C ’mon over here, sugarplum,” says Kelis. Her blonde hair swoops up like meringue. She crooks her finger for her husband, Nas, to join us.
The two hip-hop stars grew up here—she in Harlem, he in Crown Heights and Queensbridge. Nas, the hyperliterate rap firebrand, releases Hip Hop Is Dead this week; Kelis, an R&B innovator, is the 21st century’s female Prince. And at this moment, in New York, the pair are in that sweet spot where a famous couple is also a kind of royalty—turning the city into their own personal romantic backdrop.
They’re not the first, of course: We’ve always had our high-profile duos, from Arthur and Marilyn to Uma and Ethan (hey, nobody said love had to last to make an impression) to Keith and Michelle. “People come up and they’re like, ‘We’re so happy you guys are together!’ We get that all the time. Right?” asks Kelis. “It’s like one family,” Nas whispers in agreement. “We just represent the relationship.”
As for their own icons for famous love, Kelis picks Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. “Any couple that can do this and maintain and be together forever is fantastic.” Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, too. “A brilliant couple,” says Nas. “Both in the same business. Ossie Davis did an incredible eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral. They contributed so much—and they stayed together till they passed.”
“For us, it was friends first,” says Kelis. “If you’re not friends first, you end up hating each other.” And they lock gazes and burst out laughing.