When it comes to Valentine’s Day songs, hip-hop is probably the last genre lovebirds look to for romantic music.
For years, hip-hop has been branded as a male-dominated, chauvinistic music style.
Those accusations are largely accurate, as rappers have been calling women names and rapping about mistreating them for more than 20 years. Dr. Dre has “Bitches Ain’t S**t,” Ja Rule has “Bitch Betta Have My Money;” and the list goes on and on.
At Too $hort’s 40th birthday concert at The Key Club in West Hollywood last year, he celebrated by repeatedly slapping girls’ backsides and shouting his favorite word (again, “bitch”).
What some critics don’t realize, however, is hip-hop does have its softer, more sensitive side.
Some of the same hip-hop icons best known for their misogynistic lyrics actually include tracks on their albums that show a softer side appropriate for any romantic situation.
LL Cool J showed us the way back in 1987 with “I Need Love,” on which he dropped emotional rhymes: You can scratch my back, we’ll get cozy and huddle / I’ll lay down my jacket so you can walk over a puddle.
Even the rappers who talk the most about mistreating women have songs that reveal their vulnerable sides.
For instance, in 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.,” he brags Man, bitches come and go, every ni**a pimpin’ know. But he also has “21 Questions,” in which he shows his shy, sensitive side by asking, If I fell off tomorrow would you still love me? / If I didn’t smell so good would you still hug me?
Lil Wayne also frequently talks down to women like the rap greats that came before him. But on the not-so-romantically named song “P****, Money, Weed,” he delivers a complex, clever and yet underrated hip-hop love song.
Coming from Lil Wayne, the chorus I love her / like p****, money, weed is a huge compliment. Lyrics such as Oh yes I love her like I ought to / I see you at the altar, Mrs. Carter / I see you with my daughter / or son, more than one, show Wayne’s softer side, while the rest of the lyrics are surprisingly sweet, albeit occasionally dirty.
Not even Beyoncé is immune to this, as she created the hit song praising “Single Ladies,” despite being one half of the most powerful and talented couple in hip-hop through her marriage to Jay-Z.
Back in 2003, however, the then-unmarried couple updated 2Pac’s 1996 love song about his gun with “Bonnie & Clyde ’03,” which has a chorus of Jay-Z asserting All I need in this life of sin / Is me and my girlfriend and Beyoncé responding Down to ride ’til the very end / Just me and my boyfriend. Jay-Z’s lyrics endearingly describe his love for the bootylicious Beyoncé, but he’s made numerous records about being successful with the ladies since ’03.
Despite these few examples of hip-hop love songs, the misogynistic and sexist themes remain prevalent.
Somewhat since the dawn of the genre, but definitely since the era of gangster rap, themes of braggadocio, misogyny and homophobia have tended to dominate hip-hop songs.
There have been artists who have challenged this status quo and defied hip-hop stereotypes, but much of the popular stuff remains the same.
50 Cent released a few sensitive songs to keep his female fan base interested, but there are plenty 50 Cent songs about getting tons of women and not caring about them.
The same goes for almost every other prominent and popular rapper in history.
The low expectations for rappers’ ability to craft love songs is exactly what makes those songs great.
We expect R&B songs to be about love, so they’re often cheesy or dismissed as baby-making music.
There are plenty of great rock and country love songs, but that’s exactly the point. There are already so many that it’s nothing exciting when a new one appears.
When rappers known for any degree of misogyny make a love song, we see a side of them that’s human.
They might prefer to have lots of different female companions, but they’re not immune to the concept of love.
So if you have a girl like Beyoncé or a guy like Jay-Z, consider going beyond the norm and playing them some of the aforementioned songs this upcoming Valentine’s Day.
Will Hagle is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. His column, “Feedback,” runs Wednesdays.