Muses have always existed in hip-hop. Maybe because women are arguably the easiest subject to compose a song around. They’re a universal topic. I know this personally from being an emcee. Think about it: You don’t need street cred to talk about women, so that allows for a backpack rapper to touch on it just as much as a street emcee. On the flip side, you also don’t have to spit a Shakespearean verse to get your point across to the more understanding gender (which allows the less lyrical emcee to get in on the action). Anybody can, and has, composed a rap about women. Whether it be Project Pat talkin’ about chickenheads or Uncle L telling them how to love one better, the woman is often the focus of some of the greatest records in hip-hop.
I originally made a version of this list on Twitter because I felt like there were generation gaps between the music I grew up with, and the kids listening to popular music now. I was singing “You Remind Me of Something” (a song by R. Kelly made in the mid ’90s) and a 20-year-old girl I know said, “I know that song. Jerimih made it” (because he sang the famous “You remind me of my jeep” part in Wale’s “The Body” record). I just turned 27, so I know I’m only little older but you should KNOW that’s an R. Kelly song. Especially since we both from Chicago. So I decided to touch on songs about women by rappers because I wanted to show youngins these 25 dope songs that inspired their new favorites.
1. “I Need Love” – LL Cool J
The beginning of simp rap. LL showed a softer side that would create somewhat of a subgenre with rap.
2. “How’s It Going Down” – DMX/Faith Evans
Arguably the hardest love song to ever be composed. Our favorite dog showed even with his abrasive flow that he could get over with the ladies. Just sprinkle in some dirty macking and hood tendencies and it’s love at first bite.
3. “Dear Mama” – Tupac
Even 20 years after his passing, the classic ode to Mamas around the world has not been outdone. (Quiet, Kanye fans. “Hey Mama” is good, but let’s be real here.)
4. “Renee” – The Lost Boyz
One of the most vivid storytelling songs on the list makes us feel like we actually knew Renee. And the production on this beat is still fire to this day. WOO.
5. “Brenda’s Got A Baby” – Tupac
Sticking with the storytelling, Pac finds his way back in the list (the only rapper with this feat on the list by the way), vividly taking us through the eyes of 12-year-old Brenda, which raises the question: Why don’t we ever talk about how great Tupac was BEFORE Death Row?
6. “Song Cry” – Jay Z
Ah, here we are, youngsters. Once upon a time, Beyoncé’s husband (disrespectful? YES IT IS!) was the crown holder of hip-hop, and in his prime, Hov released a song so disgustingly good, he made it cry because he can’t see ’em comin’ down his eyes. Downright beautiful song. In Hova’s name we pray, amen.
7. “Fuck Friends” – Camouflage
Now, before you jump down my throat, hip-hop heads, hear me out. Savannah, Georgia’s Camouflage came up with one of the greatest “Side Nigga Anthems” in history. Infidelity never sounded so dope. Sadly, he was gunned down before he could become what he would’ve became—but he left behind a classic.
8. “All I Need” – Method Man/Mary J Blige
Tical & the Queen of Hip Hop Soul probably didn’t know what they were creating when they recorded this, but it was a Superman & Wonder Woman pairing. This collaboration produced one of the greatest songs about union between man & woman (appreciate this because it’s hard to find the Puffy-produced version of this song).
9. “What’s It Gonna Be” – Busta Rhymes/Janet Jackson
This song is dripping in sexy, slathered in lust, and sprinkled with sensuality. Who knew the off-the-wall, animated Busta Rhymes could go to this level and give us that legendary second verse with the chop flow? And do it with Janet Jackson of all people?! Incredible seeing as most singers of her caliber usually don’t do that. I still wonder how he pulled that off. Y’all people had enough? Gimme some mo.
[Ed. note: This is one of my favorite songs of all time. On top of insane production by Delite Allamby, the Hype Williams video is era-defining. That wet look!]
10. “Break You Off” – The Roots/Musiq Soulchild
This is arguably the best beat on the entire list. Black Thought is Top 10 DOA. The production is that of a Hollywood movie score. You can just sense something is going to happen. Then you throw in the always phenomenal Musiq and—how could you not like this?
11. “Back That Azz Up” – Juvenile
Okay, okay. I can explain. The intro of the dirty version of this song is enough to drive a paralyzed person to raise to their feet. But if that isn’t enough… play the CLEAN VERSION (“Back That Thang Up”) that contains a young Juvenile yelling the iconic phrase “CASH MONEY TAKIN OVA FA DA 99 & 2000” and watch all hell break loose within the female population.
12. “Jealousy” – Juelz Santana
One of the stand out tracks from Santana’s discography that showed an above average member out of the Dip Set camp. Showing flashes of greatness (such as this track) led many of us to believe Juelz would be amongst the new greats emerging at that time (Fabolous, Lil Wayne, Cassidy, etc.). But a weird career that fizzled out of nowhere ruined all hope for the Harlem playboy.
13. “What These Bitches Want” – DMX/Sisqo
There was Brenda, LaTisha, Linda, Felicia.
Ines, and Alicia.
Lisa, Veronica, Karen, Vicky.
Cookies, well I met her in a ice cream parlor.
Tonya, Diane, Lori and Carla.
Marina, Selena, Katrina, Sabrina.
About three Kim’s.
LaToya, and Tina.
Shelley, Bridget, Cavi, Rasheeda.
Kelly, Nicole, Angel, Juanita
Rohna, and Ronda.
Tawana, and Wanda.
14. “Chickenhead” – Project Pat/La’ Chat/Juicy J/DJ Paul
Well, this self explanatory. “Chickenhead” was historic because it was seen as the male equivalent of TLC’s “No Scrubs” to some. Also features a very underrated and slept on male/female back and forth rap with La’ Chat. Brought to you by Captain Cadence, better known as Memphis spitter Project Pat.
15. “Smile” – G-Unit
Personally, I feel Lloyd Banks is one of our most unappreciated emcees. This was the beginning of our introduction to the lyricist of G-Unit. Banks showed a knack for creating phenomenal odes to the woman. Whatever gets into Banks when writing these songs is scary. Not to mention good. See also: “Karma,””Help,” and “I Don’t Deserve You.”
16. “Playas Rock” – Hurricane Chris/Boxie
The fact that “A Bay Bay” and this song came from the same exact pen is incredible. This track’s incredible display of beat selection and versatility—after dropping a hit song that made him part of the “Ringtone Rap Era”—made this an exceptional song. Dis how playas rock.
17. “Down Ass Bitch” – Ja Rule/Charlie Baltimore
Say what you want about Ja. Yes, 50 Cent ruined him. Yes, he sang. Yes, we know that, but when it came to making songs about women, Ja was second to none during his run. What other rapper you know sang ballads and duets with no auto-tune, with a voice only a mother could love? Who could harmonize his ass off so well you didn’t even notice? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. IT’S MURDAAAAA. PS: This is a stellar verse from female rapper, Charlie Baltimore.
18. “I Got The Hook Up” – Master P/Sons Of Funk
No, this song is not about illegal cable. This is what happens when hood dudes try to express our feelings to a woman—and also the title of a hood classic that I had on VHS when I was a kid. I think I lost it. I guess you could say I actually don’t have the hook up now. Smh.
19. “Hoochie Mama” – 2 Live Crew
This is your Mama’s “Back That Azz Up” if you’re my age. This song is iconic and is probably every hood rat’s theme music. Uncle Luke’s filthy family does it for the culture.
20. “Ms. Jackson” – Outkast
The ATLiens land finally at this spot. They would be higher up on this list, but this song probably didn’t mean as much, as it was just a dope song. But it does showcase Andre 3000 dabbling in singing during his verse. Flame emoji me one time.
21. “Bonita Applebum” – A Tribe Called Quest
I’m gonna get killed for having this this low in my list, but I have my reasons. Maybe if I could find a woman to make me feel as mesmerized as Q Tip sounds in this song, I would understand better. But this unorthodox gem couldn’t be left off. RIP PHIFE.
22. “I Need a Hot Girl” – Hot Boys
Cash Money was running wild on the competition during this era and keeping the same formula as the previous listed song (although released prior to it). The band of Nawlins natives delivered another twerk tune.
23. “Sick of Being Lonely” – Field Mob
This is a forgotten but amazing entry. Rather than take themselves too seriously, the talented duo makes fun of the old lady getting tired of a man. Smoke is on the bench and Shawn Jay is ready to be his replacement. Put him in the game, coach.
24. “Ms. Fat Booty ” – Mos Def
Aaaaaah. Ya like this one DONTCHA, heads? It was either this or that other ode to booty by A Tribe Called Quest. It was hard, but I went with this one just for the “You can see it from the front” line.
25. “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix A Lot
Oh. My. God. Becky. Look at this list. I mean. It’s so big. Okay, that was whack but whatever.
I absolutely believe had it not been for this song, the booty wouldn’t be as celebrated in hip-hop on record. Not only did Mix A Lot denounce European beauty standards, but he literally empowered the big booty community simultaneously—probably unbeknownst to even him.
Here are some honorable mentions:
“No Better Love” – Young Gunz
“I Ain’t The One” – Ice Cube
“Karma” – Lloyd Banks
“Round The Way Girl” – LL Cool J
“International Players Anthem” – Outkast/UGK
“Slow Jamz” – Twista Kanye
“Into You” – Fabolous
“Superman” – Eminem
“Girlfriend” – Maino
“Get It Wet” – Twista
“Excuse Me Miss” – Jay Z
“Project Bitch” – Cash Money
U mad? Got some songs you think we missed? Comment below.