Who are your favorite New Yorkers? Jay-Z: My number-one favorite—I don’t know how much time he spent here, but when he was in Tribeca, the way he lived his life: JFK Jr. How he would take the subway and walk around the neighborhood. Spike Lee’s another one, because he’s a fixture courtside. When you think about the city, you think of them. I like Billy Crystal, too.
What’s had the most cultural impact on New York in the past 13 years? Jay-Z: Hip-hop. The emergence. It came right up out of the Bronx in ’79 and that affected so many different things: the economy, culture, even the crime rate—guys had jobs now.
But in the past 13, you think it’s been a force in NYC? Jay-Z: I mean, once you start something and other places adapt, everyone’s got to get their chance. Like, the West Coast was dominant in hip-hop for a while, then it came back to New York. Now, the South is dominant in hip-hop. It’ll come back to New York as well. What I love about it is it makes guys from New York hungry. Now they’re making music with the intention of, and I’m putting up quotes now, “taking hip-hop back for New York.”
What’s your favorite place to go in New York? Not a place to be seen but a secret place. Jay-Z: Now, I can’t do that, it won’t be a secret no more. I can give you the ones everyone knows about. Okay, okay, I’ll do it, but it’ll be the one thing I share with you guys and all of New York: Right in Cipriani’s on a Saturday, sitting outside with a nice Bellini and good conversation, there’s a shades store right around the corner that I love, walking up the block, getting me a couple pair of shades. They have all the classic shades: Ray-Bans and the Persols that I have on presently. And I’m not gonna tell you the name—they’ll walk there, they’ll see it.
You’re the only rapper on this list. We were considering Nas but have this 13-year rule: People on this list had to have had an impact in the last 13 years. And Illmatic was 1994. Should we have included him? Jay-Z: Ah, wow! [Laughs] That’s a tough question. [Pauses] Yeah, only because of the impact of that album, when it’s considered one of the best albums ever created, you have to document that.
How about Kanye? Has he earned it yet? Jay-Z: He’s from Chicago, but he’s close. I don’t know if he’s had that one album that’s moved the entire culture, but he’s hit it three times in a row. He’ll be on every list one day.
Are you guys really teaming up for Blueprint 3? Jay-Z: Yeah, actually. We’re partners right now. Starsky and Hutch right now.
And B? What was your first meeting with your wife like? Jay-Z: I can’t answer that question. [Laughs] Come on now.
Seriously? You guys wrote a song about being in love. Jay-Z: I’m actually pretty open, especially in the music. And in conversation, when I get to know people. But there’s one side of my life I tend to keep quiet. You have to have some time of sanity. You can’t live with everything out there. You have to have sanctuary.