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Top 10 Hip Hop Love Songs

I despise love songs, but I have been forced to listen to them all of my life. I know Jodeci songs by heart that I wish I didn’t know at all. The subject has run its course. There are too many other things to talk about on Planet Earth.

One of the things that attracted me to rap in the first place was the range of subject matter that could talk about something other than someone’s troubled love life. Scarub has a song about traveling into outer space as a molecule of carbon. Lyrics Born talks about bobsledding off of the Himalayas. Let R&B deal with the drivel.

But if LL Cool J has taught us anything, it’s that the radio loves love songs.

“All the radio do is dangle / That R&B love triangle” — Ice Cube

“I Need Love” ruined LL. Headz know this. That dude that said “BOX!” on Crush Groove died slowly as his radio-friendly smash single made loads of money. He created the formula and other rappers followed the blueprint: Get women to like it, and the men will buy it to get with women.

I feel it is a badge of honor that I never got caught up in this bubble gum BS.

But at the same time, there are some love songs worth mentioning. Please bear with me, for I am dealing with a subject I am not too fond of.

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“No Greater Love” – Blu and Exile
This beat is masterful. Exile put his foot in this one. Puffy, please take note. This is how you use a sample. I never thought Smokey Robinson would get me hyped.

Lyrically, Blu is on point. He talks about loving a woman while keeping his nuts intact.

“Plus a little room for Azulito when the time comes” — Like me, he knows he can only make boys.
“I love it when I tell a chick to chill and give me space but she can’t…”
“Plus, she missed a whole semester fucking around with this peasant named Blu.”

It’s almost like I wrote those lines. I can actually relate to a love song. Who woulda thunk it?

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“Passing Me By” — Pharcyde

Jimi Hendrix sample + some horns mixed in the hook = awesome.

The triple-syllable rhyme intro on the third verse brings delight to the ears. Looking back though, this song is kinda stalkerish. Not stalkerish like Scarub’s verse in 3MG’s “Hopeless Romantic,” but only borderline disturbing.

Many young people make fools of themselves when dealing with that hormonal surge called adolescence. Everyone has a first crush that they remember for life. I’m Facebook friends with mine. 🙂

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“Makeba” – Aceyalone
This is another beat where a foot is a main ingredient. This is one of my most favorite-est beats of all time. I really wish Acey and Mumbles would collab on another project (PLEASE! — for the sake of hip hop!).

Acey and Makeba used to be in love. Something happened when things were getting a little too close and Makeba left. The song is detailing Acey running into Makeba and reminiscing about their past relationship. Acey leaves a back door open for her, though…without spiraling into the role of sap whatsoever:

“I still got a piece of me to give you
You still got a piece of you to give me
You’re listening but you don’t hear me
We can pick up right where we left at
But, I gotta be me and you gotta accept that
I just wanna be homies
Cause I ain’t got love like Monie
Cause as soon as you got close
You got ghost and you tried to leave Acey Aloney
So hook up with me. If you can, cool
Cause you know I know what you get loose to
And if you play your cards right
And keep your shit tight
Then we might be down like we use to.”

The song is almost a hip hop version of Hello Like Before by Bill Withers

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“What’s On Your Mind” — Eric B and Rakim
So the R is on the subway and sees a woman he deems attractive. He tries to politely let her know that he thinks she looks nice and was interested in getting to know her better. She ignores him. Then he says “You don’t really look good; I hope you have a bad day,” and leaves her alone. He gets off at his stop and his Spidey Sense lets him know he is being followed. The stalker is the woman from the train! Unsure if she’s following him or if they just had similar destinations, he ducks into the store to get the universal beer of the 5% Nation. ’Lo and behold, she steps into the same store. Then he lays down the law: “If we’re playin games, then we’re gonna play mine.”
Amen.
The rest of the song is borderline sappy: He talks about needing to be in tune mentally before he could dance horizontally, then consummating the deal. All of this is tolerable only because the first verse is so strong.

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“You Never Know” — Immortal Technique Featuring Jean Grae
The songs on this list are not in any order of greatness. If I tried to put them in order, it would probably change depending on my mood. But this song would always be Number One on my list.

Immortal Technique has a horrible delivery (he has really improved this lately, by the way). This is tolerated because he has some very potent content. This song is an example of that.

I will not spoil it for people who have never heard the song. I would even say this song IS sappy and I still think it’s very good.

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“Everything Changes” — Aceyalone
I’m really not sure if this song is about Makeba, but it’s another song reminiscing about a woman he used to love. There is a line in there that caught my attention:

“And I knew they would get her when I let go her hand / And when I let go, the inevitable / So beautiful and susceptible.”

I have been in relationship situations with women where I told them something similar. I let them know that there are lots of bad guys out there. I know plenty of the bad guys because many of them are my friends.

Yes, I can be harsh with my honesty at times. Yes, I refuse to follow societal norms and conventions. If you think the grass is greener, then by all means, sample it. But in the back of my mind, I feel guilty about letting a person into the wilderness who ain’t built for the feral creatures they are destined to encounter.

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“Otha Fish” — Pharcyde
This is a sappy, whiny song. Slim Kid Tre thought he found “The One,” but it just didn’t work out. He has to constantly remind himself that there are other fish in the sea as he looks back on their relationship. The reason this song makes the list is because of the delivery. The sing-songy flow, mixed with the beat riding cadence that the Good Lifers created, runs strong on this track.

“Next thing you know we got together
Word, I thought it’d be forever
Didn’t have an um -buh- rell- a
Now I’m soaked in stormy weather”

MCs have a hard time maintaining a consistent flow while keeping the content pertinent. Some abandon any form. Others, like Tre, put the structured flow in where they can but then abandon it for the long, drawn out, melodic transfer of syllables over the beat. All the while, the subject matter remains consistent. Mikah 9 should get a quarter every time this song is played.
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“Tough Love” — Devin the Dude

“It’s a give and take
You live and make
Decisions together
And be in it like whatever”

Too many people make the mistake of dismissing Devin as just another raunchy southern rapper. His first two albums are hip hop classics. Sure, he’s raunchy, but there is a message under the Luther Campbellness that many people miss because they can’t get past more than a couple references to gonads.

I know many people are addicted to the honeymoon phase of relationships (see Andre Benjamin’s “The Love Below”). They wonder what the hell happened as the grind of day-to-day life creeps in. When that real person starts showing their true colors and all of the pet peeves that you thought were tolerable become serious issues. Devin lets you know that the grind is inevitable when dealing with him. He lays down some ground rules to let you know he is a willing participant in the relationship, but it will not be easy.

“Love is like a maze and you might get stuck/
We can go thru it, or we can just fuck.”

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“44 Wayz” – Paris Featuring Mystic
Paris and Mystic are a modern day Bonnie & Clyde in this love song. They read some books, determine that the poor people of the world are getting the short end of the stick and decide to stick it to the system. Their solution is to rob banks. At the end, of course, they both die in a blaze of glory. But they had each other’s back until the end.

We all yearn for someone to have our backs like that. It feels comfortable knowing someone is willing to die to protect you.

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“What Is Love?” — Pigeon John
The break down of the beat at the end of this song is MOTHER-FUCKING-EPIC! Sorry Pigeon, I know you love Jesus and everything. I could not think of a better way to express myself in dispensing props.

The title asks the question I have posed to people who freely use the four-letter word in their everyday conversation. I am not so sure that word should be spat out so loosely.

In the song, Pigeon is having issues staying faithful to his girl while he is touring. He thinks he loves his girl, but he is not sure because he has urges to cheat. So he wonders if he’s in love at all.

Love is nothing but hormones. Oxytocin, seratonin and some other stuff combine in a cocktail in your brain that gets you high and motivates you to make silly decisions. Men feel this just like women do. The issue is, men are not built for monogamy. Faithful men suppress millions of years of evolution to remain that way and their women trip because the toilet seat is up.
Honorable Mentions

“No One Ever Does” — Saul Williams
“So many people ask me who is God, and when I tell them God is love, their reaction is quite mortal” — Brother J

This is not hip hop, it is grippo. This is not a classical love song, it is more universal. Saul really wants to love his fellow human being, but he finds it difficult because of the song’s title. He knows that it is imperative, and he will put forth a valiant effort to do so. Yet, he still laments the title. If you like this one, check out “Heading Home” by Eric Bibb.

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“Neglected” — Grouch featuring Eligh
This is also not a love song. Grouch and Eligh want to be in love. Pickings just seem to be slim because the women they keep running into are not up to standard. They would rather be alone than spend their time trying to bump uglies with a physcially attractive gold digger. Like so many of the songs mentioned, I relate.

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“Fa sho” — Odd Squad
These dudes love their women, but they decide to not suppress their inherent doggishness and get caught in the process. So it is a love song with a bit of folk wisdom sung by Devin in the hook. After hearing the song, I am left with the impression that these guys might not have the urge to suppress anything. Although they are hurt that their loved ones left, I have the feeling they would probably do it again.

Evolution is strong!
Keep ya head up, Kwame Kilpatrick J

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“Glenn Close” — Binary Star
One Be Lo falls in love with a girl then realizes he don’t love her after all. He then hooks up with another woman and drama ensues. The name says it all.

There is even a mention of a well-known hoodoo rumor:

“Now don’t think that I’m petty / but I know what desperate ladies put in their spaghetti / thats why I told her that I ate already.”

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“Nowalaters” — The Coup
This is one of the most well-written songs hip hop ever produced. The story and rhyme scheme are top notch. It is too intimate to not be autobiographical. I had to put this on the list because it is a story involving a male and a female and love. Boots never really mentions he loves the woman he is talking about. He loses his virginity to her at 17 in a Honda Civic parked somewhere near Lake Michigan. He then realizes she is pregnant.

“It was me up in the vaginary / And I’mma love my kids, whether real or imaginary.”

He then proceeds to talk about all the things he is prepared to do to get ready for his child to come into the world. Then the baby is born too early, but it has a really healthy weight.

Even though he realizes the child is not his, he still wants to take care of the kid and his mother. Now that is devotion. The only reason he leaves is because she pushed him away.

“There’s a few things I’d like to say in this letter
Like I wish I could have seen him grow
And ask my wife, I learned to fuck much better
And thank you for letting me go.
For real,
Thank you for letting me go.
For real,
Thank you,
For
Letting
Me
Go…”

Because ultimately, sometimes that’s what love is, too.

HON. MENTION:

“Here” — Brother Ali
 
Check out more of the Hip Hop Purist at www.furth3r.com. Note: Consider yourself forewarned.

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The HIP-HOP PURIST: Niggy Tardust—Brother From Another Planet

I am not a fan of slam poetry.
I am not a fan of slam poetry.
I am not a fan… of slam poe-treeeeeee.

What is so funny is that I used to write poetry, before these candle-burning, finger-snapping Love Jones clones decided they could write poetry too.

But I got sick of the sugary drivel used to illicit offers of sex from the audience. A poem is supposed to be about your insides being displayed through your voice. Most of the stuff I heard at readings I used to participate in was trite at best.

The black power “readers of scripts,” vying for who is the “most down” with their weak attempts at writing, were a breath of fresh air compared to the hormonal attempts at defining what love really is from souls indoctrinated by years of R&B.

Needless to say, I stopped writing poetry. I looked at my old stuff as being just as banal as the people I criticized. I was not looking deeply enough into myself. I did not want to be one of “them.” So when Saul Williams was crowned king of the capri pants and sandals subculture, I ignored him. I ignored his albums. I ignored the movie “Slam.” I even ignored when he guest-emceed on other people’s songs.

I now see that was a mistake.

I downloaded “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust” off the recommendation of a coworker. I liked how they were distributing the album (only electronically over the net with a .pdf version of liner notes – similar to Radiohead). Initially, I was not impressed because Saul was associated with it, along with the fact that there is a lot of singing and I would not consider some of the beats “hip hop.” Then I gave him a chance.

The first three tracks were on HEAVY rotation in my car for at least 3 months. “Black History Month” is a fitting intro to the album. The industrial Trent Reznor beat is hypnotic and Saul’s tribute to the muse with his first words – “Can you feel it/ nothing can save ya,” pays respect to hip hop in general. The production and hook (“The banana peels are carefully placed / so keep your shell toes carefully laced”) gets you amped. The beat breaks down to only Saul’s voice saying “Turn up the bay-bass!” towards the end. He then gives his version of the origin of hip hop, ending it with “Let these suckas know the cost of making Harriet run / Let the North Star be your guiding post when turned from the sun / Until knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone!”

The production on the second track is friggin’ insane. Saul sings on “Convict Colony” to a beat too beautiful to describe with words. When I say beautiful, I am not talking about pretty. I am talking about vividly and explosively exceptional. You know, the beauty that is the goal of all artistic (and dare I say human) expression. If you know what a convict colony is, the lyrics are easy to understand.

The 3rd track is the stand-out piece to me. What’s so crazy is the beat is just a loop. Well, I shouldn’t say that, because it is a Public Enemy loop (I wonder how much they charged for the sample?). If you don’t know about the song “Welcome to the Terrordome,” you should learn about it. “Tr(n)igga” is the reason I arrive at work sweating, with my voice on the verge of being hoarse. I really should not listen to that song in my car. In the second verse, Saul asks “Would Jesus Christ come back American? / What if he’s Iraqi and here again?”

I instantly think of all the people who ignore all the scriptures of Jesus that emphasize peace and love to memorize the fire and brimstone intolerance of P(S)aul (eerie, ain’t it?). The beat then goes into a muffled bass line and Saul is again interrogative: “What do you teach your children about me? What do you teach your little children about me? Pimp? Thug? Bling druglord of the underground decay? How can you be so sure I won’t call down the rain?”

The beat comes back and Saul gets more forceful with his interrogation. This is where I start screaming the hook along with him. It never fails. I think I am the target audience for this song. Other stand out songs are “WTF” (the beat breaks down nicely), “Raised To Be Lowered,” “Skin Of a Drum,” “Niggy Tardust” and “DNA.” Although he is not “rapping” on most of the songs, the lyrics are on point.

This album is not available in stores, so you have to download it to hear it (it costs 5$). My endorsement of this album means more because I did not want to like it initially. I now have to convince myself not to listen to it.

And oh — one day in Wal-Mart, I saw “Slam” on sale. I bought it. I liked it.

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