The list of famous New Yorkers could go on longer than Mayor Michael Bloomberg's term in office, but undoubtedly two of the most beloved natives are [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] and [artist id="503203"]Alicia Keys[/artist].
The pair will take the stage on Sunday at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to perform Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," a Frank Sinatra-like number that name-checks some of Gotham's notable neighborhoods and captures the city's essence, from attending Knicks games (courtside, if you're Jay-Z) to its famous residents.
Keys is featured on the track where she croons on the chorus, "Count on New York, these streets will make you feel brand new/ Big lights will inspire you."
The track is from Jay-Z's recently released Blueprint 3 album and the VMA performance will mark his first time performing the song live. Rehearsals at Radio City Music Hall have had frequent Jay-Z collaborator Swizz Beatz on hand.
The super-producer said the new Big Apple anthem reminds him of another Jay-Z collaboration, a classic from his debut that was more of an ode to Brooklyn — but bigger.
"That's like 'Can't Knock the Hustle' 2009, [but] featuring Alicia Keys," he told MTV News. "It's just like Jay and Mary [J. Blige] with the chemistry there, the love for music is there, the creativity is there — it works. It's not like putting two opposite people onstage and trying to make things happen, no. It's putting two greats on the stage and you know what happens. And that's the result of 'Empire State of Mind.' "
Jay-Z and Blige toured together last year and they paid homage to their roots by naming their joint trek the Heart of the City tour.
Blige has joined Jay-Z on more than one occasion to honor New York — she expects his performance with Keys will be just as big, calling the pairing "huge."
"I just hope it's as crazy as it sounds," she said. "I hope it's as big as it sounds. I hope it looks that big. I believe it will be — she's incredible. And he's Jay, you know? Let's see."
Watch the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Preshow this Sunday, September 13, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the big event, airing live at 9 p.m. New York is celebrating the VMAs all week long, so stay tuned for party coverage, concert reports, behind-the-scenes updates and more.