Love Lessons Learned From Early ’00s Hip Hop Videos

At the turn of the millennium, mainstream music was mostly marked by overly-produced former Mickey Mouse Club members and hyper-aggro rap rock. After 9/11, commercial hip hop made a popular comeback. The sound became increasingly melodic, the lyrics romantic, and on-screen interactions remarkably affectionate.

As a child, watching Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” in the early ’90s made me dread the thought of socializing as a young adult. Would I be doomed to a life of volleyball games and bikini tops being ripped off? Is that my only option to make friends? I couldn’t imagine ten years later Snoop Dogg would actually have a song called “Beautiful,” or that it would have lines like “Hurry up and finish so we can watch Clueless” and “I just want you to know that you are really special.”

Most of the videos are really bad — the costumes and acting might be the worst of all time. But they have playful men and women clarifying their feelings and boundaries, all while maintaining self-confidence and not taking themselves too seriously. They seem really jokey and really healthy at the same time.

“Dilemma” Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland.

Lessons learned: Live in the neighborhood of those you dote. Picking up a guy you like in your man’s car is a good way to be “gangsta.” Tell someone you respect that they’re unavailable, and they will break down and come to you.

“What’s Luv” Fat Joe featuring Ashanti and Ja Rule

Lessons learned: Ask vague rhetorical questions as a way to buy yourself time. An ideal state of love should feel “like we be freaking on E.”

“Girls, Girls, Girls” Jay-Z

Lessons learned: Help a dude out. Hide his drugs.

“Beautiful” Snoop Dogg Featuring Pharrell

Lessons learned: People change. A man cooing compliments at you in falsetto is the best, when reserved in small doses.

“Mesemerize” Ja Rule featuring Ashanti

Lessons learned: Crazy, teenage, young love is the best. Carnivals are better date spots than sports games. Compromise your outfits now and then.


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  • EmiliaBedelia

    I am so happy this exists.

  • Karina Briski

    As a tween growing up in the Midwestern sticks, I owe a great deal to the lessons preached in early '00s hip hop – but my favorite one is missing: LL Cool J and J Lo – All I Have.
    Lesson: Puffy pink jacket in the wintertime matches sparkling tears from breakup so perfectly. You won't even think about him after you strut down the street in your furry boots.

    • kelley hoffman

      SO TRUE! how could i forget!

      *pride is what you had, baby girl I'm what you have*

    • kelley hoffman

      also those manolo x timberland boots are pretty important in 'fashion history'


    i always thought about how weird “ayo technology” was. 50 cent and JT were tired of using technology and so they wanted to romance a lady. the song never made much sense to me unless 50 was, like, coding java all day and he just wanted to get away from the office for some romance. then i realized the original song was probably, “ayo pornography”, but was changed for commercial radio play. i think it would be more relatable in it's original form.

    • kelley hoffman

      i think you might be onto something!

  • jaez

    this is the best

  • uhnonnymus

    And yet you didn't learn anything from Trapped in the Closet?!

    • kelley hoffman

      i think most of r. kelly's songs take place inside his head. i'm not sure if he's ever really verbalized his love for someone else beyond “girl you make me wanna get you pregnant.” he's never vulnerable, i guess.

  • Jae Zhou

    this should be a series. someone make a tumblr

  • :)

    As soon as I read the title I knew I would like this.

  • rawiya kameir

    whoa. i forgot how huge ja rule was in the early 2000s!

    my neighbor claims to be working on his new record.

    • kelley hoffman

      excited to see ja rule ten years later

  • Alex

    “People change. A man cooing compliments at you in falsetto is the best, when reserved in small doses.”

  • Shayna Gordon

    watched all of these. smiled lots. thanks :)

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