Celebrate Feb. 14 with our staff members’ picks for the earwormiest songs from the rap, R&B, and soul canon, from Erykah Badu to Sam Cooke to J. Cole and beyond.
Let’s talk about love and hip-hop.
No, not the reality show that might be the single greatest television program of all time (outside of Battle of the Network Stars and/or the Star Wars Holiday Special). Rather, we’re talking about the concept literally. Bars that come from the heart, people.
On that note, on this Valentine’s Day 2023, one among us had a thought — across the wide worlds of rap, R&B, and soul, what are the earworm love songs we keep returning to again and again? Sure, Common “Used to Love H.E.R.” and we won’t stop him from doing it, but the deeper you dig, the more gems you’ll find.
Check out a few of our favorites below: Welcome to the Boardroom Hip-hop and R&B Valentine’s Day EP.
The Boardroom Valentine’s Day Hip-hop/R&B Playlist
DON NEWKIRK: “Love Yourz” by J. Cole. A truly motivational song in which Cole encourages you to love your life and everything in it. Taking the good with the bad, finding beauty in the struggle, and appreciating the journey. Being thankful for what you have because money ≠ happiness. A great ending to the classic album 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
ANDREA MASENDA: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Lauryn Hill is the most timeless love song I can think of! I’ve loved the song since I was a teenager and made it one of the main songs at my wedding. It speaks to any generation.
Also, it just bangs.
RANDALL WILLIAMS: “Snooze” by SZA. It’s a bit too hard to pick one song on this lovely day, so I’ll go with a more recent tune that is the best jam on her sophomore release, SOS. The moment “Snooze” comes on, you enter a new world — one in which you’re walking with your lover and moving in slow motion as you drift away into paradise.
VINCIANE NGOMSI: Sam Cooke’s “That’s Where It’s At.” A song that describes a perfect date night alongside natural feelings of being in love never goes out of style. Add in his soulful-yet-raspy voice and you’ve got the makings of a classic relationship anthem.
BERNADETTE DOYKOS: There are some songs you always have to play twice in a row because they make you feel a way. For me, “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)” by Erykah Badu and Common is one of those. The story takes you on a winding, lyrical journey through a love that grows over time.
And that outgoing verse by Badu was made to sing at top volume while driving with the windows down.
SAM DUNN: I’m giving you two J Dilla tracks from 2006’s The Shining back-to-back: “Love” with Pharoahe Monch and “Baby” with Guilty Simpson and Madlib the bad kid. The former is technically more about spiritual love and the Organized Konfusion MC’s dogged, uncompromising pursuit of his art — Simon Says that’s admissible for V-Day — while the latter mixes good ol’ carnality with scenes from the hip-hop party life and the joys of profligacy.
We lost Jay Dee 17 years ago this month, so I’ll take any opportunity to praise him. Flag Day, Arbor Day, you name it. “Jay Dee in the turnin’ lane with ya ex like Los Angeles… and the nights are scandalous.” It’s only love for the crate-digging Detroit legend whose slick scratches live now and forever.
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