In a new Netflix series, Jay-Z speaks to host David Letterman about his emotional reaction to when his mother came out as gay
Words by Victoria Fell
At first glance, the biggest news from Jay-Z’s 2017 album 4:44 was his apology to wife Beyoncé for cheating on her. But Jay has revealed that it is his track Smile that perhaps has even more of a powerful impact.
In the track, Jay-Z raps about his mother coming out as gay, saying: ‘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.’
The track then ends with Jay-Z’s mother reciting 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.’
According to NME, this was the first time she had publicly come out as gay.
During the interview, from Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, Jay-Z opened up further about the moment his mother decided to come out to him.
‘Imagine having to live your life as someone else, and you think you’re protecting your kids,’ he explained. ‘For my mother, to have to live as someone she wasn’t and hide and protect her kids, [not] wanting to embarrass her kids, 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.’
He continued: ‘This happened eight months ago when the album was being made, she [had] just told me. I made the song [Smile] the next day.’
‘I knew [about her sexuality], but this was the first time we had the conversation and I heard her say that she loved her partner. “I feel like I love somebody”. She said “I feel like”. She held that little bit back still.’
Jay’s reaction? ‘I just cried. I don’t even believe in crying because you’re happy. I don’t even know what that is, what is that?’
Jay-Z’s episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman is out on Netflix US on April 6th.