He may have 99 problems, but homophobia ain’t one. On 4:44, the new album from Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z, the rap mogul helps his mom comes out as a lesbian in one of the purest songs of all time. Seriously, it’s the most heartwarming ode to his mom since Kanye West’s “Hey Mama” broke our hearts and, yes, it’s going to make you feel really shitty for the candle and roses you got your mom on Mother’s Day.
On “Smile,” Jay-Z spends nearly five minutes telling the story of how Gloria Carter lived in the closet all her life. “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian. Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian. Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate. Society shame and the pain was too much to take,” he raps, “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love. Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her. If her story weren’t enough to make you fall on the ground weeping, he closes out the song by giving her the gift of freedom from the oppression she’s felt all her life. Gloria herself shows up in the outro to close out the track with a poem that doubles as her coming out:
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 response to the track, GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released this statement: “Lesbian women are all too often erased or excluded from narratives surrounding LGBTQ people. 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.”
Jay-Z’s 4:44 is currently available to stream through Tidal and includes features from Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Blue Ivy Carter.