JAY-Z addresses several intimate topics on his 13th studio album, 4:44, released June 30. He opens up about the infamous elevator fight from 2014, his infidelity against wife Beyonce, his beef with rapper and friend Kanye West; but it’s his track which his mother, Gloria Carter, appears on that carries the biggest emotional weight.
On the track “Smile,” JAY-Z openly discusses, for the first time, his mother’s sexual identity rapping, “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian.”
JAY-Z continues, “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.”
The track concludes with Gloria Carter delivering a 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 / You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love / 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.”
In an interview with XXL magazine, JAY-Z spoke about each track on his new album.
“‘Smile’ is just what it is,” he said. “There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you’ve experienced these things.”
4:44 is now available to stream exclusively on Tidal.