It’s Valentine’s day today. You need a little boombap between Barry White and The Isley Brothers records? We hear you. Here are ten classic hip-hop cuts that speak the language of love.
10. Gang Starr – Love Sick
Guru reminisces about how his love left him on this cut from Gang Starr’s Step In The Arena. A reminder to treat yours to a good day today and not let love slip through your fingers. It’s not as glum as it sounds though, Primo’s production guarantees that your head knods.
9. Drake & Lykke Li – A Little Bit
On his breakthrough mixtape So Far Gone, Drake took a song from Swedish singer/songwriter Lykke Li and added his own vocals too it. There’s a good possibility you wouldn’t know that if you’d never heard the original though, Drake seamlessly blends his additions turning this into a duet that improves on the already dope original. So yeah, consider this one of the reasons why Drizzy stayed in rotation despite my ambivalence towards him. A guilty pleasure that I can’t help
singing humming along with.
8. Ghostface – Never Be The Same Again (ft. Carl Thomas & Raekwon)
Ghostface has plenty of joints about ladies but one of the smoothest is this one where he bears his heart about a girl that played him. While Ghostface speaks on his heartbreak Raekwon sticks up for his bud like a true bro and dishes out some disses. On second thought, maybe this ain’t that romantic at all…
7. Notorious B.I.G. – Me & My Bitch
Biggie was just too rugged to tone down his street lingo. Even a heartfelt dedication to his down-ass chick included a certain word that won’t win over many women, in the title, no less. Still, don’t be too hard on him ladies, “And then we lie together, cry together, I swear to God I hope we f*ckin’ die together” is a sentiment that shows a heartfelt connection to someone and speaks volumes about the respect she commands regardless of terminology.
6. Jay-Z & Beyoncé – ’03 Bonnie & Clyde
Jay reappropriated Pac’s dedication to his favourite armament for a more literal interpretation featuring his own lady on the hook. It raised quite a few eyebrows with Pacavellians worldwide, especially since they weren’t the best of pals during Pac’s life, but Jay was smart enough to pay tribute to the late great Tupac Shakur with a Viva la Revolucion! type mural in the video. Besides, whatever you might think about the chorus, “Down to ride ’til the very end” makes for a way realer Jay/Bey collabo than “Your love got me looking so crazy right now”.
5. 2Pac – Do For Love
Before they forced his vocals onto G-Unit collaborations and mash-ups with 80s hits there actually were a couple of good posthumous singles by Pac, this being a prime example. He offers a shoulder to lean on over a Bobby Caldwell sample that was flipped similairly by Dilla for The Pharcyde’s ‘Y’. ‘Do For Love’ reminded the general public that there was far more to Pac than simply a violent story.
4. The Roots – You Got Me (ft. Erykah Badu)
Black Thought reminisces on a beautiful woman he met while touring and even though the love is there and it’s definitely reciprocal the songs details how the relationship eventually derails due to the green-eyed monster known as jealousy. It’s hard maintaining a connection when spending so much time apart but the song still holds a lot of warmth until ?uestlove’s drums descend into a more and more frantic pattern towards the end, musically underscoring BT’s story of a love lost.
3. Common – The Light
The warm soulful vibes Dilla created (with James Poyser on keys and a great Bobby Caldwell sample, again) provided the perfect backdrop for Common’s love letter. If this doesn’t make you yearn for that one special person there’s no hope for you.
2. LL Cool J – I Need Love
Yes, it’s the highly saccharine pop-crossover single that cemented the first two letters of LL’s name. Yes, it has very little to do with the battle rapper that commanded such high levels of respect and made quite a few hardcore rap fans a bit uncomfortable with their copy of Todd Smith’s ‘All World‘ greatest hits compilation. No, nobody could ever and will ever deny its iconic status in the pantheon of classis rap hits. Thugs need love too.
1. Method Man & Mary J Blige – I’ll Be There For You/All I Need
What else could there be at the top? The album version already sufficiently proved that rap verses about a significant other have no excuse to sound sappy but when Puff Daddy (as he was known in the 20th century) put the queen of hip-hop soul on the remix an anthem was born. Meth and Mary J provided the love jam that every hip-hop fan worldwide could get down with, no matter how thugged he/she considered him/herself to be. So send that card, make that call, buy those flowers, these two Bronx and Shaolin natives prove there’s no reason to be shy about your feelings. Happy Valentine’s day.