Nearly every song on Jay-Z‘s latest album, 4:44, generated buzz when the project dropped in June, but one track in particular stood out to many listeners: “Smile,” on which the rapper revealed that his mother, Gloria Carter, is a lesbian.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z, 47, raps. “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take / Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
The end of the song features a spoken word poem recited and written by Gloria herself: “Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be / No harm for them, no harm for me / But life is short, and it’s time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”
Gloria publicly addressed the song for the first time on Tuesday, September 5, and revealed how she came out to her son. “Me and my son, we share a lot of information. I was sitting there and I was telling him one day, I just finally started telling him who I was,” she explained on the D’USSE Friday podcast on Tuesday, September 5. “Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. My son started actually tearing ’cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma.’ I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
The track almost didn’t see the light of day, though. “The first time I heard the song, I was like, ‘Eh, I don’t know, dude. I ain’t feeling that,'” Gloria recalled. “When it first happened, I was sharing myself [with Jay], not to share myself with the world.”
After several discussions with her son, Gloria’s apprehension faded away and she agreed to appear on the song. “I was never ashamed of me. But in my family, it was something that was never discussed,” she said. “I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ’em. … Now it’s time for me to live my life and be happy, be free.”
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