Sometimes it’s hard to say out loud how we’re really feeling, but the best songs are able to take all those emotions and set them to music. When it comes to romance, though, hip-hop love songs are particularly adept at capturing the joy and pain that comes with matters of the heart.
Love and hip-hop are such a perfect match because the genre emphasizes lyricism in its descriptions of affairs of the heart. Whether it’s a heartfelt confession about a crush or thoughtful reassurances to a long-term lover, these romantic tracks have long been a key part of how we communicate our tender feelings. From the very first days of making mixtapes for a flame to today’s modern Spotify playlists, the best hip-hop songs of all time have been used to tell stories about high-school sweethearts, high-profile relationships, and everything in between. They’re especially sweet when you know they’re inspired by a real-life romance.
So, below, fall in love with some of the best hip-hop love songs of all time.
“My Boo” by Usher
Iconic call-and-response aside, this song is a dedication to the one that got away. Usher and Alicia Keys, both royalty when it comes to R&B love songs, joined forces to craft this soulful duet. “The song is talking about the first person you ever really had feelings for,” Keys said about the song in a 2004 interview. “I think we all know what that feels like. Even though you move on and meet new people, you always remember that first person.”
Most romantic lyric: “I know we haven’t seen each other in a while / But you will always be my boo”
“3005” by Childish Gambino
When you’ve got that person that puts you at ease just by being around them, this is the perfect song to show how you feel. Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, once said that even though “3005” reads like a love song, he actually wrote it to deal with feelings of being alone and scared and recognizing that those can dissipate when you have someone in your life that you care for.