One of the most powerful aspects of Jay-Z’s 4:44 album was an exploration of his mother coming out as a lesbian to him.
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” he raps in “Smile” the touching mother-son collaboration that was a result of that initial conversation.
Gloria Carter sat down with the D’USSE Friday podcast recently to explain how the song came to be: “I just finally started telling (Jay) who I was,” she said, adding: “Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. So my son started actually tearing. ‘Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma’. I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
She adds that she was not sure if she wanted the world to know her business when Jay-Z first started working on the song. So she wrote him a poem one day to help him out on how to talk about it. He immediately recorded her reading it on his phone.
“I’m tired of all the mystery,” she explained on why she ended up doing it. “ I’m gonna give it to ‘em. I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not, I’m gonna tell them. So now that I told you, what do you have to talk about? So now maybe you can focus on the phenomenal things I do, so focus on that…Now it’s time for me to be free.”
The interview covers a wide number of topics including her trip to Cuba, meeting Nelson Mandela, and discussing her son’s music.
Take a listen to the full interview here.