Big pimper, Gs spender

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.

What about favorite moments?
Jay-Z: Damn.

What comes to mind?
Jay-Z: That’s a difficult one. I always relate it back to music—I don’t have a life outside of that. Playing the Garden, headlining that for the first time, was—Oh! I have my greatest moment! I don’t even know how I forgot this! When I was a teenager, early teenage years—maybe later, I went to see Diana Ross in Central Park, in the rain, the infamous “in the rain.” And it started raining and everyone started running. And I’m running and slid down the entire hill. Oh, it was the greatest day.

Diana was pretty hot. Were you old enough to—
Jay-Z: Yeah, I had hormones. I thought she was fantastic. Her hair was blowing. The rain was hitting her face, and her outfit was, well—It was working for me. And she really braved it out, still trying to go in a torrential rainstorm. I don’t know who said “run,” but everyone started running. I don’t even know—me and my friend. I don’t know what two guys were doing at a Diana Ross concert, but [Laughs] anyway, I think we was already in the city, okay? We slid, got up and kept running to the train.

What about the future of NYC? What do you hope for it?
Jay-Z: I hope it keeps its sense of pride. I’m a fan of moving into the future, but I’m also a fan of things that are sacred—like I said, I bought me some vintage shades. So a mix of both, as long as we maintain our sense of pride, we won’t do anything crazy.

If you could have a drink with some of our other 39 contenders—Patti LuPone, Philip Seymour Hoffman…
Jay-Z: Oh, wow.

Peter Gelb of the Met Opera…
Jay-Z: There you go.

Tim Gunn or Jonathan Lethem, an author from your own Brooklyn—who do you pick?
Jay-Z: I’m a fan of what Philip Seymour Hoffman does. He’s fantastic—one of the top actors out there right now. He’s got that thing: That thing that can’t be taught or you can’t learn. I hate when people say “je ne sais quoi,” but he has that thing where he just disappears into the role. You feel his pain. You feel like it hurts him.

Are you introspective like that?
Jay-Z: I am introspective, and, well, there’s that 10 percent that just can’t be taught, but a lot of how I think about myself comes from how I grew up and how I can articulate my experiences without making it too much like, “Everything is great!” or “I’m Superguy!” A vulnerability in the music and a toughness of “I will not lose”—that combination resonates with people.

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.

Next: Amy Sedaris >

The New York 40:

Adam Rapp
Amy Sedaris
Anderson Cooper
Basil Twist
Christine Quinn
Christopher Wheeldon
Danny Meyer
David Cross
David Remnick
Derek Jeter
Dick Zigun
Elizabeth LeCompte
Elizabeth Marvel
Eliot Spitzer
Gavin Brown
James Murphy
Joe Torre
John Zorn
Jonathan Lethem
Junot Díaz
Kelly Reichardt
Kiki & Herb
Liev Schreiber
Lisa Phillips
Michael Bloomberg
Nellie McKay
Pat Kiernan
Patti LuPone
Peter Gelb
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Richard Serra
Sarah Michelson
Stephen Colbert
Tim Gunn
Tina Fey
Tony Kushner
Upright Citizens Brigade