The Best Hip-Hop Love Songs

From LL Cool J's "I Need Love" to Kendrick Lamar’s “Love,” check out the best hip-hop and rap love songs.

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Love has been at hip-hop’s center since its birth. That’s including love of the game, the love of money, and love of one’s self. Of course, rap has opened up enough to speak of loving someone else. LL Cool J did so in 1984’s “I Need Love,” when he spoke in a fragile voice about being a lonely superstar on the road. That lent itself to parody, though: How does one get so soft after talking so tough on their debut? But things have obviously changed since the ‘80s. Drake has at least an album’s worth of “I Need Love”s, and acting loveless isn’t synonymous with keeping it real these days.

As a result, many more fans are looking to hip-hop to soundtrack February, the month of lovers. There’s the classics, like Fabolous’ romantic monotone and Ja Rule shouting, “WAH WOULD I BE WITHOUT MAH BABAAYY?!” in his throaty voice. Of course, the boo-loving playlist has had some more recent additions, too. Future opened up his heart post-Ciara for one of his best songs, and Kanye West stuffed acid house, Nina Simone, and a Chief Keef feature into an album only to close it with a soul-sampling dedication to his now wife. Nicki Minaj also managed to throw in a cute Slick Rick reference in one of the great love songs of our time.

Whether they’re about a guy relearning how to love or a lover swearing up and down about what he’ll do in the bedroom, the best romantic hip-hop songs makes it clear the passions are genuine and direct. By the way, they’re playable year-round, too. From LL Cool J feeling things to Future trying to let some love into his life, check out the best hip-hop love songs below. And before you ask: No, Drake isn’t half of the list.

Kendrick Lamar f/ Zacari “Love” (2017)

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Album: DAMN.

Producer: Teddy Walton, Greg Kurstin, Top Dawg, Sounwave

Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope

Best Pick Up Line: “Keep it a whole one hund': Don't got you, I got nothin'.”

DAMN. is a thematically dark album: “Love,” for example, is followed by the U2-featuring vengeance screed “XXX.” But for those three-and-a-half-minutes, you forget the surrounding clouds thanks to the album’s most shimmering production. “Love” is Kendrick’s traditional romance joint, but his specificity overrides the potential cheesiness. The drums stomp behind him as he declares his desires to his love interest: “Keep it a hundred, I'd rather you trust me than to love me.” Like everything else Kendrick puts onto record, you don’t doubt that he really means this.

2Pac "Temptations" (1995)

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Album: Me Against the World

Producer: Easy Mo Bee

Label: Out Da Gutta Records/Interscope/Atlantic

Best Pick Up Line: “Now that it's passion, hold me tight/Don't need lights, I can see you by the moonlight.”

Tupac Shakur has multiple dedications to the opposite sex that lean toward machismo. That’s why “Temptations” stands out in his discography: The verses are so intimate that, wherever you are, the lights automatically dim. Deciding to have those off-key hood harmonies swirling in the background was a risky move, but 23 years later, it’s still an endearing aphrodisiac.

Common "The Light" (2000)

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Album: Like Water for Chocolate

Producer: Jay Dee

Label: MCA Records

Best Pick Up Line: "It's important, we communicate/and tune the fate of this union, to the right pitch/I never call you my bitch or even my boo/There's so much in a name and so much more in you." 

Of course he loves H.E.R., but Common has made his fair share of notable love songs since he's been in the game. From the warm-but-chilled-out J Dilla production to lines about communication, "The Light" is what every lady wants to hear. He must be doing something right if he bagged Serena.

Kanye West f/ Charlie Wilson “Bound 2” (2013)

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Album: Yeezus

Producer: Kanye West, No I.D., Noah Goldstein, Eric Danchick, Che Pope, Mike Dean

Label: Def Jam

Best Pick Up Line: “Hey, you remember where we first met?/Okay, I don't remember where we first met.”

In which Kanye West ends the forward-thinking Yeezus with some College Dropout-style sample-chopping. The decision to end the classic, avant-garde album with a song like “Bound 2” sounds like another example of Kanye’s unchecked unpredictability. But part of its sweetness comes from how Yeezus’ prevailing angst vanishes when Kim Kardashian, his now wife and baby mother, is the focal point. “Bound 2” features the best Kanyeisms (“Have you ever asked your bitch for other bitches?”), but a big part of its staying power comes from Charlie Wilson wailing over that doomsday interlude and that campy, instant classic video.

Ma$e f/ Total "What You Want" (1998)

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Album: Harlem World

Producer: Nashiem Myrick

Label: Bad Boy

Best Pick Up Line: "In a year or two, girl, I could see you with my kids/Girl, you make a thug want to get a legal gig/It's only right we spend our lonely nights/Gettin' crazy biz till we awake the kids."

Released as the second single from his debut Harlem World, this is the Good Pastor's ode to the that special lady he's taking out the hood. Whatever you need girlfriend, he's got the whole enchilada!

Drake "Best I Ever Had" (2009)

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Album: So Far Gone

Producer: Boi-1da

Label: Young Money, Cash Money

Best Pick Up Line: "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on/That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong." 

This single off So Far Gone helped Complex cover star Drizzy Drake smash the airwaves and assured he'd have no problem "smashin' em allllll" if he wanted. The video was a bit of a stretch (GET IT?), and had him in the doghouse with some female fans, but he's managed to work his way back into their good graces.

De La Soul "Eye Know" (1989)

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Album: 3 Feet High and Rising

Producer: Prince Paul, De La Soul

Label: Tommy Boy

Best Pick Up Line: "It's I again and the song that I send/Is taking steps to reach your heart/Any moment you feel alone/I can fill up your empty part." 

The trio from LI dealt with flower power, getting high, and even the joy of love on their 3 Feet High and Rising debut. This single was a hit in the UK, with sweetly poetic lyrics that surely allowed them to (native) tongue-down many a European groupie.

Noname f/ Ravyn Lenae, "Montego Bae" (2018)

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Album: Room 25

Producer: Phoelix

Label: N/A

Best Pick Up Line: “How's it feel to be on my mind? I can't believe I found you in time.”

“Montego Bae” floats in on a tropical breeze, with the elegance of a Golden Age Hollywood travel movie. Noname’s nimble, soft-spoken flow fits perfectly atop the splashy cymbals and ambulatory bass line, as she luxuriates in pleasures both physical (oral sex) and intellectual (reading Toni Morrison). The song clocks in at just 2:45, but it’s steamy and sensual enough that it feels like an entire week spent shacked up by the Caribbean Sea.

Fabolous f/ Ne-Yo "Make Me Better" (2007)

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Album: From Nothin' to Somethin'

Producer: Timbaland

Label: Def Jam Records

Best Pick Up Line: "You plus me, it equal better math/Your boy a good look, but she my better half/I'm already bossin, already flossin/But why have the cake if it ain't got that sweet frosting?" 

Loso's had a string of decent R&B-fused love songs, but his 2007 duet stands out as a favorite with both genders. Fab gives credit to his better half over a moody Raekwon sample while Ne-Yo almost makes us think he's not corny. Almost.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth f/ Vinia Mojica "Searching" (1995)

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Album: The Main Ingredient

Producer: Pete Rock

Label: Elektra

Best Pick Up Line: "You're everything that I dream about, talk about/Walk around and brag about, cause I don't give a damn about/What they say, what he say, or she say/I'm addicted like drugs to your loving, but hey/You got me strung like I'm young and it's crazy." 

How could a girl record from a dude with the last name Smooth not be on point? CL spits about admiring a woman from afar then begins to spit game at her over an Roy Ayers sample and some trademark Pete Rock breaks. The duo released a number of love songs—including the singles "Lots of Lovin'" and "I Got A Love"—but this lesser-known track stands the test of time best.

Future “Incredible” (2017)

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Producer: Dre Moon

Label: A1/Freebandz/Epic

Best Pick Up Line: “I was havin' trust issues/But I've been havin' way better luck since you/I know it's true love with you.”

Even without his grittier self-titled album to compare to, HNDRXX was a glowing delight that rested on Future’s pop talent. It’s a sharp switch-up considering the two albums were released within a week of each other, but you forget about the context when the tropical keys of “Incredible” rev up. What was true in 2013 is true now: Future sounds great when he’s in love. “Is you the one? Is you the one?” a disarmed Future asks, a monster no more.

Mac Miller, "ROS" (2015)

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Album: GO:OD AM

Producer: Frank Dukes, DJ Dahi

Label:  REMember Music/Warner Bros. Records

Best Pick Up Line: “You like your vodka with a little touch of lime/You should probably take your heels off/Cause you've been running through my mind”

Though Mac Miller made an entire album as an “exploration of love,” perhaps his most touching and romantic track actually came on GO:OD AM. “ROS” is a soaring synthesis of several of Miller’s best sonic personas: the confessional jazz crooner Larry Lovestein, the detail-oriented rhymer, and the spiritual yearner seeking an almost holy fulfillment through human connection. The ascendant background vocals give “ROS” a lightness and buoyancy, but it’s anchored by Miller’s unwavering candor. “If love don't last forever then forever ain't the same,” he says.

Poor Righteous Teachers "Shakiyla (JRH)" (1990)

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Album: Pure Poverty

Producer: Tony D

Label: Profile Records

Best Pick Up Line: "Word is bond the sistah loves me and I love her like no other.../ I spend a lot of time with the sistah I protect."

Conscious brothers need love too! A decade before dead prez was having mind sex, Wise Intelligent and company paid tribute to that special lady...respectfully, of course. Fun fact: The original version of "Shakiyla" used the same Zapp sample as 2Pac's "Keep Ya Head Up."

Tyler, the Creator f/ Kali Uchis, "See You Again" (2017)

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Album: Flower Boy

Producer: Tyler, the Creator

Label: Columbia Records

Best Pick Up Line: “Wonder if you look both ways when you cross my mind”

“See You Again” is Tyler, the Creator at his most tender, unraveling his psyche with the help of a star-making hook from Kali Uchis. Filled with understated lyrical gems (“Wonder if you look both ways when you cross my mind”), this standout from Flower Boy expertly toes the line between fantasy and reality; it’s a love song that recognizes how difficult it can be when what’s your in head isn’t the same as what’s in front of your eyes. From a production standpoint, it’s among Tyler’s most impressive works, weaving elegiac strings and obliterating 808 bass into a surprisingly cohesive love potion. It’s easy to see why Tyler said it might be his favorite song he’s ever made.

Black Star "Brown Skin Lady" (1998)

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Album: Black Star

Producer: J. Rawls

Label: Rawkus

Best Pick Up Line: "Your skin's the inspiration for cocoa butter/You provoke a brother, we should get to know one another." (Talib Kweli)

Oooh! Mos and Talib combined forces to form Black Star and create this easy-going tribute to women coming from the continent. As everyone knows, the ladies can't resist Mos Def's faux-tois.

Slick Rick "Teenage Love" (1988)

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Album: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Producer: Jam Master Jay, Slick Rick, The Bomb Squad

Label: Def Jam/Columbia/CBS

Best Pick Up Line: "Ya mighty proud while your holdin their hand/Boys, yea that's my woman, and girls, yeah that's my man."

Slick Rick's classic warns the young guns about the dangers of your first love and drops knowledge about protecting your heart. Best part of this record? Seeing the Ruler perform this live and hearing the wayyyyy past teenage crowd reminisce.

Goodie Mob "Beautiful Skin" (1998)

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Album: Still Standing

Producer: Craig Love

Label: LaFace/Arista/BMG Records

Best Pick Up Line: "You sparks my interest/No m'aam I don't know you/Just offerin' the common respect I feel I owe you/Also, some conversation, companionship/Common ground and common sense."

When not talking about conspiracy theories and receiving cell therapy, the Goodie Mob boys were into some good ol' fashioned TLC like the rest of us. This heartfelt tribute to their "sister, lover, and friend" was definitely a highlight of their second album Still Standing.

Nicki Minaj "Super Bass" (2010)

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Album: Pink Friday

Producer: Kane Beatz

Label: Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown

Best Pick Up Line: “You're like slicker than the guy with the thing on his eye.”

“Super Bass” is the easy rebuttal to anyone who’s against Nicki Minaj going pop, because it’s clearly not a bad thing. The mainstream direction doesn’t pull her away from her rapping ability—in fact, it’s what makes this song. Nicki’s frosty spacing in some lines (“He cold, he dope, he might sell coke”) melts and trickles through the verses in a way that makes every detail sticks in the listener’s mind. Also, any love song that works in a Slick Rick reference deserves props.

DMX "How's It Goin' Down" (1998)

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Album: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

Producer: P.K.

Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam

Best Pick Up Line: "Kill for me, you still with me/'Cuz we get down like what/Told you from the start, it ain't all about a nutt/I'm gon' be fair, try to be there." 

Earl gets sentimental on this track off It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, showcasing a more sensitive side that surely gave Def Jam executives a boner. He didn't get all Ralph Tresvant "Sensitivity" on us—he does mention sending her up the block with his work and murking homegirl's baby's father. But hey, it's the Dark Man—this is as close as he's gonna get.

Ja Rule f/ Vita "Put It On Me" (2000)

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Album: Rule 3:36

Producer: Irv Gotti, Tru Stylze

Label: Murder Inc.

Best Pick Up Line: "Since we met it's been you and I/A tear for a tear, baby eye for an eye/And you know that my heart goin cry/If you leave me lonely/Cause you're not just my love, you're my homie." 

It's easy to hate on Ja, but if there's one thing he does well, it's writing a fuckin' love song. His thug love formula produced a string of huge hits, but none were better than this quintessential early '00s banger. Every thug needs a ladaaaaaaaay!

Boogiemonsters "Honeydips in Gotham" (1994)

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Album: Riders of the Storm: The Underwater Album

Producer: D!

Label: Pendulum Records

Best Pick Up Line: "Ebony rose from the Earth getting darker in the sun/Cocoa-mocha complexion brown sugar with the smile." 

Over a sunny-day Isley Brothers sample, this forgotten mid-'90s rap group dropped this memorable song dedicated to all the Asiatic dragon-flies swarming around NYC. This is the ultimate summer-love-in-the-city anthem.

Lil Wayne "Receipt" (2005)

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Album: Tha Carter II

Producer: The Heatmakerz

Label: Cash Money

Best Pick Up Line: "I'm at home or in the coupe or in the office/Or the streets or in the booth, thinkin bout you/And, most of the girls that come by are cute/And they try to holla but they all on mute." 

Weezy let go off his M.O.B. mantra and got sentimental on this standout from Tha Carter II. Clever lines and a Isley Brothers sample wailing "I've got to hold on to my receipt" made this tribute to then-girlfriend Trina an unexpectedly honest moment for the Martian MC.

UGK "Use Me Up" (1992)

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Album: Too Hard to Swallow

Producer: Pimp C

Label: Jive

Best Pick Up Line: "Every day it gets better, I can't lie/I ate the pussy and it taste like hot potato pie." 

Pimp C made a love song? Yep, a love-strung Sweet James Jones talks about his experience in violating a pimp's number one rule—loving dem hoes. Blasphemy! It might sound like an odd combination, but the bluesy Bill Withers sample makes this is a Southern classic.

Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell "Beautiful" (2003)

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Album: Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$

Producer: The Neptunes

Label: Priority/Capitol/EMI Records

Best Pick Up Line: "Keep groovin', that's what we doin'/And we gon' be together until your moms move in... " 

This 2003 hit proved even the big boss dogg can go soft from time-to-time. Of course, the video featuring tons of Brazilian beauties, was something we all could appreciate. A classic Neptunes beat, Pharrell and Charlie Wilson made this something "really speciallllll."

Eric B. & Rakim "Mahogany" (1991)

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Album: Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em

Producer: Eric B.

Label: MCA Records

Best Pick Up Line: "You got the look, I wanna get to know ya better/I had to let her know, but yo, I didn't sweat her." 

The God gets romantic on this surprisingly smoothed-out song from Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em that tells the story of courting a special chick who "almost looked Korean...but European?"

50 Cent f/ Nate Dogg "21 Questions" (2003)

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Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Producer: Dirty Swift of Midi Mafia

Label: Aftermath/Shady

Best Pick Up Line: "I love you like a fat kid loves cake."

This is an instant classic off the quotable alone. 50 wonders if his girl would be down if he went from classy back to ashy. Oh, and he takes the time to bang Meagan Good when she comes to visit him in prison in the video. That's real class right there.

Method Man f/ Mary J. Blige "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By" (1995)

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Album: Tical

Producer: RZA, Puff Daddy

Label: Def Jam

Best Pick Up Line: "Back when I was nothin/You made a brother feel like he was somethin/That's why I'm with you to this day boo no frontin." 

Finding the perfect sweet spot between romantic sentiments and hardcore attitude, the Grammy Award-winning remix to the single from Meth's debut Tical is one of the best rap/sung tandems ever created (hear Method tell the story behind that record here). Not bad for a dude who brags about "Torture" and sports a creepy milky eye in the video.

The Notorious B.I.G "Me & My Bitch" (1994)

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Album: Ready to Die

Producer: The Bluez Brothers, Chucky Thompson, Sean "Puffy" Combs

Label: Bad Boy Records

Best Pick Up Line: "And then we lie together, cry together/I swear to God I hope we fuckin die together."

Classic sentimental storytelling from the best of the best... as long as you can overlook the pause-worthy hyperbole "You look so good/ I suck on your daddy's dick". No chick is that bad!

The Roots f/ Jill Scott "You Got Me" (1999)

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Album: Things Fall Apart

Producer: The Grand Wizzards

Label: MCA Records

Best Pick Up Line: "Startin buildin' with her constantly round the clock/Now she in my world like hip-hop." 

The Legendary Roots Crew linked with Jill Scott for this track, but got cut for Erykah Badu for the video version. If you're ever at a party/show/function and don't bag the neo-soul style chick in the room while this is playing—consider yourself a lame.

LL Cool J "I Need Love" (1987)

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Album: Bigger and Deffer

Producer: L.A. Posse, LL Cool J

Label: Def Jam Recordings

Best Pick Up Line: "You can scratch my back, we'll get cozy and huddle/I'll lay down my jacket so you can walk over a puddle/I'll give you a rose, pull out your chair before we eat/kiss you on the cheek and say ooh girl you're so sweet."

A young LL showed us where he got his name from, creating what's considered the OG of all rap ballads. After keeping it true school with his first album Radio, this single of his second LP explored a more sensual sound which helped him throw more platinum plaques on walls, posters on girls' walls, and probably get in between some more walls too. Cheesy? Yes. But this wildly-influential track forever altered the direction of rap.

Lost Boyz "Renee" (1996)

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Album: Legal Drug Money

Producer: Mr. Sex

Label: Island Records

Best Pick Up Line: "And now we been together for weeks/Candlelight dinner with my shorty, crack a 40 with my naughty freaks/Ah man, I never been in love/But everytime I'm burstin' in and outta state, it's shorty that I'm thinking of."

Ghetto love is the law that Mr. Cheeks lives by in this tragic story of love lost. Follow Cheeks through his brief (but intense) relationship with a weed-smoking dime who wants to be a lawyer (in other words, shorty studies law).

Chance the Rapper, "Interlude (That's Love)" (2013)

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Album: Acid Rap

Producer: Ludwig Göransson

Label: N/A

Filled with off-kilter imagery (“What's better than popping bottles trying to ball in the club/Is the first caveman pops with his son, ball and a club”), and an earnest charm, “That’s Love” is Chance at his most kinetic, running joyfully through Ludwig Göransson’s rolling pianos. It’s a heartfelt song that focuses on love as a long-haul experience, and the then-teenage MC shows a keen understanding of the emotion’s healing and fulfilling power. In a way, “That’s Love” feels like a predecessor to some of his more exaltant tracks like “How Great” and “Blessings,” but anchoring it in the most human emotion of all makes it truly universal.

A Tribe Called Quest "Bonita Applebum" (1990)

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Album: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Producer: A Tribe Called Quest

Label: Jive Records

Best Pick Up Line: "I like to tell you things some brothas don't/If only you can see through your elaborate eyes/Only you and me hon, the love never dies." 

This influential cut coming from ATCQ's debut People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is the perfect marriage between beats, rhymes, and lazy Q-Tip flows. Not bad for your first time.

The Pharcyde "Passin' Me By" (1993)

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Album: Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

Producer: J-Swift

Label: Delicious Vinyl

Best Pick Up Line: "And if I was your man then I would be true/The only lying I would do is in the bed with you."

This track from Cali's free-spirts reinforced everything we already know—The Pharcyde make classic records, indie rappers don't get girls, and students in CA have the hots for their teachers. The boys might not have gotten any play from the ladies, but they did from the radio, scoring them their biggest hit and providing the ultimate soundtrack to unrequited love.

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