Rappers Move to Bergen County

Author: Catherine Holahan
Date: October 10, 2005
Publication: The Bergen Record
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Rapper Rev Run knew it was time to leave New York City.DJ Jam Master Jay, one of Run’s two longtime partners in legendary hip-hop group Run-DMC, had been shot and killed in Queens in October 2002. His wife and five kids needed more space to live. And he wanted a break from city life. 

 So, several months after his partner’s murder, Rev Run (aka Joseph Simmons) did what many hip-hop stars continue to do: He moved across the river to the Bergen County suburbs. “I had this intuition that told me to move close to my brother [hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons]… I wanted to change the pace a bit,” said Run, 40, an ordained minister who mentions God in nearly every sentence. 

 Run’s mansion will be the main set for MTV’s “Run’s House,” a reality show focusing on the rapper’s home life. The series, which producer Sean “Diddy” Combs likens to “The Cosby Show,” premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday.

‘RUN’S HOUSE’: When: 10 p.m. Thursday, MTV.Who: Rev. Run; his wife, Justine; oldest daughter Vanessa, a student at St. John’s University and aspiring model; daughter Angela, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology; and sons JoJo, Diggy and Russell Junior.Words of wisdom: Each show starts with Run’s “words of wisdom” which he e-mails every morning from his Blackberry to radio stations, celebrities such as Sean “Diddy” Combs and others. One of his bromides: “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”

1. Privacy: Houses often have gates and obscuring shrubs to keep out paparazzi and other prying eyes. In Alpine, homes do not have mailboxes to prevent fans, salesmen and others from finding where homeowners live. Residents have post office boxes.
2. Luxury: Bergen County has many multimillion-dollar homes, including one with a price tag of $40 million. These mansions have amenities such as indoor/outdoor swimming pools, basketball and racquetball courts, spas, pool houses, multi-car garages that can accommodate limousines, bowling alleys, home theaters, ponds and wine cellars.
3. Security: Many homes are equipped with top-of-the-line home security systems with night-vision cameras, lasers, radar and other alarm-triggering sensors. 
4. Peace and quiet: Compared with the city, traffic is light in many towns, and street noise is at a minimum. In towns such as Alpine and Saddle River, homes have enough surrounding acreage to buffer the sound of neighbors’ parties and lawnmowers.
5. Proximity to the city: Most Bergen County towns are less than an hour from New York City, where many celebs have offices.
- Catherine Holahan 


Bergen County may seem an unusual backdrop for a show about a famous rapper (Run will release his first solo album, “Distortion,” this month). After all, it has no palm trees or white sandy beaches but rather is full of quiet towns rich in American history.

Yet Run is just one of several of hip-hop’s top stars who have moved to the area.

Wyclef Jean and Ja Rule are fellow Saddle River residents. Singer Mary J. Blige reportedly married record producer Kendu Isaacs at her Cresskill mansion last year.

Combs has a multimillion-dollar home in Alpine. So does Lil’ Kim, who rapped about the town in her song “Aunt Dot” (“Come on Shanice, I’m takin’ you to my house in Alpine”) – although she’ll be calling a federal detention center in Philadelphia home for the next year.

And, of course, there’s Russell Simmons’ 49,000-square-foot, 15-bedroom Saddle River mega-mansion, famously photographed for a Vanity Fair article about wife Kimora Lee last spring.

Hip-hop stars move to Bergen County for the same reasons many people leave New York City for the suburbs: safety, more room to raise a family, a slower lifestyle.

“I like Bergen County because it’s nice and quiet,” Wyclef Jean said while backstage at Randall’s Island’s AmsterJam music festival this summer. “It’s beautiful, and I can get to the city way quick.”

Four of Bergen’s towns – Alpine, Franklin Lakes, Saddle River and Englewood Cliffs – made Forbes’ 2005 list of the nation’s 150 most expensive zip codes. Alpine was No. 8, with a median selling price of nearly $1.8 million.

“The proximity to the city, the privacy factor and the affluence of the area are great draws,” said Linda Takach, of Saddle River-based Terrie O’Connor Realtors, adding that celebrities want to live in ZIP codes populated with people of similar means and, often, fame.

Takach, who specializes in the kinds of homes featured on “MTV Cribs,” said Bergen mansions typically have security gates, plantings obscuring the house from prying eyes, grand entrances, fireplaces, lavish bathrooms with whirlpools and hot tubs, and kitchens with top-of-the-line appliances.

Most homes also have at least two acres of land – allowing for pools, tennis courts, multi-car garages, basketball courts, theaters, spas and other luxury amenities.

In the ’90s, the county’s wealthiest residents were more likely to be found in newspaper business pages than in hip-hop music magazines such as Vibe or The Source.

But that has changed as hip-hop has become mainstream and moguls such as Russell Simmons and Combs have branched out into fashion, movies and television.

And now, said real estate agent Mary Lenk, who is selling Eddie Murphy’s $30 million mansion in Englewood, the rich and famous from all industries want homes in affluent Bergen County towns.

Lenk, of Burgdorff Realtors in Cresskill, sold Diddy his Alpine home for more than $6 million last summer. The house reportedly has a pool with a waterfall, indoor racquetball and basketball courts, a wine cellar and a six-car garage – in addition to eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

“Celebrities like luxury, they like elegance … they like home theaters,” she said.

In Rev Run’s case, he also likes the malls.

“There is the Short Hills mall … the Garden State mall … sometimes I go to the Palisades mall,” he said. “It’s cool.”

Email: holahan@northjersey.com

Online source: www.northjersey.com


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