Ahead of Valentine’s Day today (Feb.14), many of your favorite rappers have been delivering emotionally charged tunes to match the lovers’ holiday – drops from Saweetie, Future, and D-Block Europe are just a sample of what’s arrived over the weekend. With that said, V-Day classics have been hitting the streets virtually since hip hop’s inception. There are no shortage of intimate bops that speak to a “gangsta love” vibe that rap lovers can relate to. Below lies 15 of the more notable tracks from over the years, in no particular order. These songs have helped gangsta couples all over the world get in the mood for both the dance floor and the bedroom.
1. 2Pac Feat. Richie Rich – “Ratha Be Ya Nigga”
Taken from 2Pac’s pivotal double album All Eyez On Me, the Doug Rasheed-produced “Ratha Be Ya Nigga” sampled Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be With You.” The track saw the late rapper being very direct with a woman who he feels isn’t dealing with the right kind of men:
“You fucking with niggas that’s insecure, watered down, my shit is pure, write down my number but don’t call me ’til you sure, I ain’t begging just trying to relocate between your legs…”
Interestingly enough, Helluva Beats later utilized the classic cut for Megan Thee Stallion’s Suga standout “B.I.T.C.H.,” so the in-your-face number has remained very relevant in regards to contemporary “gangsta love.”
2. The Notorious B.I.G. Feat. Diddy – “Me & My Bitch”
How much do you love your special someone? As this classic 90s cut reveals, Biggie Smalls may have you beat with his replay-worthy opening lines from the Diddy, Chucky Thompson, and Bluez Brothas cut:
“When I met you, I admit, my first thoughts was to trick, you look so good, huh, I’d suck on your daddy’s dick…”
The rest of “Me & My Bitch” saw The Notorious B.I.G. dive deeper into his toxic love for his woman, making it clear that his passion is beyond the physical world. Very few have been able to match the vivid expression this song portrays:
“I swear to God, I hope we fuckin’ die together…”
3. Method Man Feat. Mary J. Blige – “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By”
Back in 1994, Method Man and the RZA-led Wu-Tang Clan shook the world with the debut album Tical. The project displayed much of the grimy-yet-commercial vibes that have made the Staten Island-based collective true gods of the culture. One standout track was the Street Life-assisted “All I Need,” which saw Meth showing love to his queen in his own way:
“Shorty, I’m there for you anytime you need me, for real girl, it’s me in your world, believe me, nothing make a man feel better than a woman…”
Following the success of Tical, Method Man and Def Jam connected with none other than Diddy to remix “All I Need” with the aid of then-rising star Mary J. Blige. The song became a top-three Billboard Hot 100 hit and enjoyed Platinum success. There’s even an incarnation of the upgraded song with a classic B.I.G. line from “Me & My Bitch.” As they say, the rest is history.
4. Ja Rule Feat. Lil’ Mo and Vita – “Put It On Me”
After the release of his debut LP, Venni Vetti Vecci, Ja Rule found himself striking gold with his follow-up album, Rule 3:36. The project was full of catchy, R&B-infused cuts like “I Cry,” “Between Me and You,” and “Put It on Me,” the last of which spawned a remix with assists from Lil’ Mo and fellow Murder Inc. artist Vita. The track saw all parties giving their own personal takes on what makes for a loyal bond between their respective soulmates — Ja famously rapped:
“Girl, it feel like you and I been mourning together, inseparable, we chose pain over pleasure, for that you’ll forever be a part of me… mind, body and soul, ain’t no I in we, baby…”
5. Lil Durk – “Skrubs”
If there’s anything that’s well-established within the current generation, it’s Lil Durk’s relationship with his now-fiancée India Royale, who literally fought for her man with guns blazing last summer. On the Signed To The Streets 3 track “Skrubs,” the Chicago star pours his heart out, seemingly reflecting on his love for India. He even keeps it real about her loyalty in the midst of his infidelities:
“When you caught me cheatin’, I caught amnesia, and I’m Durkio, it’s nice to meet you, and she sexy, she got her features, when I see you down, I pick up the pieces…”
In regards to the track’s title, it’s easy to hear an interpolation of a classic TLC single later in the song – a beautiful continuation of Black music history for younger listeners to take in and enjoy.
6. Jadakiss and Mariah Carey – “U Make Me Wanna”
While The LOX is solidified as one of the most iconic groups in hip hop, it was Jadakiss who truly exuded the star power needed to fuel his critically and commercially successful solo career. On his sophomore album, Kiss of Death, was the Mariah Carey-assisted “U Make Me Wanna.” The track saw Jada giving thanks to someone who was loyal through the best and worst of times:
“Whatever the road to paradise is we on it, gave me your income tax checks so I can get on with, those were the days, these are the times, you held me down with nearly damn near everything, even my rhymes…”
I would be remiss not to mention the accompanying visual for the radio-friendly cut, which began with a short rendition of “By Your Side” before switching to the Scott Storch-produced tribute to unconditional love.
7. Busta Rhymes Feat. Mariah Carey and Flipmode Squad – “I Know What You Want”
Back in 2002, Busta Rhymes released his sixth studio LP, It Ain’t Safe No More, containing the Rick Rock-produced hit “I Know What You Want.” The collaboration featured the likes of Mariah Carey and the now-estranged Flipmode Squad. The track sees Busta keeping it real with his lady about how much he appreciates her:
“I feel your love for me, baby, and how it move through you, I been longin’ for the moment to talk the truth to you, I’m never home, I always get up and go, puttin’ you through the unnecessary rigmarole… I never meant to put a thousand pounds of stress on your head, I love the way we sleep and how we always cuddle in bed, baby, I stay embracin’ your patience, sheddin’ your tears with me, I ask you, my mami, please continue to bear with me…”
8. DMX – “How’s It Goin’ Down”
While debate is inevitable, this list would look crazy without the inclusion of DMX’s “How’s It Goin’ Down,” which kicks off with an unforgettable toxic voicemail. Produced by P Killer Trackz and taken from DMX’s classic debut, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, “How’s It Goin’ Down” tells a story of a rendezvous with a woman who’s still entangled with the father of her kids. Simply put, it really doesn’t get more gangsta than this when it comes to love. The conversational nature of the song’s final lyrics (and it’s matching visual) still hit hard ’til this day:
“She had two kids by this nigga, it was wrong for me, but we gon’ always be best of friends, ha-ha, mad love, boo, ’til the end, ha-ha…”
9. Plies Feat. T-Pain – “Shawty”
Back in 2007, Plies liberated his debut LP, The Real Testament, which contains “Shawty” featuring T-Pain. The Ensayne Wayne and Drumma Boy-produced offering sampled an Earth, Wind & Fire classic. It also saw Plies essentially coming clean to a woman about his plans for their future together:
“Soon as I seen her, shieet, told her I’d pay for it, lil’ mama the baddest thing ’round here, she already know it, I pointed at the donk and told her, ‘This s’posed to be yours,’ showed her a couple stacks and told her I’d let her blow it…”
10. Eve Feat. Alicia Keys – “Gangsta Lovin’”
Before she became momma Eve, the first lady of Ruff Ryders dropped her third album Eve-Olution back in 2002. It contained the 7 Aurelius and Irv Gotti-backed “Gangsta Lovin’,” a collaboration alongside Alicia Keys that gave us the hood relationship vibe from a woman’s perspective:
“Need you to understand me, daddy, I ain’t your average, baby girl doin’ it all, I’m well established, I ain’t tryna lead you on, just wanna ask if you might wanna give me your name, explain your status…”
Needless to say, Eve found who she’s looking for — as she deserves.
11. 50 Cent Feat. Nate Dogg – “21 Questions”
50 Cent‘s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ stands as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. 50 boasts the unique ability to mix ultra-violent subject matter with pop-friendly themes that have become radio mainstays. One very big example of this is the Dirty Swift-produced “21 Questions,” which saw him asking his girl for affirmations in regards to her loyalty:
“If I fell off tomorrow, would you still love me? If I didn’t smell so good, would you still hug me? If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century, could I count on you to be there to support me mentally?”
12. The Roots Feat. Eve and Erykah Badu/Jill Scott – “You Got Me”
Back in 1999, The Roots unveiled Things Fall Apart, their most commercially successful album to date. On said release, their song “You Got Me” originally featured Jill Scott. Following the inclusion of Erykah Badu and an accompanying clip, the track landed on global charts and scored the Philly collective a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Additionally, “You Got Me” contained a back-and-forth between Black Thought and a then-uncredited Eve, who could be heard rapping about wanting to spend some quality time with her oft-busy lover:
13. Ja Rule Feat. Charli Baltimore – “Down Ass Bitch”
Ja Rule‘s career had so many love-themed radio hits, it only makes sense to return to his discography for a second time on this list. In 2001, Rule released his third studio LP, Pain Is Love, which contained the Irv Gotti-produced “Down Ass Bitch.” The song sees the Queens veteran giving thanks to collaborator Charli Baltimore for never leaving his side during harder times:
“I know that you’re lovin me, cause you thug with me, who bust slugs for me? My baby…”
14. Lost Boyz – “Renee”
The Lost Boyz truly made their mark with their debut album, Legal Drug Money. The Gold-certified release kept listeners engaged with stories of perseverance during hard times in South Jamaica, Queens. One such story lied within the “Buttnaked” Tim Dawg and Mr. Sexxx-produced “Renee,” which saw frontman Mr. Cheeks delivering a vivid tale about a former lover who was tragically killed:
“A ghetto love is the law that we live by, day by day I wonder why my shorty had to die, I reminisce over my ghetto princess everyday, give it up for my shorty…”
In addition to being a Legal Drug Money standout, “Renee” was also featured on the soundtrack Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.
15. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
Last but not least, the song that put Fetty Wap on the map. In 2014, the New Jersey talent released “Trap Queen,” a Tony Fadd-produced effort that saw him singing about making illegal money with his significant other:
“And I get high with my baby, I just left the mall, I’m gettin’ fly with my baby, yeah, and I can ride with my baby, I be in the kitchen cookin’ pies with my baby, yeah, and I can ride with my baby…”
In addition to a couple of Grammy nominations, “Trap Queen” skyrocketed to number two on the Billboard 200 and eventually crossed the Diamond mark, making the runaway hit both Fetty Wap‘s biggest record and a pivotal release for a then-fledgling 300 Entertainment.