When JAY-Z released his album 4:44, people were quick to scour the songs for references to Beyoncé. But there's another part of the album worth directing your attention to: JAY-Z's mom Gloria Carter comes out on the song "Smile" and shares a touching spoken word poem. All in all, the song is a beautiful mother-son moment, where they emphasize that love has no limits.
During the track itself, JAY-Z gets right to the point, as he raps, "Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian." It's clear he supports his mother no matter what, as he continues, "Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her." Further emphasizing the idea that love is love, Gloria says, "Life is short, and it's time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn't guaranteed," during the song's spoken word outro.
Because it's so powerful, her poem is worth reading in full below (and, of course, it's worth listening to on the track itself on TIDAL). Gloria recites,
"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"
While her son is famous, that doesn't mean Gloria's life is necessarily up for public consumption. This makes her decision to publicly come out all the more admirable; in sharing her beliefs about being free and being herself, it's entirely possible she can inspire someone else to do the same.
GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, showed support for Gloria — both via Twitter and in a statement. Ellis said,
“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.”
It's true, JAY-Z's album dropped on June 30, the last day of Pride Month. And this tribute to his mother couldn't be sweeter. While family is a topic prevalent throughout the whole album (including a Blue Ivy cameo and reference to the twins), this song really sums up the power of love and what matters most.