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How Jay-Z and Ellen Grossman's subway chat warmed our hearts

Ellen Grossman has been making and exhibiting art – drawings, sculpture, videos – since the mid-70s. Now, at a silver-haired 67, she's suddenly famous. Not for her art, mind you, but for a 51-second video gone viral of a brief, friendly encounter the Brooklyn native had recently with another Brooklynite: Jay-Z.

The clip's included in the just-released documentary, Where I'm From, chronicling the rap impresario's eight-concert run at Brooklyn's new Barclays Center. With a net worth of $550-million, Jay-Z, 43, clearly is no longer street, but for one evening last October at least, he was certainly subway. Which is where, camera crew and security detail in tow, he found himself beside Grossman as he travelled to his Barclays' finale.

The charm of the clip – at least to a certain demographic – is that Grossman initially has no clue she's hanging with the creator of Big Pimpin' and Murda Murda. "Are you famous?" she asks. The MC, introducing himself as "Jay," admits he is – but "not very famous: You don't know me." He goes on to explain what he's up to and a smiling Grossman says she's "proud of [him]" for taking public transit to work. The clip ends not with Grossman asking, "Can I get comped tonight?" or Jay promising to check out her art, but with the rapper giving his "full" name. "Oh, you're Jay-Z!" says Grossman, laughing. "I know about Jay-Z!" And now we (and Jay-Z) know about Ellen Grossman

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Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to Ellen Grossman as Ellen Goodman. This version has been corrected..


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James More


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