrics you could actually say to a woman without being slapped.

 

7. Poor Righteous Teachers, “Shakilya”

This ode to Black Womanhood embodies all the genius of Poor Righteous Teachers.  The dancehall inspired flow, brilliantly layered sampling, and 5 percent nation wisdom come together on this -- the most danceable love song on the list.

 

6. LL Cool J, “Around the Way Girl”

LL is the undisputed Godfather of the hip hop love song genre. Around the Way Girl celebrates the urban Black woman in a way that is neither patronizing or condescending.

 

5. Slick Rick, “Teenage Love”

Slick Rick the Ruler takes a quick detour from the raunchy bards on his 1988 Adventures of Slick Rick LP to give relationship advice to those caught in throes of puppy love. Only the genius of Slick Rick could have made this casio keyboard-esque slow shuffle track work.

 

4. The Pharcyde, “Passin Me By”

Wistful, introspective, and melancholy, this jewel of the Pharcyde catalogue touches a nerve with anyone who loved someone who didn’t love them back, which is everybody right? 

 

3. Method Man ft. Mary J Blige, “You’re All I Need”

Meth is Mary as Marvin Gaye is to Tammy Terrell. This song is a pitch perfect pairing. Method Man’s gritty gravel-like flow tells a story of love and companionship rarely heard on a rap song. Mary J’s soul stirring voice provides the icing on the cake.



2. The Roots ft. Erykah Badu, “You Got Me”

Black Thought is easily Hip Hop’s most underrated emcee, so at minimum we should acknowledge he penned one of Rap’s greatest love songs. Bonus points for including a female emcee, Eve, and of course, the jazzy chorus line provided by Erykah Badu puts this one over the top.


1. A Tribe Called Quest, “Bonita Applebum”

Every other song on this list is up for discussion, but Tribe’s Black bohemian opus is without a doubt hip hop’s greatest love song. The track is a transcendent sample collage, including breaks from Ramp’s dreamy “Daylight,” Rotary Connection “Memory Band,” and of course the classic drum break “Dixie Chicken” from Little Feat, which Lauryn Hill would later ride to the promise land on her cover of Killing Me Softly. Q-Tip’s playful delivery, pregnant pauses and witty wordplay took this track out of the typical catcall rap vein and elevated into the realm of timelessness. The song’s wonderfully quirky video also deserves mention here as it is probably one of the greatest rap videos ever, but that’s a discussion for another day.


Shout-outs to the people on my Facebook timeline who helped inform this list


Image by Regina Weinkauf - Self-photographed, Copyrighted free use, WikiCommons
 


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About Demone Carter

Demone Carter is the 2016 Silicon Valley Artist Laureate, Hip Hop Emcee, Community Organizer, and Social Entrepreneur from San Jose, California. Follow him on twitter: @lifeafterhiphop.

This article is part of the category: Music 
This article is part of the tags: Demone Carter  / Hip Hop  / Love Songs  / Top Ten  / Top Ten Hip Hop Love Songs  / Valentine's Day 

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