Yeah, I know, you saw this one coming. But come on, who doesn’t love “I Need Love”? None of LL Cool J’s lengthy collection of accolades and awards is as impressive as his invention of the rap ballad with this little ditty in 1987. That simple piano loop was cheesy but irresistible and I’m pretty sure everyone still remembers those opening lyrics. Come on, sing them with me...”When I’m alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the wall and in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call. Telling me I need a girl who's as sweet as a dove. For the 1st time in my life I see I need love.” Yep, good stuff.
2. You Got Me - The Roots (Things Fall Apart 1999)
"You Got Me" represents a particularly harmonious blend of rugged and smooth. ?uestlove's meticulously layered production here is melodic and state of the art. But the groove is mightily enhanced by Black Thought's liquid vocals as he delivers a whip smart and fully engaging narrative. Cameos from both Eve and Erykah Badu further enhance the already mesmerizing experience.
3. Me And My B*tch - The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die 1994)
Try not to be deterred by the song title or the filthy lyrics in "Me And My B*tch". Make no mistake about it, this is a love song of genius proportions from an epic talent. Expressing love is not something that comes easy to disenfranchised urban youth, but Biggie captures their voice with pitch perfect honesty .The raw, unfiltered lyrics are utterly necessary to convey the right sense of authenticity and discomfort with the subject matter. As with all of "Ready To Die" Biggie goes balls out on "Me And My B*tch", using his peerless sense of rhythm to infuse every rhyme with a torrent of emotions...anger, joy, fear, frustration, it's all in there and it's all powerfully articulated. That's what I call love.
Method Man’s performance on “All I Need” is so spot on it still amazes me. No sappy choruses or soul crooners necessary. Just a skilled MC speaking from the heart about the love of his life. It’s ghetto love, Wu Tang style, expressed without an ounce of sentimentality…as real as it gets.
5. Bonita Applebum - A Tribe Called Quest (People's Instinctive Travels…1990)
Bonita Applebum is the story of every horny teenage boy's lust for the hottest girl in school, set to a bangin' beat. Most of hip hop still treats women as objects to be conquered to show their manhood, so you gotta love Quest for fearlessly breaking ranks early on. Their willingness to show vulnerability and genuine awe for the opposite sex was truly refreshing as was their refusal to take themselves too seriously.
6. One Love - Whodini (Back In Black 1986)
Whodini was always a more mature kind of rap group. So they were given some slack when they decided to take the subject of love seriously in a hip hop song. The phrase "One Love" itself has become an enduring catchphrase because of this track and the song remains as one of the genres all time feel good tunes. Nas jacked the chorus for his 90's classic of the same name, but for my money you can't beat the original. If you want to put yourself in a better mood right now, go to YouTube, dial up Whodini's "One Love" and let Jalil, Ecstacy and Grand Master Dee brighten your day.
7. The 4th 3rd J - Live (All Of The Above 2002)
On "The 4th 3rd" J-Live reminisces over lost love against a relaxing, mid-tempo jazz track. What makes the song stand out is the world-class lyricism J-Live showcases. His verses are artfully crafted and packed with depth and captivating poetry. No doubt the woman he is rapping about must have been really special to inspire such a heart-felt trip down memory lane. As the saying goes, the best art comes from pain.
8. Now That We Found Love - Heavy D And The Boyz (Peaceful Journey 1991)
If I were making a list of Hip Hop's all time most under-appreciated rhyme slayers, Heavy D would be very near the top. The guy was as smooth as he was clever. On this one, that came at the height of the New Jack Swing movement, he hooked up with Guy for a re-working of the classic from Third World and brought down the house.
9. The Light - Common (Like Water For Chocolate 2000)
For all of his considerable talents, Common sometimes suffers from his tendency to come off as more sappy loverman than dope MC. "The Light" from his uneven 2000 disc "Like Water For Chocolate" is one of those songs that you don't really want to like, It's corny, obvious and heavy-handed in its attempt to woo the ladies. But his mic skills ultimately prove too impressive to be denied, breezy, effortless and just playful enough to save Common from himself (this time).
10. Beautiful - Snoop Dogg (Paid The Cost To Be The Boss 2002)
I don't want to speculate on why, but for some reason Pharrell seems to save his best material for Snoop Dogg. And "Beautiful" is no different. No disrespect, Snoop's sticky drawl is in fine form here, but let's face it, the hook is the real star on this one. I'm sure even I would sound pretty great rapping over this lovely, sun-kissed crowd pleaser. Here's a smart investment tip, spend $2.50 on this ringtone and set it for your wife or girlfriend. Trust me...HUGE props will follow.
Ten More Worth Noting:
Renee - Lost Boyz: A sad tale of Ghetto Love from the fantastic trio
Ms Fat Booty - Mos Def: Mos Def falls hard for a self-absorbed hottie and pays the price
Love Language - Talib Kweli: Hi Tek and Kweli on the smooth tip
Song Cry - Jay-Z: Jigga Man showing regret for his big pimpin' ways
Black Coffee - Heavy D: Another smooth one From Heavy D. A shout out to the sistas'
Electric Relaxation - A Tribe Called Quest: Another horny but harmless tribute to the ladies
Number One - Pharrell Williams: P and Kanye hook up for a glossy shoutout to their sweeties
Teenage Love - Slick Rick: "Don't Hurt Me Again" a cautionary tale about love + inexperience
Luv U You Better - LL Cool J: By the time this one hit, LL could do these ballads in his sleep
All I Need Is You - Hi-Tek: Who Knew Cormega was such a sensitive, loving guy