Jay-Z’s latest album, 4:44, includes the track “Smile,” which talks about his mother’s struggle with being a closeted lesbian. On it, he raps: “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian.”
At the end of the song, Gloria Carter reads a poem she wrote about her experience, “Living in the Shadows.”
Now, in a new interview with the podcast D’ussé Friday, Jay-Z’s mom explains the origin of the track and how she came out to Jay (it starts at 25:50).
She says, “I just finally started telling him who I was. Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. So my son started actually tearing [up]. ’Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life.’ I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
But when she heard a first cut of “Smile,” Gloria was hesitant about the song and the massive audience she’d be opening up to.
“I was like, ehhh … I ain’t really feeling that … I was sharing myself with [my son], not with the world.”
Eventually, after she recited her poem for Jay, the track came together. Gloria says she was “tired of all the mystery … I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not — I’m gonna tell them.”
And when “Smile” came out, Gloria was overwhelmed by the positive reaction from fans.
She said, “I got so many people calling me saying, ‘Thank you because you’re me.’ I didn’t realize the impact of what I was going to do.”
In other entertainment news, Madonna talked about all her kids: