With Thursday’s Video Music Awards returning to New York’s Radio City Music Hall, MTV News asked stars who have called the town home to reveal their favorite parts of living in the city that never sleeps.
Became hooked on New York: At birth. Although the MC and his wife, Kelis, have a crib in the ATL, Nas is one of hip-hop’s most famous native New Yorkers, and his name is practically synonymous with the borough of Queens.
Especially addicted to: The city’s “food and subway system.”
“I love the fact you can get all types of food in New York,” Nas said. “When I was a kid, my pops had me eating all kinds of stuff, all types of ethnic foods. You get a variety of anything you want, from Indian to Asian to soul food. Right now, Buddakan is my favorite restaurant. It has some great Asian food. Then I love the Shark Bar, the Buddha Bar.
“There’s nothing like the New York City subways,” he added. “I used to write rhymes on the train. I remember [one time] I was on the train, this bad girl was on there and I was scared to talk to her. I remember thinking, ‘Man, I got this pen and pad, I should get her number.’ But I ain’t say nothing. Before she got off and the train was coming to a stop, she kind of ran her finger up my back to let me know, ‘You could have had my number.’ Then she got off the train. Maybe she would have been a world of trouble.”
Became hooked on New York: Circa 1978, when she moved from Michigan to the Big Apple to pursue a career in dance. Madge soon became an East Village regular and a staple of the NYC club scene. In 1982, she put out a track called “Everybody” that helped her land her first record deal with Sire.
Especially addicted to: The city’s “energy.”
“I mean, can’t I love New York the best?” she said about coming up with “I Love New York” from Confessions on a Dance Floor. “I actually wrote the song while I was on tour last year and I was in New York and I was having such a great time and loving the energy of being here, feeling like I just stuck my finger in an electric socket.”
Became hooked on New York: Circa the mid-1990s when he moved up from Atlanta to live with Sean “Diddy” Combs while recording his first self-titled LP. Ush went on to become a worldwide superstar after moving back to the ATL and recording his second album, My Way. The Ultimate Entertainer, however, has always had a fondness for NYC, even publicly saying he would move to the Apple full time a few years ago. He recently relocated to Manhattan’s Theater District for the duration of his stint as Billy Flynn in the Broadway musical “Chicago.”
Especially addicted to: The city’s “nightlife.”
“If you think that you will be able to indulge in the nightlife, the wild life of New York City and do Broadway, it’s impossible,” he said about having to tone down his social life, at least while performing every night. “NYC is a big city, there’s a lot that goes on. New York is the closest thing you can get to Rome. You can be here for a lifetime and never see it all.”
Became hooked on New York: In 1998 after visiting then-girlfriend Erykah Badu in Brooklyn. One of Chicago’s favorite sons moved to NYC shortly after. He still has a crib in Brooklyn.
Especially addicted to: The city’s “accessibility to culture.”
“I came out there with four days’ worth of clothes,” Com said about his move. “I was supposed to do some stuff with Mos [Def]. It ended up that I loved the space. It was something about Brooklyn. It was calm in a way. I know cats be like, ‘Brooklyn is crazy,’ but it was kinda calm. And it was close enough to Manhattan where I could go and get my business done. I felt the culture out there. I remember Biggie used to talk to me. He gave me that type of love. I loved the spot. It was just like things was happening. I would just bump into DJ Premier or Nas or something. And we would work. I got a lot of work done like that. That’s why I made that move. It was like, man, I could see how my career could last. Being in that environment and networking, you run into artists that you want to work with or work with you. You’re accessible. They ain’t gotta try to fly you out to this or that. In sight, in mind.
“Every Sunday, the Roots would have a jam session [at the now-defunct club Wetlands],” he recalled. “I would be there freestyling. Black Thought was hosting. You would have anybody come up there from Jeru Da Damaja to Bilal to Erykah to Jill Scott. Just in our neighborhood, in Brooklyn where I stayed, it was a black movement in its own way. Mos and Talib Kweli, on a given day you could go to their bookstore [Nkiru Books, since closed] and perform. You could catch good artists doing their thing. It has so much creativity and culture. It’s nonstop. I love that about New York.”
Became hooked on New York: At birth. The R&B singer was born and raised in Harlem and attended Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School (a.k.a. the performing-arts high school made, well, famous by the TV show “Fame”).
Especially addicted to: The city’s “Central Park’s Sheep Meadow.”
“I used to cut class there all the time, and that’s where me and Nas went on our first date,” Kelis said of the tranquil locale. “It’s an oasis in the middle of our concrete jungle. It’s relaxing and wide open, beautiful and fun. All of our friends can lay around and party for free.”
Became hooked on New York: At birth. This Harlem native and his Dip Set crew have brought more attention to Uptown in recent years than Amateur Night at the Apollo.
Especially addicted to: Harlem’s flashy, street-inspired vibe.
“It’s the home of the hustle,” Juelz said. “In Harlem, it’s just all about being different, being original, and doing something first, you dig? You wanna be fly, you wanna be seen, you wanna be noticed. That’s why my pants sag — not ’cause I want them to, but ’cause I paid $500 [for] my belt and you need to see it!”