JAY-Z reveals that his mother Gloria Carter was initially defensive about "Smile," a powerful highlight from "4:44."
JAY-Z's catalog is lined with classics, with Reasonable Doubt, Blueprint, The Black Album, and American Gangster being widely regarded as such. Yet with every passing year, his latest album 4:44, released in 2017 and largely centered around themes of infidelity and family, is steadily inching closer to classic status.
Case in point, Hov's recent admission to LeBron James during a conversation of The Shop, where he revealed that "super gangsta rappers" thanked him for saving their relationships with the album. Not every project is capable of sparking such a powerful shift in perspective. It's a testament to Hov's penmanship (or lack thereof, to be fair), and 4:44 remains the most vulnerable and honest body of work he's released thus far.
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During his talk with LeBron, JAY happened to share an interesting bit of insight about one of the album's highlight tracks, "Smile." Aside from featuring some of his slickest bars on the album -- "My therapist said I relapsed / I said, "Pre-haps" / I Freudian slipped in European whips" -- it also features a reflection on his mother Gloria Carter's sexuality:
"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
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don't matter to me if it's a him or her"
While certainly a powerful section, Hov admits that his mother was initially defensive upon hearing it. "It changed the dynamic of our relationship," admits Hov. "When she first heard that song she got super defensive. She was like, absolutely not. What happened was, I was in L.A. She flew out to L.A, then she left and was like, 'No.' We talked through it and then, when she flew back to L.A., she had written a poem. She wrote that on the plane. It came with the American Airlines, like a little notepad. I was like, 'You got bars, ma.' Gloria got bars."
The poem was later included in the "Smile" outro, performed by Gloria Carter -- fun fact, Jay's mother also contributed vocals to "December 4th" on The Black Album, another of Hov's most personal tracks. Check out his reflections on "Smile" below.