Carter didn't initially like her son's idea for a duet about it
“I just finally started telling Jay who I was. Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live,” the grandmother of Blue Ivy, Rumi, and Sir Carter told the D’USSE Friday podcast.
“So my son started actually tearing. He’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, ma. I was like, ‘My life was never horrible,’” Carter continued. “It was just different. So that made him want to do a song about it and the first time I heard the song I was like, ‘Eh, I don’t know, dude. I ain’t feeling that.”
In the third track off his 13th studio album, JAY-Z raps: “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.”[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/340983331" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&color=ff5500" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]
Carter’s 47-year-old son admits later in the heartwarming track that his mother found love as he cried tears of joy when she did: “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.”
In her latest interview, Carter explained that she only recently told JAY-Z because “it was something that was never discussed.”
“I was never ashamed of me. I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ‘em,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not. So now maybe you can focus on the phenomenal things I do, so focus on that. Now it’s time for me to be free.”
As “Smile” closes in on its fifth minute of runtime, Carter takes over for the moving outro with a running verse. “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/ Smile.”