Although people might have been expecting JAY-Z to discuss high-profile moments from his life like his feud with Kanye West and cheating on wife Beyoncé when he dropped his album 4:44 last June, it was the the deeply personal song about his mother that ended up being on everyone's mind. In "Smile," the 48-year-old rapper turns the track into a coming out for his mom, Gloria Carter, who reads a moving poem about having to hide her true self as the song ends. In a new clip from JAY-Z's upcoming episode on David Letterman's Netflix talk show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, the musician opens up about how elated he is that his mom is finally living her truth.
"Imagine having lived your life for someone else. You think you're protecting your kids," he says. "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."
It was such an inspirational moment that he got to work on "Smile" almost immediately after they spoke. JAY-Z also notes that although he'd known for some time that Gloria was gay, they'd never actually discussed it before, which made their conversation that much more important.
"This was the first time we had the conversation. The first time I heard her say she loved her partner," he said. "Like, 'I feel like I love somebody.' She said, 'I feel like.' She held that little bit back, still. She didn't say, 'I'm in love,' she said, 'I feel like I love someone.' And I just, I 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 and David Letterman's full conversation will air when the episode hits Netflix on April 6.