The 25 Best Rap Love Songs

Here's evidence of the softer side of hip-hop

Hip-hop has a soft side, and you don't have to wait till Valentine's Day to wade into the waters of romance. Just pull your special someone closer and let the music lead you. Start with these 25 greatest rap love songs:

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Future: 'Turn on the Lights'

Prince Williams/WireImage

Rap's sad robot is adorably head over heels in love with his dream girl. The problem? He hasn't met her.

"I wanna tell the world about you just so they could get jealous
And if you see her before I do tell her I wish that I met her."
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Ja Rule: 'Put It on Me'

Ja Rule Put it On Me
Courtesy of Murder Inc. / Def Jam

No lovey-dovey playlist would be complete without the prince of love rap songs, Ja Rule. The Vita-assisted "Put It on Me" was a ubiquitous hit during Ja's 2000s reign.

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Diddy: 'I Need a Girl'

P Diddy I need a Girl
Courtesy of Bad Boy

After his split from Jennifer Lopez, Diddy made his 2002 "I Need a Girl" cry:

"I had a girl that woulda died for me
Didn't 'preciate her so I made her cry for me
Every night she had tears in her eyes for me
Caught a case, shorty took the whole ride for me."

Moguls need love, too.

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Big Daddy Kane: 'Smooth Operator'

Big Daddy Kane Smooth Operator
Courtesy of Cold Chillin' / Warner Bros.

After two verses of self-congratulatory rhymes, Kane "takes a few minutes to mellow out" and salute the ladies: "You're best scooped like ice cream," he cheers. "Smooth Operator" is the closest we'll ever get to a Big Daddy Kane love song.

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The Lost Boyz: 'Renee'

lost boyz
Courtesy of Uptown

"Renee" is a tragic tale of love lost, made even more tragic by the death of Lost Boyz emcee/promoter Freaky Tah in 1999.

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OutKast Featuring Cee-Lo Green: 'Slum Beautiful'

Outkast Stankonia
Courtesy LaFace

Big Boi and Andre 3000 came up in a misogynistic rap climate, but they had no problem expressing affection for women, or saying sorry. Their standout "Miss Jackson," for instance, found them apologizing to a baby mama's mama. The same album spawned "Slum Beautiful," a sleeper tune that dotes on the ghetto fabulous.

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Ma$e Featuring Total: 'What You Want'

Ma$e Ft. Total - "What You Want"
Courtesy Bad Boy

Forget dinner and a date, M-A-Dollar-Sign-E is giving you the key to his pad:

"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."
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Whodini: 'One Love'

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

"One love, one love, you're lucky just to have one loooove." Yes, those are the actual lyrics. You're more likely to find Big Foot than a mainstream rap song with a similar message today. Still, this song has survived over the years, thanks to Nas' 1994 version of the same name. As further proof of the song's lasting power, the phrase "one love" is now considered hip-hop lingo. It's a true classic.

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Nicki Minaj: 'Your Love'

Nicki Minaj
Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Her royal Barbieness found some hip-pop flexibility on this Annie Lennox-inspired smash. It marked a rare moment of vulnerability for Minaj:

"You're like a candy store and I'm a toddler
You got me wantin' more."
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Drake: 'Best I Ever Had'

Drake Best I Ever Had
Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown

Drizzy used this summer smash to describe his ideal woman: "Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin' with no make up on." This song caught fire and sent Drake to the top of the charts. And that was before he even signed a major deal.

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Wale Featuring Miguel: 'Lotus Flower Bomb'

Courtesy of Maybach Music Group / Warner Bros.

Wale is a ladies' man. Miguel is a ladies' man. Put them on the same track and the outcome is a heartwarming collaboration. In one live performance of "Lotus Flower Bomb," Wale almost got trampled by a stampede of adoring ladies rushing toward the stage.

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Dead Prez: 'Mind Sex'

Dead Prez
Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Are you into good conversation? Do you like herbal tea? Are you a fan of poetry? Then you're the girl M-1 and had in mind when they wrote the appropriately titled "Mind Sex."

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LL Cool J: 'Around the Way Girl'

Courtesy Def Jam

Long before Future told us to "Turn on the Lights," LL Cool J hit the streets in search of his own around-the-way girl:

"I want a girl with extensions in her hair
Bamboo earrings, at least two pair."
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The Pharcyde: 'Passin' Me By'

© Delicious Vinyl

Something about "Passin' Me By" makes a guy want to grab a Heineken and lounge in the sun.

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De La Soul: 'Eye Know'

De La Soul Eye Know
Courtesy Tommy Boy

Not your standard groupie love fare, De La's candy-coated "Eye Know" over lush samples (notably from Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay") made it cool to declare sweet affection for that special someone without sounding corny.

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Black Star: 'Brown Skin Lady'

Black Star
Courtesy Rawkus

Sometimes playful, sometimes treacly, "Brown Skin Lady" is always beautiful. Cocoa butter sales probably spiked after Kweli rapped, "Your skin is the inspiration for cocoa butter." Smooth.

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50 Cent: '21 Questions'

50 Cent
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Most love songs entail guys teasing girls with wild promises. 50 Cent turned the tables on "21 Questions," which takes the form of a relationship interview. "I'm asking questions to find out how you feel inside," he raps. And you can't question the genius of "I love you like a fat kid loves cake." After dropping that line, Fif went on to bag Vivica Fox, Ciara, and Chelsea Handler.

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Common Featuring Mary J. Blige: 'Come Close'

L. Cohen/WireImage

It's just a fly love song. Common spits game to his lady and vows to "do the best that I can do, cause I'm at my best when I'm with you." What girl doesn't want to be told, "I see the God in you"? The music video wasn't too shabby, either.

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Slick Rick: 'Teenage Love'

Slick Rick
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

These are golden words from the greatest storyteller in rap: "If it's not true love, you shouldn't deal wit it." The best part is that the message is always in season.

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Eric B & Rakim: 'Mahogany'

Eric B. & Rakim
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

You really have to see Rakim play this one live to fully understand why it's such a cult classic. There's nothing like seeing hundreds of Rakim fans—male and female—stand over a romantic tune.

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The Roots Featuring Eve & Erykah Badu: 'You Got Me'

The Root You Got Me
Courtesy MCA

The Roots struck gold with this smooth gem off "Things Fall Apart." Jill Scott wrote the R&B part but the label picked Erykah Badu to bring exposure to the record. With all respect to the wonderfully talented Scott, Badu made the suits seem like prophets.

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A Tribe Called Quest: 'Bonita Applebum'

A Tribe Called Quest - Bonita Applebum
Courtesy Jive

"Bonita Applebum" was the first single off Tribe's debut album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm." Word has it the song was an ode to a high school shawty. Bonus points for safe sex: "I got crazy prophylactics."

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Common: 'The Light'

Common - "The Light"
Courtesy MCA

There's so much going on here: J. Dilla's steady drums, James Poyser's pristine keys, that indelible Bobby Caldwell sample. And we haven't even gotten to the rhymes. Common puts it down, matching Dilla's potent production with his own poetic bagel.

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LL Cool J: 'I Need Love'

LL Cool J
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hip-hop's original loverboy made this classic back when lovey-dovey rap was deemed a novelty. It's still one of the best hip-hop songs ever, love or otherwise.

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Method Man Featuring Mary J. Blige: 'You're All I Need'

Method Man Ft. Mary J. Blige - "You're All I Need to Get By"
Courtesy Def Jam

Every rap and R&B collaboration released in the 1990s owes a royalty check to Method Man and Mary J Blige. The song reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.