CSU Chico prof appears in Jay-Z video, brings home lesson
A Chico State College of Communications professor had a moment in the spotlight this summer when he appeared in a Jay-Z video, and he says he brought home a lesson to share with his students.
John Roussell was spending time in New York City filming a documentary when his sister-in-law offered him and his wife access to a production of a Jay-Z video.
Roussell says the video is an attempt at melding still and performance art—with Jay-Z performing his song “Picasso Baby” on a small stage in front of various individuals sitting on a bench like you’d see in an art gallery.
“So originally the premise behind the idea was that I was supposed to walk by him, sit down on like an art bench, like I'm looking at a picture,” says Roussell. “But in reality what I'm doing is I'm looking at a live performance and that was kind of the whole thing.”
Roussell was among artists, writers, actors and members of the general public allowed into the event. For instance, screenwriter Jud Apatow and actor Alan Cumming were involved.
And with so much star power, Roussell was certain he would just act as part of the background crowd.
“And all of a sudden the director comes up to me and gives me a black chip,” says Roussell. “And I'm like, ‘Eh, ok, great. Thanks. What is this for?’ and he goes, ‘Well that's a one on one...you're going to have a one on one with Jay-Z.’”
Those chosen also had a chance to interact with the world famous rapper.
And the public was allowed to take pictures and videos with their phones—which is exactly what his wife, Cathrine Himberg, did as Roussell seized the moment and performed a little dance move to the rapper's delight.
“I kind of like ad-libbed it because at a certain point it's like ‘Eh, I'm not going to be in it anyway,’” he says. “And if I'm going to sit down and watch him, after I watch him a little bit I'm going to stand up and start throwing my moves together. ‘That way you'll be on my video.’ I didn't expect to be on his.”
But along with famous artists, actors and music producers, Roussell did make the cut—if only for a brief second.
To him being included was about more than just the length of time he was on camera.
“What I love, at the end, they put the cast of characters. And I'm right there getting a same credit with Jay-Z. So it's like street cred when I start school again.”
And as someone who's worked in communications for decades, Roussell says the way Jay-Z let the audience take video and put it out on the social networks before the final product hit the public was completely new to him.
He says learning what kind of impact that approach has in this day-and-age will give him a new teaching opportunity.
“The way this was put together was entirely different than what I did when I was growing up in school and when I was professionally doing these things. You know, you keep everything really hidden; you don't let any video out. And this is a whole new way of communicating, so yes that's going to be coming back into my classroom."
And if Roussell has his wish, he'll be able to take it a step further.
“I'd like to be in touch with people who are actually out there—professionals that work in the field—and I bring them into the classroom via online,” Roussell says. “I'll put a question right now—Jay-Z come join us at Chico State. I came to your place of work, you come to my place of work and my kids would love to sit down and talk with you."
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