I’m a hip-hop junkie. Even with its ostentatious, televised displays of benjamins, Bentleys, and bikinis, I inexplicably watch BET’s Videolink every morning, gorging on four-minute videos stuck on macho lyrics, beach bunny harems, ass fetishes, and Cristal champagne. Goddamn it, it’s strangely satisfying and I like it! My morning fix aside, at night the music is a great motivational drinking tool whilst out tipping snifters at one of Gotham’s swanky, ghetto fab-u-lous watering holes.
I trade in my clunky platform boots for a pair of heels, pick out my hair, and clumsily step over to Eytan Sugarman and hip-hop mogul Timbaland’s minimalist space, SUEDE (161 West 23rd Street, 633-6113), on Wednesday night. Once past the velvet rope, the newborn lounge is all the urban glamour I dreamed of and more! Trying to roll with the times, I order a throat-closing Thug Passion (straight-up Hennessey and Alizé, oy!, $12) at the terrazzo stone bar. Attractive trendies wearing Baby Phat jeans and draped across white ottomans at small reserved tables (passing the Courvoisier, no less) dominate the space. Clipse’s “When the Last Time” booms on the speakers as a would-be Trick Daddy groupie sashays past the bar in a sheer cat suit with no bra and no, ahem, undies. The confined downstairs—usually VIP—room serves as a great cool down; “It’s hotter than Africa up there,” shouts a sweat-soaked partygoer. Whew, I hear that! Back upstairs, the narrow mirrored ceiling reflects countless bodies grinding to Ludacris’s “Move Bitch” when the king of ghetto fab-ness, P. Diddy himself, in a white “69” jersey, suddenly speeds through the crowd, cameraman and entourage in tow. “We’re shooting for Making the Band,” one of them discloses. By this point I’m on drink deux (a lip-puckering Apple Martini, $12) and feelin’ loopy. What can I say? I’m (hypothetically) a cheap date.
After sighting the man with the master plan, Mr. Combs, I decide to check out his notoriously soulful spot, JUSTIN’S (31 West 21st Street, 352-0599). Inside, the mishmash decor showcases Greek columns, a V-shaped fish tank, and bronze tables. The spacious lounge-restaurant buzzes with men sporting Ecko sweatshirts and ladies in low-rise jeans ordering Fruit Punch Diddy martinis ($12), a secret tart concoction, at the mahogany bar. “What would you like to drink, ma?” a cutey bartender asks after I peruse an extensive list of wines, cognacs, and over 20 specialty cocktails. I choose one of four killer house specials, a sweet berrylicious Faith (Black Haus, peach and blackberry schnapps, pineapple and orange juice, Chambord, $9)—no doubt a big up to Puffy’s longtime friend and Biggie’s widow—as Missy Elliot’s “Work It” streams through the air and people’s heads start bopping. Looking up at a large projection screen fittingly tuned in to BET, I smile, thinking, a place after my own heart.
On Thursday night, the small and deep-blue environs of 46 GRAND (46 Grand Street, 219-9311) subtly sit in hip-hop splendor without the annoying thug wannabes. And although there’s no camera crew in sight, the diversely good-looking lads and lassies mingling to Eve and Alicia Keys’s “Gangsta Lovin’ ” set the mood for pretending you’re shooting a video in Soho. I grab one of the few high chairs by the silver-piped candlelit bar and order a dirty martini ($10) from the beautiful Asian bartendress with charcoal-smoked eyes. While surveying the crowd—schmoozy fashionista types and guys in Triple Five Soul cavorting on banquettes over bottles of Möet ($125)—I realize, why rely on television, when you can have the real thing?