Jay-Z released his newest album, “4:44,” exclusively on his music streaming service TIDAL Friday, marking his triumphant return to rapping after a four-year hiatus since dropping “Magna Carta Holy Grail” in 2013.
But one track in particular, “Smile,” makes an unprecedented leap for LGBTQ representation in mainstream hip-hop. During the conversational track between Jay-Z and his mother, Gloria Carter, it is revealed she is a lesbian.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z raps in the song.
“Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take,” he continues. “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
The track also features a spoken word outro from Gloria Carter herself.
“Living in the shadow / Can you imagine what kind of life is it to live?” she asks. “In the shadows people see you as happy and free / Because that’s what you want them to see. 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.”
The song made waves almost immediately.
Gloria Carter is a lesbian. Vulnerable/honest Jay Z is my favorite Jay Z.
— Ms. Golding (@GoldingGirl617) June 30, 2017
LGBTQ media watchdog GLAAD released a statement praising its powerful message of “Smile.”