Aux Cord Chronicles VII: The Cuffing Season Project
69 songs to get you through Valentines
Depending on who you are, Valentine’s Day is either a huge deal or just another Tuesday. But, in the land of cuffing season, V-Day is the Final Frontier. The Super Bowl of the cuffing calendar. If you’re a real savage and have an icebox where your heart used to be, you and your cuff have already parted ways, and you’re enjoying fantasies of warm weather, rooftop happy hours and romantic freedom. For those brave souls who dare make Cupid’s Day their last hurrah, we’re providing the soundtrack — bringing back one of our favorite Aux Cord Chronicles. This is it, folks. Make it worth it. It’s a sprint to spring from here.
Billy Paul — “Me and Mrs. Jones” (1972)
Long before Trey Songz dubbed himself “Mr. Steal Yo’ Girl,” that title went to Billy Paul. It all makes sense now, too. The wife penguin is Mrs. Jones. The homewrecking penguin is Billy Paul. And the husband penguin is Mr. Jones. B.P. really was an OG savage.
Sylvia — “Pillow Talk” (1973)
“Pillow talk” is often seen in a negative light. But this sultry early ’70s jam isn’t concerned with the conversations people have while lying in the bed staring at the ceiling fan. Here’s how risqué this song was in 1973, too: It was originally written for the Rev. Al Green.
Marvin Gaye — “Let’s Get It On” (1973)
The holy grail of bedroom staples. And the magnum opus for sexual liberation anthems during a time when speaking so wasn’t exactly the status quo. Marvin could have retired after this song and been an icon forever. Thankfully, he didn’t, though we all wish his story had ended differently. One more thing, too. Is any song more capable of getting minds wandering quicker and dirtier in its first five seconds than “Let’s Get It On?” I don’t think so. The closest competition has to be Juvenile’s 1998 “Back That Azz Up.”
Leon Haywood — “I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You” (1975)
Leon Haywood just happens to be one of the greatest names ever: He could be a musician, a basketball player or a car mechanic. And, yes, this is the song that would eventually give hip-hop one of its most cherished odes — Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Nothin’ But A G Thang.” Ol’ Leon wasn’t worried about that, though. Ol’ Leon had a one-track mind.
Donna Summer — “Love To Love You, Baby” (1975)
The backstory to the late Queen of Disco’s runaway hit is nothing short of fascinating. Due to sexually suggestive lyrics and groans — TIME magazine called it “a marathon of 22 orgasms” — there was no shortage of critics. The BBC banned the song in Britain. Domestically, the Rev. Jesse Jackson claimed songs of this ilk led to teenage pregnancy. But TIME perhaps summed Donna’s smash single most succinctly, saying, “Her goal is to make an album ‘for people to take home and fantasize in their minds.’ ”
Barry White — “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” (1977)
One of the biggest songs from one of the greatest musical voices in history. But listen. Barry and Marvin and Teddy P? The ’70s were an embarrassment of riches. It’s easy to see why the decade had the reputation it did.
Teddy Pendergrass — “Turn Off The Lights” (1979)
You know, Cedric The Entertainer was right on Kings of Comedy. Between this song and “Come On and Go With Me,” Teddy P was demanding. Always telling you what to do and whatnot. Classics require a certain degree of discipline and focus, so we can’t be too mad. You already know what time it is when Teddy comes on.
Prince — “Do Me, Baby” (1981)
Here we are / Looking for a reason for you to lay me down / A love like ours is never out of season / So baby please stop teasing me. An all-time classic from an all-time great we lost this year, far too soon. It’s still weird referring to Prince in the past tense.
Marvin Gaye — “Sexual Healing” (1982)
At the time of his death Marvin had only won two Grammys and both of them stemmed from this song — an undeniable lovemaking anthem that will continue to stand the test of time. You would think, given his career and the classic ballads, duets and albums he already had under his belt that he’d have at least more than a handful. But it wouldn’t be the first or last time the Grammys missed the mark.
The Isley Brothers — “Between The Sheets” (1983)
I turn into Billy Dee Williams in the “Colt 45” commercial whenever this comes on.
Art of Noise — “Moments In Love” (1984)
Because, you know, sometimes lyrics are overrated. Sometimes the beat tells the entire story for you.
Silk — “Freak Me” (1992)
You learn something new every day. Keith Sweat supposedly co-wrote “Freak Me.” I have no clue why I never knew that because it sounds exactly like something he’d sing, too.
R. Kelly — “12 Play” (1993)
In the past, I’ve refused to put R. Kelly on these playlists out of personal preference. But here’s the plot twist. It’s absolutely impossible to put together a collection of songs like these and not include Kelz. Truth be told, dude could command his own several playlists. And if you decide to embark on that mission, just know the title track from his 1993 solo debut is a must-have.
H-Town — “Knockin’ Da Boots” (1993)
H-Town didn’t have the staying power of Jodeci, Boyz II Men or Dru Hill. R.I.P. Dino. But you and I both know there aren’t many phrases more ’90s than “knockin’ boots.” And their most recognizable song is also an all-time karaoke classic. That’s nothing to scoff at.
Tony! Toni! Toné! — “Lay Your Head On My Pillow” (1993)
Shoutout to the days when R&B ballads were six and seven minutes long.
Jodeci — “Feenin’” (1993)
Is there anything more romantic than telling the cuff in your life All the chronic in the world couldn’t even mess with you / You are the ultimate high? I think not! Shakespeare could never.
iNTRO — “Come Inside” (1993)
The double entendre game here was very, very, very heavy.
Jodeci — “Freek’n You” (1995)
The Patron Saints of R&B Raunchiness shot Ray Allen free throw percentage numbers when it came time to giving you lusty anthems that help turn late nights into early mornings.
LL Cool J — “Doin’ It” (1995)
There are certain cuts that when I hear them I instantly say, “I wonder what it was like being at an HBCU when this song was poppin’.” “Doin’ It” is one of them. But: Don’t play this record around Simone, LL’s wife.
Dru Hill — “Tell Me” (1996)
Whether you heard it live or at a high school or college house party, you’ll always remember where you were when you first heard this classic. If you’re black, and over the age of 25, and don’t know this hook, SHAME. ON. YOU. Related: The hop from the video is a legendary ’90s R&B dance move. Legendary, I tell you!
Maxwell —“Till The Cops Come Knockin’ ” (1996)
As a matter of fact, just keep the entire Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite album nearby.
Joe — “All The Things (Your Man Won’t Do)” (1997)
Don’t ever take your spot for granted. There are savages liking all of his/her Instagram photos — and if they’re really brave, commenting on said photos — just waiting to shoot their shot. Like Joe, for example.
The Notorious B.I.G. feat. R. Kelly — “F— You Tonight” (1997)
Had March 9, 1997, never happened, trust and believe this song would have been so much bigger. We’re talking prime Biggie with three classic verses that sound like X-rated Hallmark cards and prime Kelz with a hook that’s equally as risqué but impossible not to sing along with. You must be used to me spending / And all that sweet wining and dining / Well, I’m … You know the rest. Quiet as it’s kept, too — while the sample size is extremely limited — B.I.G. and the Pied Piper had crazy chemistry.
Jon B — “They Don’t Know” (1997)
Let the record show we have still yet to see Jon B and Klay Thompson at the same place in the same time. And if Klay really is Jon with a jump shot, that’s not a bad dual career. Who else can say they’ve recorded with Tupac, won an NBA title and 3-point contest, was the architect of a classic ’90s tune and blew a 3-1 … never mind.
LSG — “My Body” (1997)
You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard my colleague Kelley Carter tell the story of when she covered Gerald Levert’s funeral, which was 10 years ago this month. Trust me, it’s well, well, well worth the time.
SWV feat. E-40 — “Come & Get Some” (1997)
Turn the lights down low / And come lay next to me. Sisters With Voices were also sisters with needs.
Adina Howard — “T-Shirt & Panties” (1998)
Fun fact: Tupac taught her how to roll a blunt. Undeniable fact: Before Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Trina, and long before Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, it was Adina Howard whose racy lyrics created the wave of sexual liberation for women (and controversy) on wax in the ’90s. And if you want to do a fun case study, play this around people old enough to appreciate it. It’s like you instantly see their minds swan dive into the gutter.
DMX — “How’s It Goin’ Down” (1998)
The late ’90s tumultuous love story between Earl and Tanika. And her child’s father who once ran up on someone he thought was Earl and started flexing. In all seriousness, we’re all better people because “How’s It Goin’ Down” exists. There isn’t an artist alive who could create a song as gritty, yet oddly romantic as this. Not a single one.
OutKast — “Spottieottiedopaliscious” (1998)
It’s not your everyday selection for a list like this, but it’s the vibe, bro. It’s. The. Vibe. That and the horns are sent straight from heaven.
Lauryn Hill feat. D’Angelo — “Nothing Even Matters” (1998)
It’s scary how much their voices complement each other’s here. One of the grooviest, let’s-just-live-in-the-moment songs ever.
Ginuwine — “So Anxious” (1999)
“Pony” seems the obvious choice. And, honestly, you couldn’t go wrong choosing it. But “Pony” never changed my perception of time. I haven’t looked at 11:30 p.m. in the same way since, thanks to “So Anxious.”
112 feat. Lil’ Zane — “Anywhere” (1999)
Variety is the spice of life, or so the saying goes. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the bedroom floor, the waterbed, the hallway beside the stairs, the shower, the patio and the kitchen floor.
Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill — “Turn Your Lights Down Low” (1999)
I’m not telling you to roll up a nice paper plane with your significant cuff. But I’m definitely not telling you not to either. I mean, it is legal in 25 states now. Plus, Bob Marley would appreciate you putting one in the air in homage to him.
D’Angelo — “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” (2000)
I never understood why it’s called “Untitled” when it actually has a title. Nevertheless, it’s tough to ever go wrong with my fellow Virginia native. This song will have you creating a NSFW vision board in no time. Sidenote: The Jamie Foxx parody is still LOL funny.
504 Boyz — “I Can Tell” (2000)
A real one. The eyes tell the real story.
R. Kelly — “The Greatest Sex” (2000)
Normally sequels fail to live up to the original. But TP2.com did its predecessor, 1993’s classic 12 Play, justice and then some. And we can debate this all day. “The Greatest Sex” (barely) > “Bump & Grind.”
Michael Jackson — “Butterflies” (2001)
All I gotta say is that I must be dreaming / Can’t be real / You’re not here with me / Still I can feel you near me. On the lowest of keys, one of the coldest songs in The King of Pop’s iconic catalog.
Tank — “Slowly” (2001)
One of those songs you wish never ends. I could go on and on about this song, but my mama and grandma read this site.
Janet Jackson — “Would U Mind” (2001)
Trust me, I’m a lot of things. But a hater isn’t one of them. However, I’ve never held hatred in my heart more for any person, at any place, at any time — shoutout to Janet’s “Any Time, Any Place” which should absolutely make your playlist — than the dude Janet brought on stage for this.
Tyrese — “Signs of Love Making” (2002)
These are the signs of love makin’ / Are you the zodiac freak I’ve been lookin’ for. If she’s into astrology, then I’m into astrology.
Floetry — “Say Yes” (2002)
Loving you has taken time / But I always knew you could be mine. Grown folks’ music.
Beyoncé — “Speechless” (2003)
“Blackstreet — “Deep” (2003)
R&B groups, like movie soundtracks, were great while they lasted. This song has had trouble written all over it for the past 13 years and counting.
Andre 3000 — “Vibrate” (2003)
I’m not here to debate what’s better between Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx and Andre 3000’s The Love Below. I’m not even here to debate whether OutKast is the greatest duo of all time. They are. I’m not even here to convince you that Big Boi just might be the most underappreciated legend in rap. He is. The beauty of The Love Below, however, is its often conflicting themes of love, sex and whether the two are capable of living within matrimony. And, to keep it a buck, “Vibrate” just might be the best song on the album. At just under seven minutes, I encourage you and that special someone to lose yourself in “Vibrate.” It’s a moment everyone should experience at least once in their lives. You can thank me by sharing this on your Facebook page and/or tweeting the link.
Usher — “Can U Handle It” (2004)
Congratulations, you heathens. You’ve reached the point of no return once this comes on. On a related note, who remembers Young Usher’s “Can U Get Wit It” video with Puffy — in the wave cap — playing chaperone while U-S-H-E-R R-A-Y-M-O-N-D waxes poetic to all the cougars of the world?
Marques Houston — “Naked” (2005)
Girl / We ain’t gotta rush: I can’t be the only one who forgot how cold this song was.
Remy Ma feat. Ne-Yo — “Feels So Good” (2006)
I copped There’s Something About Remy from Circuit City (R.I.P.) before heading to work. And something I didn’t understand then and still don’t a decade later is how this was never a single. “Conceited” and “Whatever” received crazy spring and summer burn. “Feels So Good” would’ve been the perfect nightcap for those cold fall and winter nights. But what do I know?
Justin Timberlake — “Set The Mood (Prelude)” (2006)
It’s dark. It’s moody. It’s subtle. It’s erotic. Basically everything you need to make this playlist in less than 2 1/2 minutes.
Chris Brown — “Take You Down” (2007)
The country boy from Tappahannock has had a career of meteoric highs and maddening lows. Whenever and however Brown decides to call it quits, though, he’d be hard-pressed to find five songs better than his bedroom ode that’s responsible for the first generation of kids who only know Barack Obama as president.
Ne-Yo — “Say It” (2007)
Like I told you before, “Mirror” is for the ride over. “Say It” is game-time music. Just make sure you stretch beforehand.
The-Dream — “Put It Down” (2009)
By now, you already know Terius Nash is the homie. But “Put It Down,” though? This song right here? Flawless victory each and every single time.
Drake feat. Omarion — “Bria’s Interlude” (2009)
Miguel — “Quickie” (2010)
You and your lucky cuff, whoever that lucky young man or lady is, presumably lead busy lives. There’s work. Happy hours after work. And a bunch of other commitments we, as adults, tend to find ourselves in. Sometimes, the only option available is a quick fix. Something Miguel eloquently outlines in the third single from his debut album All I Want Is You. Miguel’s portfolio is bursting at the seams with records that could have and probably should have gone here: a la “Coffee” featuring Wale, “Waves” with Travis Scott, “Come Through And Chill” as well as a personal favorite in “Arch & Point.”
Ciara feat. Ludacris — “Ride” (2010)
The video has nearly 128 million YouTube views. Very unofficial numbers say at least 40 million are from Russell Wilson, which must have been pure torture during the dating days with Ciara.
J. Cole feat. Drake — “In The Morning” (2010)
Drake sounded like he recorded this just as he woke up from a nap. That being said, the hook is a legitimate question that should be addressed when going through cuffing preseason training and the obligatory preseason schedule. Cole is right, too. God bless the woman who can hold her Patron.
Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne — “Motivation” (2011)
A dark, but relaxing beat + Kelly Rowland providing one motivational speech even Vince Lombardi would blush over + “featuring Lil Wayne” = cash money. No pun intended. Aight, maybe a little.
Beyoncé — “Dance For You” (2011)
OK, I lied. Went with it anyway. For those cold nights when Magic City just isn’t possible.
Trey Songz — “Dive In” (2012)
“Neighbors Know My Name.” “Panty Droppa.” “Role Play.” AND DO I HAVE TO MENTION THE 2009 CLASSIC THAT IS ANTICIPATION? The point is Tremaine’s catalog is full of dirty mackin’ odes. “Dive In” just happens to be a personal favorite. For musical reasons only, of course. Get your minds out the gutter for once in your life.
ScHoolboy Q feat. BJ The Chicago Kid — “Studio” (2014)
Time really flies, man. How is this song nearly three years old already? Anyway, let’s keep it 100, you can make the argument this is the best single TDE has ever released. BJ The Chicago Kid’s hook is, was and always will be — in the words of my big homie Maurice Garland — “fie.”
PARTYNEXTDOOR — “Persian Rugs” (2014)
You know I’m Party / I don’t wanna just chill … A top five PND song just so happens to be perfect background music for cuffing season.
Jeremih — “All The Time” (2014)
#TeamJeremih reporting for duty, here. Buddy has too many songs that you really can’t go wrong with your choice. But this one in particular? All bad decisions. All. The. Time.
Dej Loaf feat. Lil Wayne — “Me U & Hennessy” (2015)
Hennessy is Latin for “you’re probably gonna make a bad decision after drinking this.” Weezy’s had a pretty rough couple of weeks stemming from his Black Lives Matter comments. His verse here won’t make anyone forget that (and it shouldn’t), but it’s Wayne at his most explicit and descriptive. Dej and Weezy’s duet is perfect for that 2 a.m. soundtrack when you’re up to no good.
Guordan Banks — “Keep You In Mind” (2015)
This joint is so smooth, man. Real playa-like. Like both of y’all sitting on a balcony in your robes the next morning smoking and sipping type of smooth.
Drake feat. Future — “Diamonds Dancing” (2015)
One of the most romantic strip club odes you’ll ever hear in your life. At least you get to Drake’s soliloquy that may or may not have been about Nicki Minaj.
D.R.A.M. feat. Erykah Badu — “WiFi” (2016)
While “Cute” is another obvious choice from the Hampton, Virginia, native’s stellar Big Baby D.R.A.M. LP, the sultry and sexual innuendo-laden “WiFi” wins out. D.R.A.M. and Badu sound like long, lost soul mates here. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if they made more music together. Just sayin’. Shout out to Badu saying the carpet matches the pillows, too.
H.E.R. — “Focus” (2016)
This is that “let’s kill a bottle of wine and see where it goes from here” music.
Big Sean & Jhene Aiko (Twenty88) feat. K-Ci & JoJo & Detail) — “2 Minute Warning” (2016)
I’m going to keep telling y’all until it’s accepted as fact. Sean and Jhene — aka “Twenty88” — dropped one of 2016’s best projects and only needed eight songs prove it. Here, both skip the small talk and appetizers and get straight to the main course. It be like that sometime.
Rihanna — “Sex With Me” (2016)
All this hard work, no vacation / Stay up off my Instagram, pure temptation. Prove it then, Rih Rih.
Ty Dolla $ign — “Zaddy” (2016)
Like so many others here, the man I refer to as Ty Dolla Levert deserves his own list. That being said, “Zaddy” is one of the waviest records of the year. Don’t listen if you have virgin ears, though. Then again, that’s true for 95 percent of this list.