Rapper Jay-Z appears on the latest episode of David Letterman’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction and is getting personal with the talk show legend. Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is sharing his experience with his mother, Gloria, coming out. The episode hits Netflix on April 6 and will give fans a frank discussion of Jay-Z, his life and his career.
Jay-Z features his mother and her coming out on the track “Smile” from 4:44, but the Letterman interview is where he delves into his true feelings. Gloria Carter raised four kids in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood after their father left, and was a driving force in Jay-Z’s life. Jay-Z says he knew his mother was gay, but they didn’t talk about it until last year, when 4:44 was in production. Gloria told Jay-Z she was in love with her partner, and he was happy, telling Letterman:
“Imagine having lived your life for someone else. And you think you’re protecting your kids. And for my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn’t and hide and like, protect her kids — and didn’t want to embarrass her kids, and you know, for all this time. And for her to sit in front of me and tell me, ‘I think I love someone.’ I mean, I really cried. That’s a real story. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
That conversation was a poignant moment for Jay-Z, who sat down the next day and wrote “Smile” about his mother’s pain:
“Push through the pain so we can see new life / So all the ladies havin’ babies, see a sacrifice
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
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate / Marie Antoinette, baby, let ’em eat cake”
The accompanying video features a montage of an actress as young Gloria reconciling with her sexuality, trying to fit in with the other couples and finding a real connection with another woman. Cinematography and direction of Smile amplify beyond a music video
It ends with the real Gloria sharing her wisdom with a poem.
“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
4:44 is the rapper’s most personal album yet, and GLAAD has recognized “Smile” for its inspiring message to the LGBTQ community. He’ll be honored at the GLAAD Awards on April 12.
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