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Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, comes out as a lesbian on ‘4:44’ track “Smile”

  • Over the 36-minute run time of 4:44, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s 13th studio album, fans learn intimate details about the Carter family’s history, just as they have over most of Jay’s catalog. 
  • The Brooklyn-raised emcee offers yet another vivid look at his Bed-Stuy roots on “Marcy Me” and almost every member of his extended family gets a shout-out on “Legacy.” 
  • But no Carter family member’s life is painted in more careful, glowing detail than that of Gloria, Jay-Z’s mother.
  • She’s featured on “Smile,” duetting with her son about finding hope in dark times. It’s where she, later in life, comes out as a lesbian, letting her son confirm the news publicly in the song’s first verse:
    • 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
  • Read more (6/30/17)

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Gloria Carter, Jay-Z's mom, comes out as a lesbian in 4:44 track
"Life is short, and it’s time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”

Jay-Z’s new album, 4:44, has sparked tons of conversation in the last couple of days. One major moment: His mother, Gloria, comes out officially as a lesbian on a track called “Smile.” 

It’s the first time either of them has publicly discussed her sexual orientation, though the family has talked for years about their support of LGBTQ rights. 

“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z raps in the song, which contains a sample of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today.”

“Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take,” he adds before asserting, “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”

Carter herself shows up on track to deliver a spoken word outro.

“Living in the shadow / Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?” she asks on the close-to-five-minute track. “In the shadows people see you as happy and free / Because that’s what you want them to see,” she continues. “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.”

This is just beautiful. Congratulations, Gloria.

-Jay-z’s mom, Gloria Carter’s poem at the end of “Smile”.

I felt this on a spiritual level. This is my life for real. I’m not a lesbian lol but I feel like I don’t know how to be free and be myself. I’m still learning and I’m still growing. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and what makes me happy. I will get there and I will finally feel free.

Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s mom, comes out as lesbian in new duet on rapper’s 4:44 album.

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

❤️💛💚💙💜

“Papa would be proud…”

On the desk in Jay Z’s Roc Nation corner office stands a photograph of his mother Gloria Carter and his father Adnis “AJ” Reeves on their wedding day.

Shawn Carter spent the first five years of his life living with Adnis’ parents, Adnis Sr. and Ruby Reeves, on the corners of Lexington Avenue and Lewis Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He remembers AJ working odd jobs, including time as a cab driver, a truck driver, and at the phone company. One of his fondest memories of his father is when AJ would take him and his cousin B-High to Times Square to “people watch.” Adnis was “crazy for detail”—which is where Hov gets it from—and loved playing games that exercised their observational skills. When maneuvering around Brooklyn he would always put Jay, the youngest, in charge of getting them to their destination.

When Shawn Carter was nine years old his Uncle Ray was stabbed to death outside a crowded Brooklyn club. Although the community knew who committed the murder, no one spoke to the authorities—so they were never arrested. AJ took the the murder of his brother hard and spent long evenings out of the house searching for the culprit. During his time searching the streets Reeves became an alcoholic and a heroin addict—trying to cope with the pain of losing his brother. Eventually he left his family behind, when Jay was aged 11 or 12: “He didn’t announce he was leaving. I found out what really happened. His brother had gotten killed. Life in urban areas, he got stabbed. It really sent him in to a spiral, and he could go out and look for the guy. My mom would tell him, you have a family here, you can’t go out there. He couldn’t deal with that pain … My dad swore revenge and became obsessed with hunting down Uncle Ray’s killer. The tragedy—compounded by the injustice—drove him crazy, sent him to the bottle, and ultimately became a factor in the unraveling of my parents’ marriage. As a kid, I didn’t know all this. I had no idea that it was the death of his brother that undid my dad. When I found this out I realized that yeah, of course every father that bounced had a reason. I didn’t excuse him for leaving his kids, but I started to understand.” In a 2013 interview with Howard Stern he revealed that his dad was just one day “gone,” and that he didn’t ever visit his family again, despite living “about 15 minutes away.”

When Jay took Oprah to the Marcy Houses in 2009 he explained to her how the young Shawn felt: “Anger. At the whole situation. Because when you’re growing up, your dad is your superhero. Once you’ve let yourself fall that in love with someone, once you put him on such a high pedestal and he lets you down, you never want to experience that pain again. So I remember just being really quiet and really cold. Never wanting to let myself get close to someone like that again. I carried that feeling throughout my life, until my father and I met up before he died.”

In 2002 he told his mom that “You know, Ma, I’ve really been trying to look inward, and maybe I’m just not meant to fall in love like other people do.” Gloria knew at this moment that she needed to have her youngest son reconcile with his father—at the time they hadn’t seen each other in 20 years, and Jay was a cold, closed-off person in relationships due to his father’s betrayal. Due to both Jay and AJ’s stubbornness, she was the one who organized a meeting at Hov’s house. AJ didn’t turn up to the first meeting—even after Jay had sent a car to pick him up. This action didn’t break his heart though—he had promised himself he wouldn’t let anyone else hurt him again.

Gloria pushed for another meeting, knowing the alcoholism had eaten away at his organs, and this time AJ turned up. It was during the Carter family’s Saturday meal, and AJ was “crazy uncomfortable … when he came in he felt completely left out. He was in my home, and we were still a family, and it probably killed him to see that we had survived his leaving—we were still whole … I didn’t come out of my room. My mother kept offering him food, anything to make him comfortable … When [she] brought him to my room she acted like she was depositing him and leaving us to talk, but she went around to the exercise room connected to my bedroom and eavesdropped on our conversation … When he was there in front of me, it was like looking in a mirror. I’m tall and slim like him—we looked exactly alike. I didn’t have much to say, only a question. I just wanted him to tell me how he could leave his son—one who looked exactly like him—to raise himself. Whatever drama my mother had, she never tried to keep us from him. He’s the one who decided it would be the way it was … He tried to hit me with excuses. He said my sister Annie knew where he was, that my brother Eric had been to visit him. He was still being proud. I told him that I was the child. I wasn’t supposed to look you up, you were supposed to be looking me up … He finally broke down and admitted he was wrong. He said he was sorry.” Jay has since said that “It was important for me to hear him say he was sorry and for me to hear myself say, ‘I forgive you.’ It changed my life, really. I wish every kid who grew up like me could have the same chance to confront the fathers who left them, not just so they can lay out their anger, but so they can, in the end, let that anger go. That anger still stunts so many of us.”

Jay’s next step was to organize an apartment for his father—trying to make him as comfortable as he could in his last months. Around two months after their meeting, on June 19, 2003, Adnis Reeves passed away—the same night that Jay opened The 40/40 Club in New York City. The doctors had told AJ to stop his drinking to prolong his time, but he didn’t. As Jay expressed on “Moment of Clarity,” he was “more intrigued than devastated” at his father’s funeral—and he didn’t cry.