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Hip hop is a contact sport, and built on competition and aggression. But, even with the rugged terrain, there have been many instances in which rap artists have shown their more tender side. While vulnerability and emotion were largely shunned during rap’s primitive years, over time, artists’ subject matters began to expand and include nods to the opposite sex. Detailing their inner-most feelings and occasionally including fictional characters to go along with them, these songs helped expand hip hop’s reach, and appeal to listeners of all demographics and ages.
Today, rap songs are common practice and dominate the pop charts on a regular basis with everyone from Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and others broaching the topic of love in their music. These songs serve as the background music to our respective relationships and have even soundtracked weddings, which make them essential to the lives of any true hip hop fan.
Valentine’s Day is here and the smell of romance is in the air. So, REVOLT took a trip down memory lane and compiled a list of 9 of the greatest love songs in hip hop history. Roses not included.
1. “I Need Love” – LL Cool J
In 1987, LL Cool J touched the hearts of fans worldwide with the first bonafide rap ballad in hip hop. Professing his desire for intimacy and romance, LL lived up to his name and creates a classic record that ensured the ladies would love him forever.
2. “The Light” – Common
In 2000, Common joined forced wtih J. Dilla for this heartfelt cut from the rapper’s Like Water For Chocolate album. Flipping Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes,” J. Dilla crafts a sublime instrumental over which Common flatters his lover. The rapper displays his affections in an unabashed and transparent manner. Inspired by his relationship with R&B singer Erykah Badu, this track not only helped take Common’s career to the next level, but it’s remembered as one of the quintessential boom-bap love songs.
3. “Bonita Applebum” – A Tribe Called Quest
In 1990, A Tribe Called Quest introduced us to a woman named Bonita, whom the group — particularly Q-Tip — was smitten over and the greeting is one the hip hop community will always remember. Delivered from the vantage point of a guy trying to sway a woman’s attention in his direction, this serene ditty reads as a B-Boy’s version of a love letter.
4. “You’re All I Need to Get By” – Method Man & Mary J. Blige
In 1995, Method Man and Mary J. Blige unleashed the greatest rap duet of all-time with this game-changer of a record. Reworking Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1968 hit “You’re All I Need to Get By,” Method Man proves that even thugs need love, too, pairing his gritty flow with MJB’s sultry vocals.
5. “Gotta Man” – Eve
In 1999, Ruff Ryders First Lady Eve announced to the world that she was a taken woman with this single from her debut studio album. Produced by Swizz Beatz, this song cast the “Pitbull in a Skirt” in a more submissive role than fans of her fiery rhyme spills were accustomed to, opening her heart and displaying a vulnerability that’s earnest and sincere.
6. “Put It On Me” – Ja Rule, Vita, Lil Mo’
In 2000, Ja Rule displayed his tender side with this impassioned thug-love ballad, which also features label-mate Vita and R&B singer Lil Mo. Pondering “where would I be without my baby,” Murder Inc.’s franchise player voices his appreciation for his better half, while Vita assumes the role of wifey by pledging her loyalty.
7. “Beautiful” – Snoop Dogg
In 2003, Snoop Dogg unveiled this blockbuster collaboration from his sixth studio album, Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Boss, on which he shed his pimp persona in the name of love. Featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams, this upbeat ditty put the focus on beauty and captured Tha Doggfather appraising his women’s features, and laying his mack down. Over time, the song has become one of rap fans’ go-to selections when appreciating the beauty of their significant other. It’s also one of Snoop Dogg’s greatest hits.
8. “21 Questions” – 50 Cent
After gaining prominence from his gangsta persona, 50 Cent flipped the script with this single from his record-breaking debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Produced by Dirty Swift of Midi Mafia and featuring guest vocals from Nate Dogg, the song captures the G-Unit hard-rock questioning his woman’s loyalty in the face of harsh times. Reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100, the song packed enough grit to resonate with the fellas, as well as enough charm to win over the female set. This made the track a memorable anthem of undying love.
9. “Best I Ever Had” – Drake
In 2009, Drake came through with this heater right in time for Valentine’s Day, which had women of all ages swooning and established the Canadian native as rap’s newest ladies man. Whispering sweet nothings into the ears of listeners worldwide over production by Boi-1da, Drizzy encapsulated the euphoria that comes with being in love.
Have any plans this Valentine’s Day? If not, you should definitely pull up to one of the hottest events there is: REVOLT House! Taking place at the World Nightclub in Charlotte, North Carolina; Rick Ross will be headlining the concert. Kash Doll, Lil Tjay, and Erick Lottary will be hitting the stage, too. Cop your tickets here!
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