While many people will be focused on the direct responses to Beyoncé’s Lemonade in Jay-Z’s 4:44, the album has a truly heartwarming moment in its track “Smile” that shouldn’t be missed: The rapper reveals that his mother, Gloria Carter, has finally come out as a lesbian, and expresses his gratitude that she has fallen in love.
On “Smile,” Jay-Z raps, “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian/ 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/ Doesn’t matter if it’s a him or her/ I just wanna see you smile through all the hate.”
Later in the track, Gloria herself pops up, reading a poem that serves as her coming out, of sorts. “Living in the shadow / Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live? / In the shadows people see you as happy and free / Because that’s what you want them to see/ Living two lives, happy, but not free / You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love.”
Gloria goes on to say, “The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free / But you live with the fear of just being me / Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be.” Her poem ends with, “But life is short, and it’s time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed / Smile.”