The icon released “4:44” on Friday, and it quickly became a trending topic online and on social media.
But one track in particular, “Smile,” makes an unprecedented leap for LGBTQ representation in mainstream hip-hop.
“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.
“Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take,” he continues. “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
As the tune closes in on its fifth minute of runtime, Gloria takes over for the moving outro. Read her verses are below, in full:
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
The song made waves almost immediately.
By sharing her truth, Gloria Carter is increasing visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time. Thank you, Gloria. ❤️ https://t.co/MixUAOu02N
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) June 30, 2017
I can’t even front, SMILE is my favorite song right now! Thanks Jay Z and Gloria Carter!! pic.twitter.com/ALENo4jONC
— Mr. Weeks (@MrDane1982) June 30, 2017
Jay really Gloria Carter rhymin about coming out the closet b.
— Podcast Papi 🇭🇹 (@Combat_Jack) June 30, 2017
— Autostraddle (@autostraddle) June 30, 2017
Gloria Carter is a lesbian. Vulnerable/honest Jay Z is my favorite Jay Z.
— Golding (@GoldingGirl617) June 30, 2017
GLAAD praised the song’s message on Friday.
“Lesbian women are all too often erased or excluded from narratives surrounding LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. “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.”
Jay-Z has used the song to confirm rumours about his mother’s sexuality, and also explained how she turned to substance use to cope with the stigma of being a lesbian.
He came out in support of marriage equality five years ago, and has called opposing same-sex marriage “no different than discriminating against blacks”.
“4:44” is currently available for streaming on TIDAL.
You can listen to the track on TIDAL (only if you signed up before June 26th though).