If you haven’t heard — and how could you not hear, since we’re all shouting it from the rooftops! — Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are rumored to be getting married this weekend in Europe, after the rapper got down on one knee last October. Renting out AT&T Park in San Francisco on the fall evening, West utilized a 50-piece orchestra and the tracks “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey and “Knock You Down” by Keri Hilson (and Ne-Yo, and himself) to seal the deal with the mother of his beloved North. Now, KimYe is traipsing around Paris while keeping things hush-hush as friends and family gather in the French capital.
“Knock You Down” is an relative outlier in West’s exceptional, and exceptionally intense, discography: it’s a love song! While Yeezy’s lyrics are known for focusing on sex, self-examination, the humblest of beginnings and the flashiest of lifestyles (among other things), the endlessly provocative artist has steered clear of full-on romance ballads for the most part. However, Billboard dug through Kanye’s deep, deep discography that found a handful of sweet cuts that could reasonably soundtrack any wedding reception, including the most anticipated celebrity nuptials of the year.
In honor of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s impending wedding, check out this list of the rapper’s 10 most romantic songs and features — just try not to get too teary-eyed.
Okay, yes, sure, an obvious choice to lead off this list. West’s contribution to RZA’s 2012 kung-Fu flick “The Man With The Iron Fists” was a love song that basically functions as a lengthy note to a girl he feels for deeply. As they make up, Kanye recounts what was going through his mind when he first saw her: “At first sight, I could picture you in a white dress/30-foot train/ Diamond from Lorraine, just to make up for all the years and the pain.” It’s worth noting that the monster engagement ring Kanye bought for Kim Kardashian was made by jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz.
“Walkin’ On The Moon,” The-Dream feat. Kanye West
After R&B maverick The-Dream croons about moving the heavens and earth to impress his lady friend, Yeezy drops in to deliver one of the most jovial, downright sweet verses in his entire catalogue. “There’s a lot of stars in here, ain’t it? But you shine so much, they don’t seem famous,” he spits; later, he tosses out the sexually charged, “Maybe we should talk about all this after I pound you,” but follows that with the hearty line, “Ha, you know I’m just playin’ with you.” That Kanye — he’s quite the kidder!
“Knock You Down,” Keri Hilson feat. Ne-Yo & Kanye West
Sure, the most memorable Yeezy line here is the “Michael Jackson/Joe Jackson” couplet, but the centerpiece of Kanye’s proposal also finds the rapper translating the theme of love after loss back to his high school days. “You was always the cheerleader of my dreams… And I was the class clown that always kept you laughing/We were never meant to be, baby, we just happened,” he rhymes, in a line that eerily evokes his present-day relationship.
“Number One,” Pharrell feat. Kanye West
Eight years before Pharrell was getting lucky, blurring lines and being happy, he was releasing soulful jams as a solo artist; on “Number One,” from his album “In My Mind,” the producer and West trade lines about that “number one girl” in their lives. Looking for Fresh Prince references, Myspace shout-outs and a line as sappy from Ye as “I’mma FedEx my love and have you sign for my heart”? Kanye has you covered here.
“Christmas In Harlem” feat. Teyana Taylor & CyHi da Prynce
After concluding his GOOD Fridays series and releasing “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” to critical acclaim, Kanye had one last gift for fans in late 2010: a holiday song. The sparkling “Christmas In Harlem” includes none (well, at least very little) of the braggadocio of “Twisted Fantasy,” instead presenting some charming Santa Claus shout-outs. “The streets lit up, it feels like Christmas officially/Told her that, ‘You’re the star at the top of the Christmas tree,” West raps. Awwww.
“My Baby,” Janet Jackson feat. Kanye West
Admittedly, this 2004 track, in which Janet Jackson invites a young Kanye to her rhythmic party, leans more toward the romantic side during the female singer’s gentle hook and verses. But West at least ends his Rolex/strippers/foreign car-toting verse with the complimentary line, “I was an addict of cheating, but I stopped, for sure/You an addict? You go with Janet Jackson, you cured.”
“Homecoming” feat. Chris Martin
With Coldplay’s Chris Martin by his side, West reminisces about a girl he met when he was three years old. “And what I loved most,” Kanye recalls, “she had so much soul.” Her name is “Windy” and she “likes to blow trees.” He continues to romanticize her, before revealing, “If you don’t know by now, I’m talkin’ ‘bout Chi-town.” It’s one of the most loving hometown tributes rap has to offer.
“American Boy,” Estelle feat. Kanye West
It’s another instance of a female singer giving listeners some starry-eyed romance before Kanye barges in and turns the spotlight on his designer brands, but Estelle’s still-perfect “American Boy” single is simply too positive to be left off this list. As Estelle chimes in about falling for a stateside chap and reveling in the magic of Broadway, West plays the part of the flashy American who’s “dressed smart like a London bloke.”
“Talk About Our Love,” Brandy feat. Kanye West
In this Brandy cut, Kanye talks his girlfriend off of the breakup ledge. Her friends are spreading rumors about how he’s a cheater and not the man for her. “You don’t remember when you was my sweetest,” he both asks and reminds her. “You don’t remember I called you Reese’s Pieces, ‘cause there’s no wrong way to do you know what…” Sweet, huh?
“Slow Jamz” feat. Twista & Jamie Foxx
This honeyed, Luther Vandross-sampling cut was one of Kanye’s first hits as a solo artist. Though Chicago buddy Twista shares equal rap time, it’s West’s tongue-in-cheek opening verse that gets the sultry party started. “I’mma bring the Cool Whip,” he says with charm to a lady friend. “Then I want you to strip.”