In 2016 Alicia Keys and Jay-Z rocked their 2009 smash “Empire State of Mind” in Times Square before an ecstatic throng. The song’s bob-and-weave verses and vaulting choruses bristle with triumph and possibility, memories and grief, menace and hope, sprawling over the five boroughs and sparkling across the jumbotrons.

That “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” conjured by this milestone of hip-hop fame and urban glory, seems like an apt image to begin our multifaceted mixtape of New York tales.

In this issue you'll find myriad anecdotes of beauty cultivated in the jazz boîtes of Harlem; de-cyphered from a tiny rehearsal space on the Lower East Side; freestyled in the forbidding hallways of projects in Queens; grooved and chucked in Manhattan discos; and blasted into the airwaves from the visionary home of NYC Black radio. Sung, strummed, scatted, slammed, spun, spat—so much sound, so many stories.

The city’s every square foot was at some point trod by a musical visionary—crisscrossing ghosts of greatness abound. The Duke and the Count making history in the nightspots on “The Street,” composing the cultural apotheosis of Harlem amid the segregated world of the Cotton Club and the integrated one of the Savoy. Bop and free jazz fulminating and fusillading on bandstand crucibles. Doo-wop kids harmonizing on stoops. Odetta and Belafonte putting global consciousness—and domestic injustice—into song at the Vanguard. Ray Charles and Aretha inscribing soul into wax. James melting the crowd at the Apollo. Nile and Nard making club walls sweat. Gil Scott-Heron’s revolutionary stanzas echoing at 125th and Lenox. Marley Marl bringing Queensbridge to a boil. Puffy and Teddy and Mary reinventing R&B with hip-hop swagger. Wu-Tang putting a roundhouse kick into the groove. Nas and Biggie and Jay vying for the title King of New York.

Some of these manifestations are touched on here. Of course one issue is insufficient to contain the music, meaning and mythology of The Greatest City in the World. Consider this a preliminary ramble.