“I Hate U Bitch,” Z-Ro: Z-Ro is at his most vulnerable in this balmy, spring-like guitar and keyboard track. Break-ups are often confusing, and Z-Ro teeters here between tearful rage and pounding your fists into bloody pulp sadness. (Just as effortlessly as he shifts gears from singing and rapping.) There’s a lot more going on here than the typical rap break-up song. For one thing, it’s apparent that his woman snitched on him, causing him a parole violation that sends him to jail. For another, he seems at least as upset about losing contact with his step-children as his woman.
Immortal lines: “Five kids and I fed ‘em all, with more than bread and spreads. Them was my motherfuckers, treated ‘em like sisters and brothers, but some how I fell out of place, fucking with they punk ass mother.”
Fun Fact: I once caught myself singing the “I hate U Bitch” chorus aloud while I was cradling my infant daughter.
“Dirty Bitch,” Geto Boys: Bushwick rides solo on this bleak number from The Foundation, one of the bitterest break-up tunes in the history of recorded music. As with Z-Ro’s song, there’s more than ring of lived-in authenticity to the lyrics. You’ll want to steer clear of this one unless you really, really hate your ex.
Immortal lines: “Your own momma used to tell me not to fuck wit'cha ass, I messed around and got you pregnant, now I'm stuck wit'cha ass” and “You triflin’ slut, ain't worth a cigarette butt, I shoulda left you where I found you, waitin on a bus.”
Video: (Mash-up of “Dirty Bitch” and an Usher video.)
“Crampin’ My Style,” UGK: This Bun B duet with lady MC Infinity is a fairly mature take on the age-old, commitment vs. one-night-stand battle of the sexes.
Immortal lines: Bun B: “You can keep the wedding, I just want the honeymoon. Infinity: “To tell you the truth, you ain't that major, ‘cause you made a little album and you getting in the papers.”
A Grand Don’t Come For Free, The Streets: All right, as a whole album (and debatably hip-hop) this one’s a bit of a cheat. But what an album. A too-young, too-stupid love affair gone band is just one of the many story lines here, and the couple’s break-up is chronicled in agonizing (yet ultimately uplifting) detail over the last six songs of the album. There’s a hilarious fight song (“Get Out of My House”), a drunken cheating song (“Fit But You Know It”), a song of regret (“Such a Twat”), a jealousy tune (“What Is He Thinking?”), a resigned tearjerker (“Dry Your Eyes”), and a disconsolate “I’ll just drink myself to death” tune in “Empty Cans.”
Immortal lines: The actual moment you realize it is over has never been captured better than here: “The wicked thing about us is we always have trust. We can even have an open relationship, if you must. I look at her she stares almost straight back at me. But her eyes glaze over like she’s lookin’ straight through me. Then her eyes must have closed for what seems an eternity, when they open up she’s lookin’ down at her feet.”
Video: “Dry Your Eyes"
"Poor Georgie," MC Lyte. I’m a go way, way back to the funky-fresh era for this one. Georgie seemed too good be true to Lyte, and he was. While this is not a break-up song in the strictest since of the word – the relationship is troubled but still active, when drunken, cancer-riddled Georgie perishes in a car wreck – it is a devastating portrait of love gone bad. And there’s no denying that the Georgie-Lyte fling is over in the end.
Immortal lines: “If you love someone you should say it often. You never know when they'll be layin’ in a coffin.”
Fun Fact: That’s Lauryn Hill (in the bright blue cap) in Lyte’s posse in the video.
“Get Over That,” Big Mike: Each partner cheats serially in this classic funk-drenched Dirty South jam.
Immortal lines: “When it comes to mackin’ I thought I wrote the book, but the book didn’t tell me shit about the shoe bein’ on the other foot.”
“Roses,” OutKast: The “roses really smell like boo-boo” chorus is perfect for this time of year with its mandatory flower-buying factor.
Immortal lines: “Caroline! See she's the reason for the word "bitch" (bitch). I hope she's speeding on the way to the club. Trying to hurry up to get to some baller or singer or somebody like that, and try to put on her makeup in the mirror, and crash, crash, crash… Into a ditch! (Just Playing!)”
Fun fact: Comedy bluegrass act Hayseed Dixie covers this song on the album A Hot Piece of Grass.
Video: With bonus Valentine’s Day footage.
“Girl You Know,” Scarface: As befits a man in his late 30s, ‘Face’s new take is decidedly mature, something of a grim sequel to this summer’s UGK / OutKast smash “Int’l Playas Anthem.” (Here’s what happens after “I choose you.”)
Immortal lines: “I think if Adam would have had another squeeze he might not have ate those fruits from the leaves of light.”
“Big Ole Butt,” LL Cool J: Not all break-up songs are sad are angry. Here’s a triumphant one from back in the Kangol days.
Immortal lines: “Tina / Brenda / Lisa got a big ole butt, I know I told you I’d be true, but Tina / Brenda / Lisa got a big ole butt, and I’m leavin’ you.”
Fun Fact: The cover to Walking With a Panther (on which “Big Ole Butt” was a single) might be the first to feature what is now ubiquitous and cliched money-bitches-bling, materialistic imagery.
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“She’s Gone,” Devin the Dude: There’s an almost “Trapped in the Closet” number of twists and turns packed into these tragicomic five minutes.
Immortal lines: “I used to fart under the covers and she'd just laugh. She even cleaned my balls when we would take a bath. She straightened up the bed when I was still in it, get up and fix some breakfast, the kind of gal that makes you want to leave them other heifers alone. But my bone got a mind of its own. I continued to roam while she waited by the phone.”