Jay-Z’s Subway Pal Ellen Grossman Reviews Magna Carta Holy Grail

After meeting Jay-Z on the R train last fall in NYC, Grossman listens to Hov's new album with MTV News.

Not many fans will ever get a chance to meet Jay-Z face-to-face, but for Ellen Grossman, that was her official introduction to Hov, who just happened to sit next to her on the R train in New York City last fall. Since then, Grossman has attended Jay-Z’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Barclays Center and become more familiar with his music. So MTV News invited her to listen to his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail and share her thoughts.

Right off the bat, Grossman, a visual artist based in Manhattan, admitted that she might not catch every single lyric, but she did do a little research. “It sounds like he’s really going deep into his heart and into fatherhood and even the meaning of fame,” Grossman said of her early impressions. “[He's saying] that the money’s nice, but there’s life beyond that, that he’s exploring. I picked that up from the papers but I felt it in the man too, when I met him. That he had a depth to him.”

“I don’t get all of the words but I get a lot of them and I’m really enjoying it,” she added after an initial spin. “I like jazz and what’s called ‘new music’ and I can relate to all the soundscapes, it’s really innovative stuff.”

We asked Grossman to listen to a select few tracks and share her thoughts.

‘Holy Grail’ feat. Justin Timberlake
“Even though it started out as a complaint about lovers and relationships, it was pretty mellow and you could go with it…but when Jay-Z came in and he was talking about Kurt Cobain…[he was saying] ‘OK, fame has its price.’ And even someone very famous and rich is capable of suicide. It really hit you hard and the soundscape was just exquisite, so it was pretty amazing.”

“BBC” feat. Nas, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland Pharrell
“I had trouble understanding [some of] the words, but I got it — I got the beat and I got the energy. It was a real turn from the seriousness of the last one. And because I wasn’t hearing the words exactly, I think that he was talking about possessions and objects and it was wonderful. I kinda wanted to [dance] but I’m not a good dancer even sitting down so I kinda held myself back.”

“Part II (On The Run)” feat. Beyoncé
“It was very sexy. I heard Jay-Z refer to himself as an outlaw and I think [Beyoncé's] response seemed to be that she would embrace it all. There’s real connection and real willingness to show their vulnerability, even though I suspect they would want [their relationship to] remain private. What they’re putting out in their art is really opening themselves up. It was pretty awesome.”

As a visual artist who had the chance to meet Jay-Z, attend his New Year’s Eve concert and finally listen to Magna Carta Holy Grail, we asked Ellen what she thought the visuals to accompany the new album might look like.

“He does a lot of the glamour stuff — the lights and the good clothing, or even the casual clothing, but incredible lighting, strobing and audience reaction but I wonder, since his album seems something of a shift, if he’ll go somewhere else with it.”

Guess we’ll all find out soon enough.

A native of Grenada, a product of Brooklyn, a student of hip-hop.
@neweryork