Hip-hop is known for its grit, political protests, party anthems, and free promotion of liquor and labels, but the multifaceted genre has also produced countless love anthems. From Method Man & Mary J. Blige to Jean Grae to Slick Rick, rap has love songs for the young, old, incarcerated, infatuated, polyamorous, and cheaters (new and reformed). On this Valentine’s Day press “play” on some of the most timeless hip-hop bops. As a disclaimer, they are in no way ranked in order of quality, except for “All I Need”. Real hip-hop fans know that that track is the ultimate hip-hop love anthem.
- Method Man featuring Mary. J. Blige “All I Need”
Method Man and the undisputed queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige collaborated on what became the Grammy-award winning classic hip-hop love anthem. The soulful track was released on April 25, 1995, and includes an interpolation of the late Aretha Franklin’s classic hit “You’re All I Need to Get By”.
2. Jean Grae “Love Thirst”
Produced by 9th Wonder, the esoteric track derives from Grae’s 2008 release Jeanius, which was released on Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Records. It contains a sample of “Station Break for Love” by Syreeta and G.C. Cameron and “High” by Skyy. On the track Grae raps about the passion she has for a lover, and how he makes her high.
3. LL Cool J “Luv U Better”
LL Cool J has a handful of love songs (“Hey Lover,” “I Need Love,” etc.), but “Luv U Better” is a track where he raps about disappointing his lover and wanting to make things right by being a better man. The track was the lead single from his 2002 release, 10. It was produced by The Neptunes and features vocals from Marc Dorsey. It peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The video, directed by Benny Boom was inspired by the 1990 romantic comedy film Pretty Woman.
4. Fabolous featuring Tamia “Into You”
“Into You” comes from the Brooklyn rapper’s sophomore album, Street Dreams. It was the third single, which is also featured on Tamia’s album, More. The track is a spin-off of Tamia’s 1998 single “So Into You,” which was produced by Tim and Bob. R&B singer Ashanti provided vocals for the hook of the original version of the song, which is on Street Dreams, but the track was re-recorded with Tamia and released commercially. “My friends be thinking I’m slippin/these girls be thinkin’ I’m trippin’/what kinda weed he be smokin’/what type of drinks he be slippin’/sweet thing just to think of you dippin/would have me with the blues so hard you would think I was crippin’,” Fabolous raps on the track.
5. Twenty88 “London Bridge”
Former hip-hop couple Jhene Aiko and Big Sean released their album Twenty88 underneath their duo namesake moniker Twenty88 on April 1, 2016, via Def Jam, which includes “London Bridge”. On the heartfelt track Aiko sings about how terrible it would be if the couple’s relationship ended, and Sean chimes in rapping about how he apologizes for Aiko ever having reasons to question his love for her. The two both sing on the hook, “I don’t mean to sound hysterical, but baby if you left, baby if you left, it’d be a historical disaster. The kids will sing about us.”
6. 50 Cent featuring Olivia “So Amazing”
50 Cent may be all snark and jokes on Instagram, but the Queens rapper apparently might know a thing or two about love. In 2005, the rapper, actor, and film producer released his sophomore album, The Massacre, which includes “So Amazing” featuring Oliva, who was formerly signed to his G-Unit imprint. On the track, he raps about calling his love interest just to tell her to “have a nice day.” Olivia compliments the track by singing on the hook, “Summer, winter, spring, and fall I’ll be around to catch your call cause you’re my baby, and I adore you.”
7. Erykah Badu featuring Common “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)”
“Love of My Life” is clearly an ode to hip-hop, but sometimes that’s all you got. Featuring Chicago MC Common, the soulful track is about hip-hop going from just a hobby to becoming a life long love. The video features a myriad of hip-hop icons and veterans like MC Lyte, Chuck D, Dead Prez, and Crazy Legs. The track comes from the popular hip-hop film Brown Sugar‘s 2002 soundtrack.
8. Slick Rick “Teenage Love”
“Teenage Love” is the first single released from the hip-hop legend’s 1988 debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Known for impeccable storytelling skills, Rick tells a story about two young lovers, who are madly in love but end up having relationship issues. He then begins rapping about getting over lost causes in general, ending the song singing Diana Ross’ “Do You Know Where You’re Going To,” which was the theme song to her popular movie Mahogany.
9. DMX featuring Faith Evans “How It’s Goin Down”
On the 1998 hood anthem featuring Faith Evans, DMX raps about being in love with another man’s woman, who he eventually calls it quits with and tells her to go back to her man. “Heard he smacked you cause you said my name while y’all was sexing/ran up on this cat/ he thought was me, and started flexing/you know I ain’t even with that, so he gon’ have to get that just on GP/try to creep me, what? Leave that n**** sleepy/On the strength of you, that’s your kid’s daddy/I ain’t gon’ send him on his way, put him up in that big caddy,” he raps. The track was featured on DMX’s album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.
10. Mia X “Wanna Be Wit You”
On “Wanna Be Wit You” Mia X raps about how dedicated she is to her incarcerated lover, paying no attention to suitors on the outside. The former No Limit Records signee also sings on the hook, “Wanna be with you. You’ve been gone a while. And I miss the things you do. My body’s calling you. Baby wanna be with you. You’ve been gone a while. Can’t wait to flex my up and down.” The track is featured on the New Orleans rapper’s debut album, Good Girl Gone Bad, which was released on November 21, 1995.
11. Teyana Taylor featuring Ghostface Killah, Method Man, & Raekwon “Gonna Love Me (Remix)”
With a ’90s vibe the R&B singer, model, actress, and new video director Teyana Taylor sings to her lover about being literally close to each other, but lacking communication and connection. “Ooo baby babe please wait up for me ’til whenever I get home. I know that you’re all alone thinking about what you gone do. I hope that you see it through,” she sings on the hook. Wu-Tang members Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Raekwon solidify the track by playing the roles of her lovers. The track is a remix to her single, which was featured on her 2018 album, K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy). Taylor directed the video, which pays homage to Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s hit single, “All I Need”.
12. Young Gunz featuring Rell “No Better Love”
Former Rocafella Records rap duo Young Gunz came through with a classic love banger in 2004. “No Better Love” came from the Philadelphia rappers debut album, Tough Luv. Young Chris rapped about the possibility of marrying his girlfriend/the mother of his child.”Coming up I thought cupid was stupid/only two loves my family and music/fallin’ through something/just couldn’t do it/it was the beginning of time and you was like 9/but gotdamn you was fine /used to stay on my mind when I was out on my grind,” Neef raps in the second verse.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth.