AP Photo/Starpix, Kristina Bumphrey
Jay Z’s much-hyped thirteenth studio album, 4:44, was released Friday night, and one track in particular is making waves online — the third track on the album, “Smile,” in which the rapper’s mother, Gloria Carter, comes out as lesbian.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay raps midway through the track. “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. Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her,” he adds. “I just want to see you smile through all the hate.”
Gloria Carter herself provides the song’s spoken-word outro:
“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/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. No harm for them, no harm for me. But life is short, and it’s time to be free. Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed. Smile.”
The statement was the first public acknowledgement of Carter’s sexuality, though rumors had percolated since at least 2013 that she was lesbian.
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis praised Carter’s announcement in a statement on Twitter.
“Lesbian women are all too often erased or excluded from narratives surrounding LGBTQ people,” Ellis wrote. “By sharing her truth with the world, Gloria Carter is increasing visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time and sending a powerful message of empowerment to the entire LGBTQ community that is perfectly timed with the end of Pride Month.”
By sharing her truth, Gloria Carter is increasing visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time. Thank you, Gloria. ❤️ https://t.co/MixUAOu02N
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) June 30, 2017
Jay Z’s album, released exclusively on his streaming service TIDAL over the weekend, has been called one of his most personal works yet. On several of the album’s songs, he appears to acknowledge that he was unfaithful to his wife Beyoncé, and name-checks his alleged mistress, “Becky with the good hair,” from Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade.
The rapper’s album is available to stream on TIDAL here.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum