One of the most buzzed-about songs on Jay-Z’s “4:44” album is “Smile,” in which the rapper’s mother, Gloria Carter, comes out as a lesbian. Featuring a spoken word outro from Carter herself, the track was the first time either of them had publicly addressed her sexual identity.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z rapped on the song. “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take.”
Months after the revelation made global headlines, Carter reflected on the experience and her famous son’s emotional reaction to hearing the news, in a candid interview with the D’USSE Friday podcast.
“Me and my son, we share a lot of information, so I was sitting there and I was telling him one day, I just finally started telling him who I was,” Carter said in the interview, which first aired Tuesday. “Besides your mother, this is the person that I am, you know? This is the life that I live.”
Listen to Carter’s D’USSE Friday podcast interview below. Her “Smile” comments begin at the 25:45 mark.
Jay-Z, she added, “actually started tearing, because he was like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma.’ And I was like, ‘My life was never horrible, it was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
Still, Carter was apprehensive about sharing her private life on an album that would surely be heard by millions. “When it first happened, I was sharing myself [with him], not to share myself with the world,” she noted.
After a series of deep discussions with her son, however, Carter eventually came around, writing a poem, “Living in the Shadows,” while traveling to the studio which eventually was used as the spoken word outro on “Smile.”
“When I got there, I was like, ‘I’m gonna help you along,’” Carter said. “I said, ‘Look at this,’ and he was like, ‘Wow, you wrote this on the plane?’ So I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Start reading it.’ So I started reading it and he was taping me – I taped it on the phone!”
She went on to note that she was “never ashamed” of her private life, even if it was “never discussed” among her family members. “I don’t hide who I am… I’m tired of all the mystery,” she said. “Now it’s time for me to be live my life and be happy, be free.”
Well said, Gloria!