Once upon a time long ago, when Stevie J was more famous for contributing to Jodeci albums than reality shows, a burgeoning relationship between Hip Hop and R&B was fostered respectively through the efforts of LL Cool J and groups like SWV. Despite Hip Hop’s sometimes well-deserved reputation for misogyny, four decades of Rap songs have chronicled both the ups and downs of being in love. In 1996, Method Man and Mary J. Blige netted a “Best Performance By A Duo Or Group” Grammy for “I’ll Be There For You (You’re All I Need To Get By).” On the flip side, with “How Do U Want It,” the late Tupac Shakur took aim at one-time Civil Rights activist and chair of the Black Caucus of the Democratic National Committee C. Delores Tucker. Unlike Meth and Mary, ‘Pac and Ms. Tucker’s encounter ended on much less happy terms; Tucker’s $10 million defamation lawsuit was thrown out by a federal judge in 1999.

Nevertheless, as Valentine’s Day approaches, even the most cursory glance at your iTunes or Spotify library can bring up a ton of lovey-dovey memories. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day 2014, HipHopDX’s Editorial Staff listed a few of their favorite R&B and Rap songs. Whether you’re living the single life or enjoying the occasion with your significant other, here our some of our picks. As usual—not that you need an invitation—but feel free to disagree or add your own picks down in the comment section.

OutKast – “Happy Valentine’s Day”

This one is an absolute no brainer for the Hallmark holiday soundtrack. It’s essential that it shows up on your mix, naturally. With the jam band going and the lyrics pouring out, “Happy Valentine’s Day” is like the ultimate track to celebrate the coming of Cupid. Of course this one is basically Andre3000’s since it’s on The Love Below. Don’t call him Three Stacks though on this cut. Nah, he’s “Cupid Valentino,” and he’s flanked by Joi and “Skreechy Peachy” on the hook. Much like “Player’s Ball” is to Christmas, this track can be celebrated any time of the year. -Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)

Jodeci – “Love U 4 Life”

When I was younger, I decided this song was going to be played at my wedding. I still feel that way, even though Jodeci is kind of scary looking nowadays. “Love U 4 Life” is just the ultimate eternal love kind of tune. The video though is what really drives the point home. You have T-Boz (yes of TLC) getting married to Dalvin Swing. That was perfect because Dalvin was dating T-Boz at the time. Awwww! It was such a sweet ode to love and it was handled in the least mushy way possible. Heads up though: T-Boz and Dalvin are long since broken up.

Womp womp. -Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)

112 – “Cupid”

If you don’t cry when you hear this song, then you have no heart. Seriously. Room 112 might be where the players dwell, but the Bad Boy group put it all out there. “Cupid doesn’t lie, but you won’t know unless we give it a try,” they sing on the hook. It’s beautiful and heartfelt, and everything you need out of a love song. Next time you’re bumpin’ “Peaches & Cream” and remembering the good ol’ days, don’t forget to throw this one on too and have a Drake-sized cry. It’ll be worth it. Trust. -Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)

Raekwon feat. Cappachino, Method Man & Ghostface Killah – “Ice Cream”

Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s “All I Need” is the default Hip Hop love jam for most non-Wu heads, but a subsequent Meth appearance alongside Rae, Ghostface and Cappadonna (who was still going by Cappachino at the time) is usually the one that appeals to the hard rocks. If Twitter were invented when this dropped back in 1995, #SwapMeetLove might have become a trending hashtag during the premiere of this video. That said, these three Wu Gambinos held it down for an entire pre-Drake generation of males who had trouble articulating their emotions to the ladies in their lives. Having trouble getting down “on bended knee” to propose to your boo? Just ask her to “go ahead and walk these dogs and represent Wu.” Besides, any time you can get a Valentine’s Day anthem that personifies women of different ethnicities as ice cream flavors while Ghost references the Supreme Alphabet (“she turns me on like Vine C Allah Rule”), you gladly take it. -Omar Burgess (@omarburgess)

Fashawn – “Lupita”

Unrequited love can be rough in Hip Hop. One end of the spectrum features a bottomless well of self pity best evidenced by Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By.” And the other end of the spectrum channels rejection into anger much like when Ice Cube rhymed, “We didn’t get no play, from the ladies / With six niggas in a car are you crazy / She was scared, and it was showin’ / We all said fuck you bitch and kept goin’.” On his 2009 album, Boy Meets World, Fashawn struck the perfect balance. Fash retraces his steps from innocent infatuation (complete with poem writing), to the friend zone and ending with a polite letdown from the object of his affection. “Maybe in another life,” Lupita offered. Damn. Ultimately Fashawn took his L with dignity, and provided a playful, fun and realistic look at what sometimes happens when Cupid’s arrow misfires. -Omar Burgess (@omarburgess)

UGK – “Feelin’ You”

Prior to his untimely death in 2007, “Sweet Jones” was cornering the market on grown man Rap. This wasn’t merely throwing on a button down oxford and breaking out some soft raps over Neptunes production. Pimp C was laying down his full-on linen suit, Tom Joyner boat cruise, middle aged mack. He shouts out the women who value “puttin’ it down for your kids” and temporarily retires some of his more abrasive bars in favor of a falsetto and some backing harmony on the hook. Producer Steve Below flipped Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Feel That You’re Feelin’,” but just because this is mature fare doesn’t mean Bun and Pimp are getting geriatric with it. All ladies with “the backside swole up” and a mix of “class and panache with precision” get invited to this affair that features the Port Arthur, Texas natives trading in trunk popping for two-stepping. -Omar Burgess (@omarburgess)

Murs – “Love & Appreciate”

It’s all in the details. Murs didn’t set out to make a generic love songs with random lovey-dovey quotes. Instead, Mr. Nick Carter rapped from the heart about love, appreciation and how these apply to a special woman in his life. Murs’ vivid storytelling is powerful here and his words sound sincere in every bar. From helping one another pay bills to watching her favorite television show, Murs shows that a good love song, like a good relationship, finds success in the details. -Andres Tardio (@AndresWrites)

Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige – “All I Need” 

Love isn’t always perfect, but it is meant to comfort. That comfort shines when the skies are gray, and someone rubs you on your back and says, “Baby, it’ll be okay.” Love is meant to uplift. So when you feel like you’re nothin’, the person you love should make you feel like you are somethin’. Method Man captured all of this quite well, matching his impeccable flow with Mary J. Blige’s soothing melodies, on “I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By.” Valentine’s cards? Please. Also, he may not need “all that romance” stuff to show love, but Method Man crafted one of the best Valentine’s Day Hip Hop songs of all time with this love song. -Andres Tardio (@AndresWrites)

Immortal Technique feat. Jean Grae – “You Never Know”

This may not be the most cheerful song in this playlist, but it is a powerful selection about love and why it should not be taken for granted. With “You Never Know,” Immortal Technique penned a chilling story vivid enough for movie theaters. Clocking in at more than seven minutes, Technique blends heartfelt lyrics with striking imagery to explain why love should be valued. Moreover, the song speaks to the somber tone that this day can have for some and the story is impactful with a surprising ending. Technique delivers one of his most masterful performances as Jean Grae provides a strong guest spot. The song is a sobering reminder that one must appreciate their love “to the fullest extent and then beyond ‘cause you never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” -Andres Tardio (@AndresWrites)

Plies feat. Ne-Yo – “Bust It Baby Part 2”

Another term for “love of my life” is “bust it baby,” and no one quite coins the term like Florida’s pride-and-joy Plies. First of all, Ne-Yo can make any song beautiful. It’s like you forget about the verses and find yourself only singing along to Ne-Yo’s catchy hooks, every damn time. This is song is different. Plies brings Valentine’s Day-worthy quotes to the table, the kind you’d love to see sweetly scribbled on a yellow post-it note to remind you of how special you are. “Speakin’ for the goons, thank God for makin’ you” is just one example. Plies also provides alternative pet names (“wet wet” and “lil boo”) all packaged together in under four minutes. Plus, if this song is good enough for Janet Jackson, then it’s good enough for your V-Day playlist. -Janice Llamoca (@janicellamoca)

Bonus: Fabolous feat. P. Diddy & Jagged Edge – “Trade It All (Pt. 2)”

Before Diddy was Diddy but after Puff Daddy was Puff Daddy, P. Diddy joined Fabolous for a revised version of Fab’s Jagged Edge-assisted track, “Trade It All.” The single is best known for being part of the 2002 film Barbershop’s soundtrack, but alone it made it made it’s way into the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Its accolades aren’t why it deserves to be noticed as a Valentine’s Day track. “Girl I’d trade it all, money, cars and everything” sings Jagged Edge harmoniously on the hook while Fab (whose “charm is a felony”) and Diddy woo the ladies in their own distinct manner. Desert Storm’s DJ Clue and DURO provide the sunny layout which brings out the shine in the song. Overall, the single is made to make you feel good. -Janice Llamoca (@janicellamoca)


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