JAY-Z's Mom Discusses Coming Out and How It Led to "Smile" on '4:44'

"Besides your mother, this is the person that I am."

By Jessie Peterson Sep 7, 2017
(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

JAY-Z's, latest album 4:44 featured several candid revelations about the rapper, including reflections on race in America, more insight on his journey of upwards mobility, and what sure sounds like a midlife crisis. He addresses the infamous elevator incident with his sister-in-law Solange, rumors of infidelity (even going so far to name check “Becky” on his single “Family Feud”), his now-estranged friend Kanye West, and, for the first time, his mother’s sexual identity on "Smile."

“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/ Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” raps Carter. “Had to hide in the close, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain too much to take / Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s or her.” “Smile” is Carter’s first public statement regarding his mother’s sexuality. His mother, Gloria Carter, appears at the end of the song to discuss “living two lives”—one of which is “in shadows” to keep up appearances and to protect those that she loves.

Smile. Tuesday, 9/5

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Gloria Carter appeared on the D’USSE Friday podcast this week to discuss her son’s album, the Shawn Carter Foundation, and the conversations which led to “Smile.”

“I just finally started telling (Jay) who I was," Carter said. "Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. So 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.”

“I was never ashamed of me. In my family, it was something that was never discussed…I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ‘em. I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not, I’m gonna tell them. So now that I told you, what do you have to talk about? So now maybe you can focus on the phenomenal things I do, so focus on that…Now it’s time for me to be free.”

You can listen to the entirety of the D’USSE Friday podcast below. Gloria Carter’s quoted comments start around the 25-minute mark.