Music has evolved in all its forms since its inception. Genres evolve and often cease to exist, giving way to other derivatives. Many thought that with the arrival of trap, for example, its original genre would die. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. However, hip hop love songs, which continue to be part of this evolution, often blending hip hop with R&B and soul, are heard less and less every day, although it is evident that it still exists.
This explains why we mainly focus on romantic rap songs from the 2000s in this article. Those were the great years of splendor when world-famous stars signed up for the mix of R&B choruses with syncopated and widely spoken verses. Names like Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, or Mariah Carey are clear examples, but not the only ones we will see throughout our list.
The main goal of this list is to showcase, reclaim, or simply remember some of the best songs that romantic hip hop has given us as a movement within the culture. Although it appeared in the US during the 1970s, it did not become important in many non-English speaking countries until beyond the 1990s, with the successes of the 1980s or earlier being exceptional cases and widely considered One Hit Wonders, even though they continued to be successful with each new single in America.
But what is romantic rap, and how is it different from the cheese one?
In the 90s, largely due to the great media capacity of Anglo-Saxon pop culture to reach every corner of the planet, including its sports, figures, cinema, and music (which had been there for a long time), many knew about hip hop as much as its fights, East Coast/West Coast feuds, and important singers of that time. If we add to that the appearance of MTV in Europe in the 2000s, with the privatization of companies and the arrival of other brands, we can better understand how this genre became popular so it happened to the hip hop love songs too.
Regarding romantic hip hop, the slightly more pop side of the genre, we can say that it has been more successful outside the US since it has conquered listeners and reached radio formulas in many cases, something unlikely for regular or gangsta rap without female voices to contrast with male voices. Perhaps the lyrics also had an influence, not so much focused on egotrip, but more on rhythms often sensual and, above all, with a much closer tone to spring or sadness (if it were tearful romantic rap).
Moreover, this type of love rap gave rise to hundreds and thousands of compilations during that decade. Whether for dedication or listening, romantic rap songs, like R&B, entered many homes with a force that very few other genres had during that decade. The mix of rhythms and sensual voices, accompanied by the characteristic flow of hip hop (which always implies good vibes unless they are in a bad mood), made the difference, with the latter detail being essential to avoid excess sugar: even when talking about love, there must always be room for good vibes between the lines. So, let’s get to it.
21 2000s Hip Hop Love Songs from the 2000s
Well, after the introductions, let’s get to the list of 21 romantic hip hop and R&B songs. The order, as in most cases, is somewhat random, although the top 3 is based on the taste of this blog. Whether you are a fan of the genre or looking for something different from what you usually listen to, here’s something old school, though not old school, of course. Oh, and don’t forget that you can also find all these songs in our special Spotify playlist by following the link.
Gangsta Lovin’, by Eve and Alicia Keys (2002)
We start with something upbeat because we want to stick properly to our newly created guidelines. We can be romantic without being cloying, and to demonstrate this, here’s Eve with the collaboration of Alicia Keys.
Known in many countries thanks to such collaborations with more popular singers, largely unrelated to hip hop, Eve has had a long career, dabbling in various styles since her early days when she was part of the Ruff Ryders collective (where DMX was also present). This guarantees good vibes.
Between Me And You, by Ja Rule and Christina Millian (2000)
In the next position, we have Christina Millian, who at this moment seemed to be what a young Rihanna wanted to be, although over the years, it happened exactly the other way around, with the former reduced to a musical and acting anecdote worldwide. Meanwhile, the latter evolved until finding her own sound, much more distant from the common R&B of those times when names like Aaliyah or Brandy were triumphing.
Here, she collaborates a bit with Ja Rule before becoming the most important rapper of the decade (with Eminem’s permission, who even created a war between the East Coast and West Coast sides imitating them). Fortunately, it didn’t end in tragedies like that.
I Need A Girl (Pt. 1), by P Diddy, Loon, and Usher (2001)
If P Diddy is famous for anything, it’s primarily for being one of the richest rappers in the world. Moreover, it’s true that he has given some other songs that are worth remembering (like the one he made in memory of Notorious B.I.G. with his wife Faith Evans). The production and rights to successful songs, along with financial prowess, in addition to the name changes he does from time to time, have always given him notoriety (ahem).
The fact is that in his country, he had the occasional success more than those we know from the other side of the Atlantic, and this one, featuring Usher, is one of them. Always close to R&B, he keeps the roots of hip hop love songs exactly where you expect them before listening to it.
Ride Wit U, by Joe and G-Unit (2003)
We are moved again by Joe, another unknown to many, with the help of G-Unit (the trio formed at the time by 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck), who enjoyed a quality and sales leap in 2003. It’s a great song, and nothing more needs to be added.
Umbrella, by Rihanna and Jay-Z (2007)
Advancing a few years, after hearing four songs from before 2004. With “Umbrella,” Rihanna confirmed that she was a star destined for success (as was thought in her previous works). After the extremely generic “Pon De Replay,” which even made it to the news in Spain and didn’t even sell enough to be remembered, she became unforgettable a few albums later.
In this song, we find the accompaniment of Jay-Z, the other very rich rapper alongside the aforementioned Puff Daddy, who had a long solo career and is more recognized in Spain for collaborations with his wife Beyoncé, Rihanna, or Kanye West, who, for some time, produced many of his most important songs.
One Call Away, by Chingy and Jason Weaver (2003)
When it seemed that Chingy was just another rapper with Southern influences, providing successful but somewhat shorter singles than others that were a bit more serious, singles like “One Call Away” or “Holidae Inn” (alongside Ludacris and Snoop Dogg) allowed him to enjoy success for more than a year in 2003. “Right Thurr” was the first of all these singles, which I didn’t want to pay attention to but ended up giving in to the rapper’s playful style.
Always On Time, by Ja Rule and Ashanti (2001)
We return to Ja Rule, always accompanied by great R&B voices that made some big hits, but for some reason, never achieved the level of success we expected after releasing some singles like “Always On Time.” A classic of its time, from the album “Pain Is Love,” which contained a type of rap that paid homage to 2Pac, which led to criticism of wanting to be too much like him. Consequences of fame, to a large extent.
Replay, by Iyaz (2009)
Regarding a One Hit Wonder like this, there is little we can add. “Replay” was what it was in 2009, and as Iyaz came, so he went. Few will remember him, but there he is, as a memory of what rap suffered from the beginning of the decade until the end. A vacuum that lasted from 2005 to 2009, saving the greatest names of all time, seemed to say that hip hop had died in favor of other more modern movements. Fortunately, 2010 brought fresh blood, and people like Kendrick Lamarr came to save us.
Into You, by Fabolous and Ashanti (2003)
Again, Ashanti in another single that had many sales in the United States. In this case, alongside Fabolous, a rapper who I always had in my thoughts without paying much attention (compared to others), but who was promoted thanks to “Breathe,” a great song.
Overnight Celebrity, by Twista (2004)
Twista stood out for a few years as that rapper who recited ten long sentences in a single second. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I’m sure you’ll understand me much better. The fact is that with the help of Kanye West on the beat and production, his album “Kamikaze” was a success, where we also find “Hope.”
Crazy In Love, by Beyoncé and Jay-Z (2003)
Little to add about this song and this collaboration. It confirmed Beyoncé as a solo star after the end of Destiny’s Child, and Jay-Z as a top sideman, besides his solo career.
Hotel, by Cassidy and R. Kelly (2004)
Of Cassidy, I prefer the danceable “Get No Better,” but “Hotel” was and will always be the great success of his career, taking advantage of the pull that R. Kelly was having (again) at that time, experiencing a new moment of glory in terms of sales. Of course, this preceded his now-resolved sexual scandal (cursed evil person).
I’m Real (Murder Remix), by J. Lo and Ja Rule (2001)
For the third time, here we have Ja Rule, this time collaborating with J. Lo when she was still Jenny From The Block (although this was right after seeing the success of the mix of rap with R&B).
Used To Love U, by John Legend (2005)
If you’re a fan of Talib Kweli, the beat of this song will sound familiar to you. John Legend uses the same sparks as “Get By,” an unrepeatable rap classic used here in a much softer and closer tone to modern soul.
03′ Bonnie & Clyde, by Jay-Z and Beyoncé (2002)
We return to the duet of Jay-Z and Beyoncé, although this time the other way around and a year before “Crazy In Love.” This song belongs to one of Jay-Z’s albums, while the previous one belonged to one of Beyoncé’s.
Dilemma, by Kelly Rowland and Nelly (2002)
But we don’t abandon the legacy of Destiny’s Child, although this time in the voice of Kelly Rowland, who anticipated the omens planned for her partner and, for a moment, made us believe that she would be the one to dominate all markets. In the end, it didn’t quite turn out that way (a little bit yes, but less frequently), but “Dilemma” will always be part of the great musical memories of this decade.
Ignition (Remix), by R. Kelly (2003)
In fifth place, we recover the mischievous R. Kelly with pure R&B of syncopated rhythms very close to the spirit of romantic rap we have here. Hence its appearance, as it also precedes another song that perfectly mixes the genres we see most here.
Slow Jamz, by Kanye West, Twista, and Jaime Foxx (2004)
Kanye West introduced himself to the whole world with “Slow Jamz” and “Through The Wire,” recorded with his jaw recently operated on after an accident that left him quite shattered. If you pay attention to this song, you’ll easily notice that it’s not the same voice we are used to hearing.
We are talking about a Kanye who suffered a serious accident that made him believe in God even more than he already did, but before experiencing the death of his mother in a cosmetic operation due to blood loss. Some people think that this last event was what made him become what we know today, so that first accident may have made him sound like what we hear in this song.
I Know What You Want, by Busta Rhymes, Flipmode Squad, and Mariah Carey (2002)
Busta Rhymes always stood out as eccentric, for his videos in which he couldn’t control his neck or wore full-face makeup as a white man. Later, he would become one of the best voices in rap for making choruses (as Nate Dogg did before him), and in the middle, he gave us this collaboration with Mariah Carey, which is very good.
21 Questions, by 50 Cent and Nate Dogg (2003)
When I found out what had happened to Nate Dogg, who was not very old, I was shocked for a few moments. Without ever releasing a hit of his own that shook the world, his voice is part of an immense collection of unforgettable raps that accompanied the best flows of the genre and the most captivating beats that were produced.
In “21 Questions,” we have another example, alongside the survivor 50 Cent.
Rainy Dayz, by Mary J Blige and Ja Rule (2001)
And finally, we depart in peace because “Rainy Dayz” conveys pure tranquility. Again, Ja Rule (what can we do if the man was inspired?), here with the great Mary J Blige, a diva both inside and outside of music.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.