For the last of his eight-night series of concerts at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Jay-Z ditched his chauffeured limousine and pulled a “man of the people” stunt — riding the subway.
Of course, since Jay-Z’s the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive,” everyone on the subway noticed him waiting on the platform and boarding the train to Barclays Center, except for Ellen Grossman, a 67-year-old woman who sat next to the artist and started a small-talk conversation with the rap superstar.
She asked Jay-Z if he was famous, to which he replied in very humble fashion: “Yes. Not very famous, you don’t know me. But I’ll get there some day.”
This impromptu conversation in a packed subway car is a snippet from his 24-minute documentary titled “Where I’m From,” which is a behind-the-scenes look at his recent Barclays Center concerts. The video, released last week, has become viral and garnered slightly more than 200,000 views in 24 hours and is now reaching towards two million views.
Speaking to NMR, Grossman recounts her feelings when a swarm of Jay-Z fans entered the subway car. At first, she thought there was a major disaster upstairs — her son survived the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
However, Grossman was relieved when she heard people laughing and chatting:
“My second thought was a flash mob…and they were all photographing this one guy, and last summer, I think some guy was pretending to be a celebrity, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it was a flash mob pretending this guy is a celebrity.’”
When Jay-Z’s entourage surrounded him and Grossman, it slowly became apparent to her how much of a big deal he was. For most of her life, the New York-based visual artist said she was shy but only overcame her fear of talking to strangers two years ago. Had she not talked to Jay-Z and asked him if he was famous, this viral moment would never have happened, and she wouldn’t have realize that this flash mob wasn’t a flash mob at all.
Grossman went home later that day and searched the web about the rapper she met on the subway and was “blown over” by the fact that she met Jay-Z.
She said: “I knew at that point that I was embarrassed at the things I’ve said, but I give myself some slack.”
“Where I’m From” is one of the many videos featured on Jay-Z’s Life + Times YouTube channel, which officially launched right after his last Barclays Concert October 7. Some of the more popular features on the channel include “The Road To Brooklyn,” which chronicles the Brooklyn Nets’ current season, and “On The Road,” where Jay-Z follows and interviews up-and-coming artists like Kendrick Lamar.
Check out Ellen Grossman’s work: http://www.ellengrossman.com/