From Diddy's "I Need A Girl" to Kanye's "White Dress," hip-hop has plenty of love songs written for specific significant others. Whether rappers are not-so-secretly reflecting on past marriages or yearning for a fling that finished all too quickly, if known or not, many top hits in hip-hop have an underlying reason as to why they happen to connect with listeners so well—fans can identify with both sides.

More recent examples of the semi-concealed affection cuts are Big Sean's "Ashley," a love song from his Hall Of Fame album he penned for his high school sweetheart after they parted ways last year, and even Jhene Aiko's "The Worst," which is rumored to be about a brief relationship the singer held with Drake. Nas is a relatively prolific member of this list as well, having written songs—"Getting Married" and "Bye Baby" being the two most obvious—about the many developments in his relationship with Kelis. And, of course, there's Kanye West, who dedicated an entire album to heartbreak and has always been on the more emotional side of things, lyrically.

XXL has compiled 20 hip-hop songs written about the specific relationships in each rapper's lives, from Lauryn Hill's many shots at Wyclef Jean to Papoose's dedication to his locked up wife Remy Ma. —Miranda Johnson, Layne Weiss and Dan Rys

kanye west runaway

"Getting Married"

Year: 2004
Who It's About: Kelis
Specific Lines: "Finally, I met the perfect bitch, pardon my french, rephrase that/Someone who made my heart stop, couldn't wait to blaze that/Tired of hoppin' from honey to honey/HIV spreadin', everybody bump the same bunnies/The game'll put niggas in they graves right before they part ways with the street/I want a son to greet every mornin'/Daughters and more sons tickle my feet/Wife smilin', tellin' me it's time to eat/I'm gettin' married"
Background: After meeting at the 2002 MTV Awards, Nas and Kelis got married in early 2005, and the two embarked upon a whirlwind romance that was one of the most secure in hip-hop. That is, until 2009, when a then-seven-months pregnant Kelis filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences amidst rumors of the Queensbridge MC's infidelity. But that's a story for another song; we'll get to that one in a second.

nas kelis

"Bye Baby"

Year: 2012
Who It's About: Kelis
Specific Lines: "Let's take it back some years/Rewind it to the happy years/You and your Star Trak fam, I'm thinking you cats are weird/Same time, different year, I was diggin' ya flow/Then I tatted you on my arm so niggas would know/I thought no one could stop us, matching gold watches/I was your Johnny Depp, you was my Janis Joplin"
Background: Kelis was Nas' wife of five years before she filed for divorce in 2009 while seven months pregnant. On the record, from his most recent album, 2012's Life Is Good, the Illmatic MC recounts the length of his marriage, ultimately unveiling why the couple's marriage failed. For the album's cover art Nas even held his former bride's dress across his lap—the only item she left in the house when they split—and incorporated the dress into the song's music video.

nas wedding dress

"Ms. Jackson"

Year: 2001
Who It's About: Erykah Badu
Specific Lines: "King meets queen, then the puppy love thing, together dream/'Bout that crib with the GoodYear swing/On the oak tree, I hope we feel like this forever/Forever, forever ever, forever ever?/Forever never seems that long until you're grown/And notice that the day by day rule can't be too long/Ms. Jackson my intentions were good I wish I could/Become a magician to abracadabra all the sadder/Thoughts of me, thoughts of she, thoughts of he/Asking what happened to the feeling that her and me/Had"
Background: Between the trio of Common, Andre 3000 and Jay Electronica, Erykah Badu may be the most sought-after woman hip-hop has ever seen. Andre hasn't always been one to put romantic emotions on wax, but this was an anomaly in the catalog, as he brought up his relationship with Badu and his deteriorating one with her mother. It's one of the greatest and most popular tracks in the OutKast discography, and it's probably most notable for Big Boi's verses than Andre's, but it was Andre's story that the duo was telling, and it came across like few other songs ever have within hip-hop.

andre 3000

"'03 Bonnie And Clyde"
 Jay Z featuring Beyonce

Year: 2002
Who It's About: Jay Z and Beyonce
Specific Lines: "Look for me/Young, B/Cruisin' down the Westside Highway/Doing what we like to do our way/Eyes behind shades, this necklace the reason/All of my dates been blind dates/But today I got my thoroughest girl with me"
Background: There is a lot of talk about when Hov and Beyonce really started dating, but this track is one of the most iconic moments in the pair's early relationship. After more than five years together, they married very privately and quietly in 2008 and welcomed their baby girl Blue Ivy in January 2012, and they've kept their Bonnie and Clyde aesthetic so strong that the promotional video for their upcoming On The Run Tour followed a similar storyline as the mythical outlaws'.

beyonce jay z cuba

 Big Sean featuring Miguel

Year: 2013
Who It's About: Ashley Marie French
Specific Lines: "Remember when we laid at you and Paige's crib/Was there so long I coulda paid rent/Remember when we couldn't get shit?/Best thing bout being broke is you don't spend shit/Remember that Christmas? We had a wish list/We couldn't afford nothin' but we still get shit/Ironically those were the times I felt the richest"
Background: Big Sean was with Ashley since he was 16 years old before the two parted ways in 2013. In the song, Sean speaks of his former lover's devotion and how his newfound fame ultimately ended the relationship. In an interview, Big Sean once spoke of Ashley, stating, "No matter what, I got love for her and I'm pretty sure she has love for me. That's always going to be there and that's why I made sure I kept that song on this album after I did it and after we broke up. She deserves a beautiful song for her because without her, I wouldn't be where I am, period. She deserves 10 songs like that, honestly."

big sean ashley video

"Soap Opera"

Year: 2004
Who It's About: Toy Dawkins
Specific Lines: "Yo my mommy Toy was my pride and joy/She would drive the toys plus ride the boy/To supply the boys I got it live from Croix/Yes a nine in boy, wore a five in boys/Over the chick, shit, I shoot five with Roy/Now I load the 4-5 shoot five at Roy"
Background: Never the most obvious person to be dedicating a song to a woman—much less someone he'd been in various levels of a relationship with since the age of 12—but Killa Cam nevertheless sprinkled this song onto the tracklisting of his classic 2004 solo album Purple Haze. Cam and Dawkins had a baby together, and despite the fact that he's been in a relationship with JuJu for a while now, the two are reportedly still on good terms.


"The Light"

Year: 2000
Who It's About: Erykah Badu
Specific Lines: "I never knew a love like this/Gotta be something for me to write this/Queen, I ain't seen you in a minute/Wrote this letter, and finally decide to send it/Signed sealed delivered for us to grow together/Love has no limit, let's spend it slow forever"
Background: Common and Erykah Badu dated from 2000 to 2002, and their breakup left the Chicago MC heartbroken. In a 2011 interview with morning talk show Wendy Williams, Common revealed that Badu broke up with him over the phone. "...I was in my hotel room on tour and....she called me and was like, 'Hey, I don't wanna be in this relationship no more. I'm liking somebody else.' That was my first love and my first heartbreak." Still, he never acknowledged that the song was about Badu specifically—even though she appeared on the remix and in the music video—until 2012, when he admitted she was the inspiration behind it.

common erykah badu

"I Need A Girl"
 Diddy featuring Usher

Year: 2002
Who It's About: J. Lo
Specific Lines: "But every time I think about your pretty smile/And how we used to drive the whole city wild/Damn I wish you would've had my child/A pretty little girl wit Diddy's smile"
Background: Diddy and J. Lo took the world by storm in the late 1990’s. The couple only lasted for a short period but contributed to many unforgettable moments in hip-hop history—such as the 1999 club shooting when Diddy almost went down for weapons possession and Shyne took the rap, or J. Lo’s iconic Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards—before going their separate ways in 2001.

Diddy Jennifer Lopez

"Marvin's Room"

Year: 2011
Who It's About: Ericka Lee
Specific Lines: "Flights in the morning, what you doing that's so important?/I've been drinking so much that I'ma call you anyway and say/Fuck that nigga that you love so bad/I know you still think about the times we had/I say fuck that nigga that you think you found/And since you picked up, I know he's not around"
Background: In 2012, a woman named Ericka Lee revealed herself to be Drake's ex-girlfriend, and the voice saying "Are you drunk right now?" on the song "Marvin's Room" off Drake's sophomore album Take Care. She filed a lawsuit against Drake for excluding her from co-writing royalties for the sample of her voice. The two reached a settlement in 2013, but struggle bros across the world already had the anthem they needed to make drunk phone calls to their exes at three a.m. Thanks, Drake.

drake marvins room

"Stronger Than I Was"

Year: 2013
Who It's About: Kim Mathers
Specific Lines: "You walked out, I almost died, it was almost a homicide/That you caused 'cause I was so traumatized/Felt like I was in for a long bus ride/I'd rather die than you not be by my side/Can't count how many times I vomited, cried/Go to my room, turn the radio on and hide/Thought we were Bonnie and Clyde, nah/On the inside you were Jekyll and Hyde/I, felt like my, whole relationship with you was a lie/It was you and I, why did I think it was ride or die?"
Background: Maybe the most volatile relationship ever committed to wax, Em has never been shy about his problems and issues with his ex-wife Kim; it's been at separate times sickening and twisted, romantic and horrific, but she's always been a specter in Marshall's music. This song catches Em in a slightly less violent and vindictive mood than other times he's written her name—alternately, there's a school of thought that "Stronger Than I Was" was written from her perspective—but is as uplifting a song as Em has written in a long time, nonetheless. It feels more like a cathartic moment—not unlike the reconciliation Em sought on the song "Headlights," writing about his mother—but is still a little off-kilter, just like its author.

eminem kim

"Come Close" featuring Mary J Blige

Year: 2002
Who It's About: Erykah Badu
Specific Lines: "Are we living in a dream world?/Are your eyes still green girl?/I know you're sick and tired of arguing/But you can't keep it bottled in/Jealousy, we got to swallow it/Your heart and mind baby follow it/Smile, happiness you could model it"
Background: Erykah Badu was Common’s first love and the singer also earned the Chicago MC his first Grammy with her smash hit “Love Of My Life.” Although their relationship was short-lived, at one point they talked of starting a "tribe" together, and "Come Close" has often been described as Com's proposal to Badu ("I'm tired of the fast lane/I want you to have my last name").

Common Erykah Badu

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"Hold You Down"
Jim Jones featuring Olivia

Year: 2011
Who It's About: Chrissy Lampkin
Specific Lines: "Been a long time since we first met/Six years and you went and took the first step/You used to ask when we gonna see a ring/Got tired of that, went and bought me the ring/But we did it all, got a dog and a house with it/I guess you was tired of playin’ spouse wit’ it (I love you boo)"
Background: Dipset's resident Capo has been together with his fiance for a while now, and the two have made it a bit of a reality affair—first on Love And Hip-Hop and now on Chrissy And Mr. Jones—but the two undoubtedly still love each other, and this track is a beautiful reminder of that.

jim jones chrissy lampkin

"White Dress"
Kanye West

Year: 2012
Who It's About: Kim Kardashian
Specific Lines: "Remember I used to do things that would make you laugh/Like ordering girl drinks in a masculine glass/You like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain/Or rocking flannels all summer like Kurt Cobain/Or that Dolce Gabbana with a few gold chains/And you the type of girl that probably deserve a new last name"
Background: Kanye and Kim go back probably a little further than anyone outside of the two of them realizes, but by the time Yeezy dropped this song, off The RZA's Man With The Iron Fists film soundtrack, the pair were firmly on the road to the altar. The wedding will be happening any day now—and we've heard more than enough about it—but this track was a typically-Kanye, clumsily romantic yet earnestly real dedication to his future wife. Well done, 'Ye.

kanye west kim kardashian vogue

"Lost Ones"
Lauryn Hill

Year: 1998
Who It's About: Wyclef Jean
Specific Lines: "Now understand L-Boogie's non-violent/But if a thing test me, run for my gun/Can't take a threat to my new born son/L been this way since creation/A groupie call, you fall from temptation/Now you wanna bawl over separation/Tarnish my image in the conversation/Who you gonna scrimmage, like you the champion?/You might win some but you just lost one"
Background: Lauryn Hill was young and impressionable when The Fugees won a Grammy in 1997, and her relationship with the older, more experienced Wyclef Jean that emerged from that group was what fueled a large part of her classic, record-breaking debut solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill in 1998. A number of songs on the album reference, in vague terms, her relationship with Jean, but "Lost Ones" is probably the most overt. Their relationship semi-ended when Hill met Rohan Marley in 1996 while still clandestinely seeing Jean, and the resulting complications led to Miseducation becoming one of the most emotionally compelling, lyrically and musically brilliant hip-hop albums ever created.

lauryn hill wyclef jean

 Lil Wayne

Year: 2005
Who It's About: Trina and Toya Carter
Specific Lines: "But I'm all grown up now I got my own money/I'm married and divorced and my daughter is a woman/And guess what? My daughter want another/Sister or a brother and you lookin' like a mother/I took you from a clubber to a lover"
Background: In the midst of a divorce from Toya at the time, Weezy talks about his ex-wife as well as a new love interest, said to be Trina. Although much clarity on the former relationship between the two rappers has yet to be unveiled, rumors of a miscarriage and Lil Wayne professing his love for Trina in 2012 have surfaced over the years.

lil wayne trina

''Luv U Better"
LL Cool J featuring Marc Dorsey

Year: 2002
Who It's About: LL's wife Simone
Specific Lines: "When I think about the things we did/And I think about you having my kids/And I think about us sharing a crib/Losin' all that, God forbid/You deserve flowers and candy, the simple things/In addition to the SL's, baguettes and rings"
Background: LL Cool J met his wife Simone as a teenager in 1987. "I was just 19, something like that," he told Jimmy Kimmel. The couple married in 1995 and have been together ever since. In his memoir, I Make My Own Rules, the rapper/actor wrote about his proposal, when he simply asked Simone, "Do you wanna do this?" LL goes on to explain, "I know it's not romantic. I didn't get down on one knee with a big ring and a poem. But what I said, I meant from the heart." The couple have four children together.

ll cool j luv

"My Girl"

Year: 2008
Who It's About: Remy Ma
Specific Lines: "You give me strength when I'm facing the world/That's why I buy the best diamond and your favorite pearls/If it was mine I woulda gave you the world/I'm dedicating this one to my favorite girl"
Background: This must be, without a doubt, one of hip-hop's great love stories; Remy's been in prison since turning herself in to authorities in 2007 for shooting her former friend in the stomach, yet she and Pap still married while Remy was locked up in 2008. The two are still together today—Papoose recently posted an Instagram saying that Remy will be out of prison on July 31—and this track stands as Pap's loyal ode to his woman behind bars.

papoose remy ma

"Different Languages"
Snoop Dogg featuring Jazmine Sullivan

Year: 2009
Who It's About: Shante Broadus
Specific Lines: "If I'm the boss, boss lady must be your name/So I got you/Got 2-1-2/Put your face on my back, brand new tattoo/Twenty years in the game, what love won't do/A lot of women want me but I want you/You look cute when you smile/So I renewed our vows/Nowadays I ain't moving that wow/I changed my style/It might happen to you/What gotten to me, shit, I gotten to you/And start rapping 'bout things like love and being true/Now maybe we can make another baby or two"
Background: Snoop Dogg married his wife Shante in 1997, and somehow hip-hop's resident pimp and his better half have lasted the duration—though not without a few bumps in the road, including a 2004 divorce filing that never went through; the couple renewed their vows in 2008—along the way. "My wife had to take a backseat to this shit," he told Rolling Stone about his pimping lifestyle in 2013. "And I love her to this day because she coulda shook out on a nigga, but she stayed in my corner. So when I decided to let it go, she was still there." Real recognize real.

snoop dogg wife

"Got Your Back"
T.I. featuring Keri Hilson

Year: 2010
Who It's About: T.I.'s then-fiancee, now wife, Tameka "Tiny" Harris
Specific Lines: "You can get it you deserve it/Flawless diamonds, Louie purses/My mission's to purchase Earth for her/Present the gifts without the curse/Her pleasure is my purpose/Pleasure to be at your service/We front row at fashion shows/As well as Sunday morning service/But better days or for worse/If I'm paid or I'm hurting in my pocket/She still got a nigga back, know that's for sure/No matter what may occur in life/Every day with her is like a plus/I'ma love her 'til she be like, 'That's enough'"
Background: T.I. has been in a relationship with former Xscape member Tiny Harris since 2001, and the couple eventually married in 2010. They have two sons together: Clifford "King" Joseph Harris III, born in 2004, and Major Philant Harris, born in 2008. T.I. and Tiny got their own reality show, T.I. And Tiny: The Family Hustle, in 2011, and the show has been running for four seasons now. The track is particularly perfect due to Tip's second verse, shouting out all the ride or die chicks who supported their men while they were in prison, much like Tiny held down the family while Tip was locked up on federal gun charges in 2009.

ti tiny

Photo Credit:

Kanye West

Year: 2010
Who It's About: Amber Rose
Specific Lines: "Never was much of a romantic/I could never take the intimacy/And I know I did damage/'Cause the look in your eyes is killing me/I guess you've got another advantage/'Cause you could blame me for everything/And I don't know how I'ma manage/If one day you just up and leave/Yeah, I always find somethin' wrong/You been puttin' up with my shit just way too long/I'm so gifted at findin' what I don't like the most/So I think it's time for us to have a toast"
Background: Amber and Kanye were destined to be together before they both went their separate ways and wound up with superstars of their own outside of each other. But the pair's split led to one of the greatest breakup songs ever written—and that's even after Kanye dedicated an entire album to his last breakup, 2008's with 808s And Heartbreak. Raw emotion is often substituted for punch lines and catchy hooks in hip-hop, and while punch lines are a staple of Kanye's lyrical catalog, he ran completely away from radio-friendliness with a 34-minute film version of the music video to "Runaway" that was just as epic as the incredible My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album that birthed it. One of the greatest love songs ever written in the genre, hands down.

kanye west runaway