Jay-Z documented his mother’s coming out as a lesbian for posterity on “Smile,” a track on his acclaimed 2017 album, “4:44.”
On the next episode of Netflix’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” the rapper reveals his mom Gloria Carter opened up to him about her sexuality just one day before he hit the studio to record the album.
Though Jay-Z told host David Letterman he “knew” the truth about his mom, “This was the first time we had the conversation,” he said.
“Imagine having lived your life for someone else. And you think you’re protecting your kids,” Jay-Z explained in the clip above. “And for my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn’t and hide and like, protect her kids ― and didn’t want to embarrass her kids, and you know, for all this time.”
As for how he took the news, Jay-Z said, “I mean, I really cried. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
This was “the first time I heard her say she loved her partner. Like, ‘I feel like I love somebody.’ She said ‘I feel like.’ She held that little bit back, still,” he added. “And I just, I cried. I don’t even believe in crying because you’re happy. I don’t even know what that is. What is that?”
“Smile” went on to become one of the most buzzed-about songs on “4:44,” and features a spoken-word outro from Gloria Carter herself.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z raps on the song. “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take.”
Gloria Carter talked about the track in an interview with the D’usse Friday podcast in September, saying that although she was “never ashamed” of her private life, it was “never discussed” among her family members.
“I don’t hide who I am … I’m tired of all the mystery,” she said at the time. “Now it’s time for me to be live my life and be happy, be free.”